AUSTRALIAN HISTORY - DONNELLY'S DONKEY
Coalition’s drive to impose its reactionary values on schools has
found a stalking donkey. The campaign has been launched with a poster of
Simpson and his donkey. This choice returns to the ANZAC legend, beloved
by chicken-hawk Howard. However, the Coalition’s promotion of Simpson
suggests that its ideologues are as ill-informed about Australian
history as they allege government schools are wanting in values.
truth about Simpson is not as simple as the version that used to appear
in primary school readers. Peter Cochrane’s 1992 book Simpson
and the Donkey the Making of a Legend (Melbourne University Press)
told the full story. Cochrane summed up his findings about the
and again Simpson’s allegiance to class, his vehemence and anger, have
been erased, in favour of the simple tale centred on his alleged loyalty
to mother, nation, empire and, in the last instance, to his manhood.
a start, Simpson had been born in England as John Simpson Kirkpatrick.
He adopted the surname Simpson after he came to Australia in 1910, where
he worked as a ship’s stoker and labourer.
following extract from a letter which Simpson-Kirkpatrick wrote to his
mother in 1912 gives a taste of his values:
often wonder when the working men of England will wake up and see things
as other people see them. What they want in England is a good revolution
and that will clear some of these Millionaires and lords and Dukes out
of it and then with a Labour Government they will almost be able to make
their own conditions.
joined the army in the hope of getting a free passage home. He got no
closer than Canakkale (Gallipoli),
where he was shot through the heart on May 19, 1915.
Methodist preacher, the Rev. Sir Irving Benson, solidified the orthodox
account of Simpson in 1965, when he published The
Man With the Donkey, The Good Samaritan of Gallipoli. Cochrane
exposed Benson as an unconscionable liar and indefatigable arse-licker,
whose loose attachment to the facts sits well with John Howard’s
values. Benson knew the truth about Simpson’s politics but censored
the correspondence. He used Simpson to support his Cold War prejudices.
need not be abandoned to the reactionaries. The Left can challenge the
reactionary distortion by telling the rounded story of Simpson
Kirkpatrick. The same holds for the last of the Anzacs, Tasmanian Alex
Campbell, another red-hot unionist.