Memorial Details

NEWMP Memorial Image
Photo: C. Sanders


Statue Man With A Donkey 1914-18 Ocean Road





Map ref

NZ 365674

Original Location

Ocean Road, South Shields. Outside the South Shields Museum.

Which war


Dedication, Creation or Publication date


Memorial Description

Statue called "Man with the Donkey". It shows a life-sized man with his hand on the donkey’s rump. He stands on a square pedestal, 5 feet 6 inches high x 8 feet 6 inches long x 6 feet wide, (1.67m x 2.59m x 1.82m). A sunken panel contains a plaque about 18 inches high x 3 feet wide (457mm x 914mm) in metal bearing the dedication in black Roman upper and lower case lettering.

Materials used

Bronze statue, stone plinth.


John Simpson Kirkpatrick
"The Man with the Donkey"
202 Pte. J. Simpson
Aust. Army Medical Corps
Born South Shields 6 July 1892
died Gallipoli 19th May 1915
A hero of the Great War


See above

Present condition



1. There is also a bronze statuette inside the South Shields Museum.

2. The donkey, called Murphy, was awarded the Purple Cross for Animal Bravery in Australia in 1997.

3. There was a move to try and have a posthumous Victoria Cross awarded to Kirkpatrick.

4. There is a statue of John Kirkpatrick in Victoria, Australia. Carved out of a tree by John Brady, it stands at Lakes Entrance.

5. A musical based on Pte Kirkpatrick was shown in Australia from April 2011, entitled “Three Weeks in Spring: the Gallipoli Story”, written by Ian Gerrard.

6. A play entitled “The Man and the Donkey” written by Valerie Laws, was given a première in the Customs House in South Shields in February 2011. It was staged again in May 2015 in the Custom House, South Shields, to mark the centenary

7. Some items of memorabilia were handed to South Shields Museum & Art Gallery by Keith Smiles and Quinns Rock Returned and Services League, based in Perth, Australia. The items include a $5 Australian coin, a series of celebratory stamps, and Kirkpatrick’s official Army records.

8. He resided at 14 Bertram Street in South Shields.

9. He was born on the 6th July 1892, son of a Scots merchant seaman Robert Kirkpatrick, who had settled in Durham, bringing with him his Scots wife, Sarah. Simpson's father suffered a crippling injury in 1904 which resulted in his death in 1909. The impression has been given that he grew up in a harsh and deprived childhood. In the 1901 the Census shows the family employing a live-in servant, 15 years old Ellie Crozier. His father was a merchant captain in the coastal trade and would have been reasonably well paid. A happy and loving family in which, while there was never much extra cash, there was always enough for the food and rent, Simpson had 2 elder siblings as well who contributed financially.

10. There was a service of remembrance at the memorial on May 19th, the centenary of the death of Kirkpatrick.

11. In 2013 various items were handed to the South Shields Museum and Art Gallery.

Newspaper cuttings, photos or archival material

Photos: R.W. Gould; C.Sanders

The Journal 02/06/1986 page 7; 22/05/1997 carries the story and of the award to the donkey; 26/09/2012 reports visitors from Australia to pay their respects; 15/04/2013 reports donation of items to South Shields Museum; 25/04/2015 reports proposed centenary event; 26/04/2013 reports ceremony; 20/05/2015 reports centenary service.

Remember When: Heroes and Villains supplement to the Evening Chronicle 15/02/2000 carried a double page feature with photos telling the story.

Silent Heroes: The Bravery & Devotion of Animals in War Evelyn le Chene; Souvenir Press; ISBN 0 285 63214 0

Not only a hero: an illustrated life of Simpson, the man with the donkey Tom Curran, Australia, Anzac Day Commemoration Committee (Queensland), 1998. (Copy in Newcastle Local Studies library)

The Man with the Donkey – Some pages from my Gallipoli Notebook A James Madden Production.

Across the Bar: The story of “Simpson”, the Man with the Donkey: Australia and Tyneside’s Great Hero; Tom Curran; Brisbane, Ogmios Publications; 1994; ISBN 0 646 16524 0

Culture; The Journal February 2011 carries an article on Simpson, including a photo.

This England Autumn 2011, page 35 has photo of statue reported in Note 4 above.

Evening Chronicle 24/01/2011 reports musical and play in Notes 5 and 6 above.

Shields Gazette 01/04/15 reports on a Memorial to him and 100 others from South Shields who died at Gallipoli.

External web link

Research acknowledgements

The late R.W. Gould, C. Sanders; T. Harding: James Pasby

Research In Progress

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Statue Man With A Donkey 1914-18 Ocean Road (S86.014)

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Parish Notes

Every Name A Story