Molly McMule's Horse Tales - 1001 Stall Stories

Simpson and His Donkey

"Molly, penny for your thoughts!" said Ginny. "Oh Molly - MOLLY, what are you thinking about? You seem to be lost in time."

"Gosh, yes. I guess I was," Molly replied. "I feel like I was a million miles away, many years ago."

"Seems like pretty serious thoughts on such a lovely spring day. Want to share them with me?" asked Ginny.

"Yep, I was just thinking about how beautiful the orange poppies look in the garden and it reminded me that they are a symbol of Memorial Day. And, that we should be remembering all of the brave men and women who gave their lives for their countries during past wars. There were animals too who lost their lives in the line of duty," Molly solemnly replied.

"I know. We hear a lot of stories about the humans, but not too many about animals," Ginny remarked. "Can you think of any right now?"

"Well, let's see! There was one in particular that I have heard, about a donkey and an Australian soldier. They're an Aussie legend," Mollie told her. "Duffy, the donkey, who was sometimes called Abdul or Murphy, was on Gallipoli during World War I when he was found by John 'Jack' Simpson. He had been taken there to be used as a water carrier for the troops.

"The team of Jack and Duffy was really unique. Jack, who was born John Simpson Kirkpatrick, in England in 1892, was the son of a merchant seaman. At the age of 17, he joined the merchant navy and in May 1910, he deserted at Newcastle, New South Wales in Australia. He worked for a time as a cane-cutter and coal miner, but went back to sea earning his passage on vessels around the Australian coast, sometimes working as a steward, greaser or fireman, but always sending some money home to help support his mother after his father's death.

"He had a strong sense of duty, so it wasn't out of character when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914 during the war. He also thought that he would be sent to England to train for their army and this would mean free passage home. But England had other plans for the AIF.

"Jack was sent with the 3rd Field Ambulance Unit of the Army medical Corp to Egypt for training. And after that, Private Jack Simpson landed with his unit on Gallipoli in April 1915 where there was fierce fighting with the Turkish army.

It was almost as soon as he landed that he found Duffy in a shed and began using him to carry soldiers with leg wounds to the dressing stations. Jack and Duffy worked all day and most of the night finding and taking wounded soldiers for medical help. It was extremely dangerous because they had to go through a valley, which they called Shrapnel Gulley, to get to the beach.

There was no protection from enemy fire. Even so, he worked cheerfully and was unconcerned for his own safety. He became known as "the bloke with the donk" and his courage was widespread.

But his luck ran out less than a month after landing on Gallipoli. On May 19, 1915, he, two wounded men and Duffy were all shot and killed. They were buried that night on the beach. Jack was mentioned in Orders of the Day and was recommended for, but never received, a bravery award."

"How sad that they weren't given the recognition they surely deserved," Ginny sighed.

"True, but they became a legend and also the symbol of all that was pure, heroic and selfless on Gallipoli," Molly reasoned. "A statue by Peter Corlett, 'Simpson and his Donkey 1915' is located in the Sculpture Garden to the west of the Australian War Museum Building. Another bronze statue by Wallace Anderson of the man with the donkey is at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne and is a favorite tourist attraction. There are also paintings by H. Moore-Jones in Canberra and Auckland, New Zealand. There have also been three Australian postage stamps marking the golden jubilee of the landing at ANZAC Cove. So we can be assured they will not be forgotten."

Molly says, visit the web site of the Australian War Monument, Canberra, on your PC at and you can see the statue and read lots more about the life of Jack Simpson by using their encyclopedia.