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John Simpson Kirkpatrick: the Untold Story ... by Jim Mulholland

The Untold Story of the Gallipoli Hero's Early Life, Alkali Publishing, February 2015, (ISBN 978-0-9933457-0-8)
A very readable, very well-researched and illustrated , biographraphy of John Simpson Kirkpatrick.

Author Jim Mulholland’s ability to weave a good story has entertained, educated and informed local history group members for a number of years. Group members are also indebted to Jim for the time he dedicates to the group’s newsletter and finances, in his roles as Editor and Treasurer, in addition to holding down a full-time job. It is no wonder then, that the book we thought might never get published has taken some time to produce. However, this is as much to do with Jim’s tenacious research and determination to do justice to John Simpson Kirkpatrick’s memory. We are also aware that Jim held back publication for several months out of respect for others. The book was worth waiting for. Published locally by Alkali Publishing, and printed locally by CVN Print Ltd, this attractive, portable (A5), paperback will fit neatly in your handbag, pocket and grace your shelves, and is well worth reading.

As a biography, the book tells the story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, also known as the Man with the Donkey, and who is remembered by many in England and Australia, for his work as a stretcher bearer for the ANZAC’s at Gallipoli. “Scorning danger” to rescue wounded soldiers, “working morning till night” “for three weeks” “until his miraculous escapes were passed, for he fell on the spot shot through the heart”, were the words of Capt. H Kenneth Fry in a letter to Kirkpatrick’s sister, on 2nd September 1915, regretting that she had received no correspondence from her brother, who had died on 19th May. Kirkpatrick was just 21 years old. Many lives have been lost to war, and lives affected by that loss. Mindful of this, the author has researched, with respect, the life of the man behind the story, in the context of the harsh realities of family life in the industrial north east of England and neighbouring Scotland. Drawing on his growing knowledge of the history of South Shields, Jim has also researched archives in South Tyneside’s local studies collection at the Central Library in South Shields, and at Tyne and Wear Archives at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. Jim has poured over maps, analysed census returns, newspaper articles, parish registers, military records and school log books; he has read, not just the published works, but also correspondence by and about John Simpson; talked to descendants and others who knew or had corresponded with Kirkpatrick or his family; interviewed and more importantly listened to and gathered the stories and myths about his subject, in order to dig deeper and try to determine what was fact and what was fiction, and to consider this in the wider context.

As a result, the story is also about daily life and lives in South Shields, leading up to the First World War, and an insight into the issues and events which many faced, as well as opportunities, actions, decisions and consequences. To say more would be to say too much as the book is well worth reading, and is available to buy from online sources such as Amazon, or from the Central Library in South Shields.