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John Simpson Kirkpatrick

(1892—1915) war hero


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(1892–1915), known affectionately as ‘The Man with the Donkey’, was born South Shields, Tyneside, England, jumped ship in Australia in 1910, carried his swag to northern Queensland and then worked on coastal shipping before enlisting in the AIF. Politically radical and distrustful of the English ruling class, he enlisted more as a means of returning to England than for the patriotic reasons established by the myth surrounding his name. On 25 April 1915, the day of the landing on Gallipoli, he obtained a donkey, the first of several, and from then on worked day and night carrying the wounded from the front lines to the beach. Three weeks later, he and his last donkey were killed by shrapnel. Although no award for valour was made to Simpson, such awards then being given only for single acts of valour, his name became legendary for qualities of self-sacrifice and bravery. There is a statue of The Man with the Donkey at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance, a bronze by W. Leslie Bowles at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, and a statue in South Shields erected in 1988 to mark Australia's bicentenary. T. Walsh wrote The Man and the Donkey (1948) and Sir Irving Benson, The Man with the Donkey (1965). Richard Beynon has written the play Simpson J. 202 (1991), which uses military records and letters Simpson wrote to his mother. Peter Cochrane's Simpson and the Donkey: The Making of a Legend (1992) examines the historical construction of the Simpson legend. Vietnam veteran Tom Curran also published a Kirkpatrick biography in 1992.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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