Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Arthur Stace (Mr Eternity)

There's an article about Arthur Stace, the man who chalked 'Eternity' some 500 000 times in the streets of Sydney, in today's SMH.

He became a Christian at St Barnabas' Broadway.

It was several months after his initial conversion that Stace heard the evangelist the Reverend John Ridley preaching in Darlinghurst. Significantly, Ridley was not only a man of God but a decorated WWI veteran. He had been awarded the Military Cross for valour during the Battle of Bullecourt in 1917. When Ridley declared: ''I wish I could shout 'Eternity' through the streets of Sydney,'' the word resonated with Stace who, like Ridley, had faced his own mortality daily France. It was the genesis for his extraordinary 35-year mission in which he rose at dawn to walk the streets, anonymously chalking ''Eternity'' as he went.

Apparently, he was not as illiterate as he claimed:

He claimed that his ability to produce such beautiful copperplate was a mystery, demonstrating to journalists that he could barely write his own name.

With this in mind, it was surprising to find two postwar letters written by Stace on his service file. The first is dated August 15, 1927, and addressed to the Defence Department. Although it contains several grammatical errors, the handwriting is assured and elegant, raising questions about Stace's version of his childhood. It was written when he was living at Riley Street, Surry Hills.

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