Statues and Memorials: John Simpson Kirkpatrick

Posted: July 19, 2015 in History, UK
Tags: ,
Statue of John Simpson Kirkpatrick in South Shields

Statue of John Simpson Kirkpatrick in South Shields

John Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in South Shields on 6 July 1892. He was one of 8 children and during the summer holidays he got a job working on the sea-front with the donkeys. At 16 he volunteered for the Army but deserted in Australia a year later. He travelled Australia during various manual jobs like cane-cutting and coal-mining but eventually got a job as a stoker on Australian coastal ships.

Statue of John Simpson Kirkpatrick in South Shields

Statue of John Simpson Kirkpatrick in South Shields

He joined the Australian Army at the outbreak of World War 1 and became a field ambulance stretcher bearer. In 1915 he was part of the Australian force which landed at Gallipoli. The day after he landed he was carrying men back from the front lines to the first aid station when he saw a donkey and began using it as a means of transporting the injured back from the front. It is recorded that during his service he used at least 5 donkeys: Duffy No 1; Duffy No 2; Murphy; Queen Elizabeth and Abdul. Some of his donkeys were killed or wounded in service. He and his donkeys became a familiar sight to the ANZAC forces and other ambulance crews began to copy him and use donkeys for transportation.

"Simpson and the donkey". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Simpson_and_the_donkey.jpg#/media/File:Simpson_and_the_donkey.jpg

“Simpson and the donkey”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Simpson_and_the_donkey.jpg#/media/File:Simpson_and_the_donkey.jpg

Colonel (later General) John Monash wrote: “Private Simpson (the name under which he had enlisted in the Australian Army) and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.”

John Simpson Kirkpatrick was hit by machine gun fire on 19th May 1915 and died shortly afterwards. He was buried in the beach cemetery.

"John Simpson Kirkpatrick headstone". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Simpson_Kirkpatrick_headstone.jpg#/media/File:John_Simpson_Kirkpatrick_headstone.jpg

“John Simpson Kirkpatrick headstone”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Simpson_Kirkpatrick_headstone.jpg#/media/File:John_Simpson_Kirkpatrick_headstone.jpg

His story was first told in ‘Glorious deeds of Australians in the Great War‘ published in 1916 and in the same year in a short silent film called ‘Murphy of ANZAC‘ (Murphy for some reason was one of Kirkpatrick’s nick-names). In 1986 a donkey named Simpson was adopted as the mascot of the Australian Army Medical Corps. His story has been told in other books and he has also had two songs written about him.

He is commemorated in South Shields by the Statue above of him and a donkey and the local pub on the main street is named after him.

The Kirkpatrick pub in South Shields

The Kirkpatrick pub in South Shields

 

The sign outside the Kirkpatrick pub in South Shields

The sign outside the Kirkpatrick pub in South Shields

There is also a memorial to him in Melbourne Australia

"The Man with the Donkey statue oblique view". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Man_with_the_Donkey_statue_oblique_view.jpg#/media/File:The_Man_with_the_Donkey_statue.jpg

                  “The Man with the Donkey statue”.                            Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Man_with_the_Donkey_statue_oblique_view.jpg#/media/File:The_Man_with_the_Donkey_statue.jpg

"The Man with the Donkey statue". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Man_with_the_Donkey_statue_front_view.jpg#/media/File:The_Man_with_the_Donkey_statue_front_view.jpg

“The Man with the Donkey statue”.                   Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Man_with_the_Donkey_statue_front_view.jpg#/media/File:The_Man_with_the_Donkey_statue_front_view.jpg

 

 

 

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