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When The Poms Went Pink


Memories from Brian 'Bigboy' Brawnside, Crochet Champion 1957

An unpublished manuscript written in 1981, but only recently discovered by his daughter Betty.

Gloom was in the air as the hardened men of the Cult Cricket XI joined fellow cult members one dreary winter morning in early 1951 to prepare for the annual Dressmaking Cup competition.

Overnight, the English team had fallen yet again to a crushing defeat Down Under. How, they wondered, might a future touring team get a winning edge over the rowdy cursing crowds of Brisbane or the MCG?

The tough misogynistic prejudices of the braying beer-swilling terraces had destabilised the England squad, undermining the proto-feminist training regime recently introduced by the ECB, and so admired by Cult members.

As the Cult squad struggled to concentrate on their needlework, Arnie 'Chucker' Bletherworp had a sudden insight. 'When they go low, we should go high' he announced. 'Our boys should reach even deeper into their feminine side -- the Ozzies won’t be able to cope'.

And so it was that the Great Pink Tutu Tour was first conceived. Cult connections with the MCC have always been strong, and it is rumoured to this day that the Ashes Urn itself derives from our ancient 'Let’s Burn Small Ridiculous Things and Tidy Up Nicely Afterwards' ritual.

Preparations were bound to be long, and relied on absolute secrecy. But planners became ever more convinced that the image of the English team emerging from the dressing room in frilly pink ballet gear would stun the tinny-chugging crowds into silence. The Ozzie team might even refuse to take to the field.

A top-secret unit within the MCC worked on the plan, and the Cult Dressmaking Club developed designs. We chose a lovely neon cerise satin material for both comfort and maximum visual impact.

Problems inevitably arose retaining a slender body-hugging fit that could also accommodate a box and chest pad -- there was, after all, a risk that the Australian team might actually agree to play.

As the 1954 tour approached, each squad member was measured up, and the tutus were smuggled into Australia through the diplomatic bag, and held at the British embassy in readiness for Brisbane.

Bill 'Brawler' Brawnside misses an easy catch during the annual 'Pink Tutu Tour' all-comers' match in 2005. Grandson of the author, Bill wears the original Bletherworp design from 1951. Knowledgeable observers will note the clear A-line of the period, including waist cinch and camisole, all set off nicely with its flattering gusset.

But the entire scheme was feared lost when an unwitting embassy cultural liaison officer mistook the contents of the several large trunks as the property of the English Ballet Company, and shipped them to the Sydney Opera House.


The visiting dancers examined the costumes, and puzzled by their size and curious body armour, decided to call in the Australian police.

The details of what happened next will remain sealed under the Official Secrets Acts of both countries for another 100 years. But after the English victory on the tour, rumours surfaced that the Australian Government had treated the discovery of the tutus as a major diplomatic incident, potentially worse than the 'bodyline' series under Jardine before the war. 

Newspapers in both the UK and Australia were hit with C notices regarding any news item referring to anything pink, or involving ballet or tights.

Only the captain of the Australian team was told of the English plan, and this was the Australian government’s critical mistake. 

The captain was plagued by terrifying dreams throughout the series, and was often seen in tears or haggard and drawn at press conferences or on the pitch.


How would a fair dinkum captain behave if confronted by an exotic transvestite troupe? The question is rumoured to haunt him to this day.

It is thought Bletherworp was later rewarded with an OBE, but only on condition of his ongoing silence about his ultimately successful strategy.

Editor’s note: Those who doubt the veracity of Big Boy’s story need consider only the ongoing importance of both the colour pink, and the regular appearance of ballet costumes in the life of Ashes cricket.

Two charities we encourage Cult members and visitors to this site to support are: 

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