Simpson And His Donkey, 1915 by TonyCrehan

Currently unavailable for purchase

Available to buy on…

Simpson And His Donkey, 1915 by 

Featured in Australian Capital Cities Group on 01/27/12

Featured in Australia At Large Group on 04/25/12

Statue at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH1 point & shoot on 20 March 2011. Processed in Simply HDR for Mac.

‘Arguably Australia’s most famous soldier is neither a general nor a Victoria Cross recipient, but a stretcher bearer who served briefly in the nation’s first major campaign. Peter Corlett’s sculpture ‘Simpson and his donkey, 1915’ marks both a reaffirmation and a fresh look at this essential ANZAC story. The work describes a dangerous journey. Pain and fatigue are etched into the face of the wounded soldier, in the protruding veins of his forearms and in the rigid extension of his injured leg. The crumpled ragged clothing and roughly bandaged ankle reveal the desperate conditions borne in the midst of battle. Other carefully chosen details remind us that these are Australian soldiers fighting at Gallipoli, the slouch hat, Rising Sun badges and the puttees wound above the boots. The donkey wearing the Red Cross insignia also shows the strain. In contrast to the human figures it seems less then life size, and with the awkward positioning of its front legs, and its precarious forward lean, we fear it may topple over. Simpson is looking ahead from under the brim of his slouch hat and guides the party forward. His responsibility to his charge is not only an emotional link but a real, physical connection, with his strong arm firmly supporting the injured soldier and steadfastly taking the weight across his shoulders. The sculpture is warm, accessible and above all, a work about humanity. Corlett intended the figures to be touched, and hoped that the donkey’s nose would eventually be rubbed smooth by children. Seventeen years later the donkey’s nose is shiny, a testament to Simpson’s story having been brought alive for yet another generation of Australians.’ (Fiona Clarke).

Simpson used a donkey called Duffy to help him carry injured soldiers to safety at Gallipoli. Simpson’s full name was John Simpson Kirkpatrick.

Simpson and his donkey became famous among the Australian soldiers at Gallipoli because of their bravery. Day after day, and week after week Simpson and his donkey would wind their way through the hills and valleys looking for wounded soldiers. Even though it was very dangerous, Simpson would crawl on his belly and drag soldiers back to safety. He would then put the injured soldier on the donkey’s back and lead him down to the beach.

One day Duffy came down to the beach with a soldier on his back, but without Simpson. Simpson had been killed trying to save another soldier. The donkey somehow knew that even though his friend was dead, Simpson would have wanted him to take the injured man to safety.


statues, sculptures, war, anzac, simpson, donkey, canberra, australia

Currently working with independent schools in Tasmania

All work in this portfolio is © tony crehan
These materials (images and poems) may NOT be edited, copied, reproduced, printed, distributed, displayed, performed, or used in any way, in whole or in part, without my written permission. Please respect copyright and do not save or upload any images or poems to Photobucket, Flickr, Myspace, Facebook etc. These creative materials are NOT public domain.

View Full Profile


  • Audrey Clarke
    Audrey Clarkeover 2 years ago

    ( To help us tidy up the group it would be appreciated if you could remove as many of your older works as possible – Thanks Audrey )
    If you have already done this THANK YOU

  • David Davies
    David Daviesover 2 years ago

    You asked which one I preferred, Tony, and my answer is definitely this one. It’s sharper, brighter and much more pleasing to my eye.

  • Thanks for the feedback David. Yes, I think this one highlights the sculpture better.

    – TonyCrehan

  • Jenny Brice
    Jenny Briceover 2 years ago

    A great capture of this meaning filled statue Tony. I prefer this version to the B&W as (for me anyway) it has much more impact.

  • Thanks Jenny. I agree with your choice.

    – TonyCrehan

  • AndreaEL
    AndreaELover 2 years ago

    If you have not already enterd the 2012 Voucher Challenge … enter now

  • PhotosByG
    PhotosByGover 2 years ago

    This photo is eligible to be entered into the $20 challenge for January 2012. Good luck!

  • Thanks for the great news Graham. It is a big thrill to have my work featured in the group.

    – TonyCrehan

  • Bevlea Ross
    Bevlea Rossabout 2 years ago

    Congratulations on your inclusion to our Anzac Day Special Feature

    Click HERE to view the feature!
    From your hosts Bevlea Ross and Melissa
    Australia At Large

  • A wonderful tribute on a very special day and I am honoured that this work is included. Well done Bev and Mel and thank you.

    – TonyCrehan

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait