John Simpson and his Donkey celebrated at Seven Stories

Simpson and his Donkey with Frané Lessac and Mark Greenwood • Thursday 14 August • 2.30pm 

To mark the centenary of WW1, Seven Stories are celebrating the achievements of local military hero John Simpson Kirkpatrick who, along with his donkey Duffy, rescued over 300 men during the Gallipoli campaign.

Join author duo Frané Lessac and Mark Greenwood as they discuss they discuss their books Simpson and his Donkey to hear about the bravery of animals across theworld during war time and find out more about John Simpson, a soldier from South Shields, and how the bravery of the "man with the donkey" soon became the most prominent symbol of Australian courage and tenacity on Gallipoli.

Multi award-winning author and illustrator team Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac have a passion for history. Families are invited to join them as they share a poignant account of Simspon and his donkey and Midnight, the story of an Australian Light Horse who took part in one of the last great cavalry charges in history. This is an inspirational event for all the family to mark the centenary of WW1.

Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in 1892 at South Shields. As a child during his summer holidays he used to work as a donkey-lad on the sands of South Shields. He had a great affinity with animals, in particular donkeys. Later he deserted ship in Australia when he heard of the war with Germany. Fearing that a deserter might not be accepted into the Australian Army, he dropped Kirkpatrick from his name and enlisted simply as John Simpson. He was to become Australia’s most famous, and best-loved military hero.

In Perth on 23rd August 1914, Jack was accepted and chosen as a field ambulance stretcher bearer. He joined the 3rd Field Ambulance at Blackboy Hill camp, 35 km east of Perth on the same day. Over an amazing 24 days he was to rescue over 300 men down the notorious Monash Valley. His prodigious, heroic feat was accomplished under constant and ferocious attack from artillery, field guns and sniper fire.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick came to be seen seen as the embodiment of the ‘ANZAC spirit’; selflessness, larrikinism, determination, mateship, humanism, courage, and improvisation; however, he was never promoted and never received any war medals in either life or death.

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Notes to Editor:

Seven Stories – the Centre for Children’s Books.
Seven Stories is the first gallery and archive in the UK that celebrates the wonderful world of children’s books. We create a vibrant event and exhibition programme to cater for book lovers of all ages. Find Seven Stories tucked under Byker Bridge not far from Newcastle’s bustling Quayside.

Mark Greenwood is a musician and award-winning children’s author. His books aim to foster a greater appreciation and understanding of Australian myths and legends. Mark enjoys working with students of all ages, inspiring and developing their natural curiosity about books and writing. He has twice won the Western Australian Premier’s Award for children’s books and Simpson and His Donkey was Honour Book in 2009 at the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. He is married to Frané Lessac and they live with their two children in Western Australia. For more information about Mark’s work, please visit his website:

Frané Lessac is originally from New Jersey and is an artist of international renown having exhibited in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and the Caribbean. Residing in Western Australia, Lessac now has over 30 children’s books published throughout the world. Her work has won Australian and international awards and has been translated into numerous languages. In 2010 she was awarded the Muriel Barwell Award for Distinguished Service to Children’s literature. For more information about her work, please visit her website: