An early Australian Banksy?

The Early Australian Banksy

Creative with a Touch of Activist

Sara | designer & founder

Any creative soul can tell you, Banksy is a legend. Although he is never seen, he speaks his truth across the UK, without ever seeking the fame and fortune his talents create. In fact, he seems to prefer being anti-famous, choosing instead to stay true to himself. A firm believer in Freedom of Speech, he certainly has something to say.

But he was not the first….

The True tale of Arthur Stace

AKA – Mr Eternity

Arthur Stace was born into poverty and abuse, on 9 February 1885. His childhood was steeped in alcohol, and trouble with the law, which caused him to be jailed at 15. On his release, he helped his sisters by scouting talent for the family run brothel. He never gained any formal education and could barely write his own name.

Not the best start in life, I’m sure you will agree. At 32 Mr Stace, who was by now a full blown alcoholic, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force 5th Brigade, and went to fight in World War I. He was discharged on medical grounds in 1919.

So What Happed to Mr Stace?

This was my view, the night I first heard about the legend of how Arthur Stace became the soul of Sydney and the infamous Mr Eternity.

It was millennium night, back when my husband was still alive, and we were all young backpackers, seeing in the year 2000. Quite suddenly, just before midnight, the word Eternity appeared on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I thought at the time that it looked lovely, but quickly became aware of the Australian crowd, who were suddenly going crazy, with chants of “Mr Eternity” and raised glasses all round.

The following day, after recovering from an epic hangover, I headed to my favourite cafe, determined to find out more….

I was not disappointed

So the Story Goes

Arthur Stace, stumbled into St. Barnabas Church Broadway on 6 August 1930, looking for a hot cup of tea. The now homeless Arthur was so inspired by the sermon of Reverend R. B. S. Hammond, that he cleaned up his act.

A further sermon, 2 years later, this time by John G. Ridley MC on “The Echoes of Eternity” set a fire inside of Arthur Stace. In a later interview he was quoted as saying “Eternity went ringing through my brain and suddenly I began crying and felt a powerful call from the Lord to write Eternity.”

Even though he was illiterate and could hardly write his own name legibly, “the word ‘Eternity’ came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script.

Boy did he Write Eternity!

For nearly 30 years, Arthur Stace got up at 4am every day, and wrote the word Eternity all over Sydney.

He wrote it using chalk on footpaths, doorsteps railway station entrances, and anywhere else he could think of, never being seen. Sydney residents began to notice, and dubbed him the elusive Mr Eternity. Similar to mysterious Graffiti artists today, Mr Eternity quickly became an urban legend.

He remained anonymous until Reverend Lisle M. Thompson, who preached at the church where Stace worked as a caretaker, saw him take a piece of chalk from his pocket and write the word on the footpath. In fact, it is said that Arthur Stace wrote the word Eternity over half a million times around the city!

Eternity Today

There are three places you can see the word Eternity in the city today, and only one of them is actually Arthur Stace’s original chalk script.

The original script fascinates me most of all, as to this day no one can work out how he did it!

The Sydney General Post Office clock tower was dismantled during World war II, and the bell was packed up and put into storage. When the clock tower was being rebuilt in 1960, the bell was taken out of storage and low and behold…

The workmen were astonished, when they looked inside the bell and saw what is now the only surviving ETERNITY in Stace’s own hand, written in chalk.

How he managed to get inside that bell remains a mystery to this day.

Mr Eternity Lives On

The 148-year-old church, St Barnabas on the corner of Mountain Street and Broadway is long gone, destroyed by fire on May 10 2006. I realise now that it was in the cafe across the street that I learnt the story of Mr Eternity, not knowing at the time that it was this exact spot where it all began!

No matter your religious beliefs, economical or cultural background, Mr Eternity is a story of passion. He inspires you to follow your calling if it grabs you, and always strive to be the best you can be. Arthur Stace worked as a social worker for decades, helping the homeless, working with addiction and mental illness.

If you ever find yourself in Sydney, a city I myself fell in love with back in 1999, keep your eyeballs peeled. Eternity can still be seen in the city, as modern day artists pay tribute to Mr Arthur Stace, the Australian Banksy. Every New Year I raise a toast to him and remember the year 2000 and my time down under.

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