Movie about “Man with the donkey” to be filmed in 2013

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John Simpson Kirkpatrick (centre) with his donkey Duffy carrying a wounded soldier at Gallipoli.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick (centre) with his donkey Duffy carrying a wounded soldier at Gallipoli.

The makers of a movie about the legendary exploits of Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey at Gallipoli hope to start filming early next year.

British-born Simpson became the stuff of Australian legend when he used a donkey to ferry wounded soldiers from the frontline back to the beach for evacuation.

The so-called “Man with the donkey” is considered by many to be the quintessential Australian “hero” of Gallipoli.

Producer Danny Mackay is hoping to shoot the film, estimated to cost $A14.5 million, early next year.

The cast is reported to include David Wenham, Bryan Brown, Sam Neill and Don Hany. The role of Simpson has yet to be cast.

The movie is being produced as the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, which occurred on April 25, 1915, approaches.

Mackay has been fascinated by the story of Simpson since his school days.

Peter Andrikidis will direct the film.

Simpson, who was 22 at the time of his exploits, lasted little more than three weeks in the conflict before being killed.

The widely told story of Simpson and his donkey is now a mix of fact and legend.

A 402-page book published only last June set out to debunk what it called the myth around Simpson.

Graham Wilson
Graham Wilson

The book, Dust, Donkeys and Delusions – the Myth of Simpson and his Donkey Exposed, was written by historian Graham Wilson.

Wilson discovered historical documents, official and unofficial, that revealed that just about every word written and spoken about Simpson since his death were almost entirely false.

“I wrote the book as an attempt to, firstly, strip away the layers of mistruths, half-truths and lies that surround Simpson and reveal the real man,” he said.

“Secondly, I wanted to debunk the myth that Simpson was the only medical soldier at Gallipoli to put his life on the line time and time again to save wounded men.

“Thirdly, I wanted to address and comprehensively demolish the ridiculous ‘VC for Simpson’ campaign that has developed over the years and is still active today and, if successful, would result in the decoration of a myth, not a man.”

A statue of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey which stands in Ocean Road, South Shields.
A statue of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey which stands in Ocean Road, South Shields. © Lemmiwinks

Far from criticising Simpson, Wilson recognised that he was a good soldier and the work he did at Gallipoli was valuable.

However, he points out that Simpson was no more or less brave than any other man at Gallipoli and the “myth of Simpson” needed to be corrected.

The book says there is no question that Simpson used a donkey to transport lightly wounded men to medical facilities, but there were many inaccuracies in the feats attributed to him.

The book found that the soldier bore no blame for the nonsensical myth that has grown up around him.

Meanwhile, the Shields Gazette reports from England that a new motion from South Tyneside Council supports calls for Simpson to receive a posthumous Victoria Cross.

A statue of Simpson, who was born in South Shields, sits in the town’s Ocean Road.

Simpson was born in Bertram Street, South Shields, in 1892 and emigrated to Australia at the age of 17.

Simpson is among a group of soldiers whose wartime exploits are already under review in Australia to determine whether military decorations are warranted.

 

 

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