Ruth and Marian in our volunteer fundraisers' team recently received a lovely email from Rita Trotter following a recent trip to Australia which we thought we would share with you. We especially love the mention of Duffy's nose being as smooth as silk.
"While we were in Australia our son and daughter-in-law thought we should see more than just Sydney, so they took us to Canberra for a couple of days. We arrived on Anzac Day, so it seemed appropriate to visit the Australian War Memorial. It's a beautiful place, impressive and incredibly moving as these places always are.
On the way to the memorial there is a sculpture of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey. It's a beautiful piece, life-sized and irresistibly touchable as you might guess. And because it was Anzac Day, both man and donkey were decorated with poppies and sprigs of rosemary. Rosemary not just for remembrance but also because it grows wild in Gallipoli. It's hard to imagine that, isn't it, something as fragrant as rosemary amid all the horrors of the battlefield?
Anyway, I knew about John Simpson and Duffy (also known as Murphy and Abdul, by the way!) from your website. What I didn't realise is that even today every schoolchild in Australia knows the story of 'the donkey man' and I find it quite touching that this 22 year old man from South Shields and his stray Greek donkey are national heroes in Australia almost a hundred years after the event.
There are 2 versions of the sculpture, one inside the museum and the larger, life-sized one outside. Apparently the sculptor, Peter Corlett, wanted the piece to be accessible and he once said he hoped that within 15 years the donkey's nose would have been rubbed smooth. As you can see from the close-up, he got his wish.
The sculpture was created in 1989 and I think everyone who has walked past it since then has stroked the donkey's nose and it is now as smooth as silk and a beautiful warm bronze colour.
Like all donkeys he touches your heart and seems to epitomise the innocence and courage of all the equines that we have dragged into our wars over the centuries, who must have been terrified and bewildered by what was going on around them, but who never let us down."