Simpson And His Donkey, 1915


Hobart, Australia

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Wall Art

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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.

Artwork Comments

  • Audrey Clarke
  • David Davies
  • TonyCrehan
  • Jenny Brice
  • TonyCrehan
  • AndreaEL
  • PhotosByG
  • TonyCrehan
  • Bevlea Ross
  • TonyCrehan
  • PhotosByG
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