Up to 50 times a day he wrote it: the word ‘Eternity’, in waterproof chalk, in a flowing Copperplate hand. Fifty times per day for 35 years, is a powerful message. Upwards of half a million examples, and it is typical that the one original supposed to still exist is difficult to prove. You see, it is inside the bell within the Martin Place GPO clock tower. Taken down as a precaution during WW2, the bell was cleaned and replaced in the 1960s, and THAT is when it was discovered that Stace had been there. There are two replicas: the one on the foot of his grave in Botany Cemetery, and the one beside the Cascade, within the NY Metro Cafe in the Town Hall Arcade.
What drove Arthur Stace to a life on the streets?
Poverty. Alcohol. WW1. Self-image. Finding God.
That would pretty much do it.
He was born in Redfern, lived most of his life in Bulwarra Road, Pyrmont, and died in the Hammondville Nursing Home out at Liverpool. Pretty much a flat-lined activity. He served in WW1, probably as a stretcher bearer, where, upon enlistment, his vital statistics indicated he was ‘weedy’. He hit the skids upon being demobbed, and in a highly impressionable state, came within the orbit of a fire’n’brimstone pastor at either St Barnabas’ Broadway, or the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle in about 1930, in his mid-40s. He did not marry until he was 58.
There are four authenticated photographs of Stace in existence, all taken by Trevor Dallen from the old Sydney Sun. Stace was hard to track down, shunned publicity, and was, effectively, defacing public property. Dallen pinned him down for an interview, but after four shots, ran out of film. Of course, when he returned with more, Stace had etherised – again.
The year 2000 was shaping as massive for Sydney, what with the Olympics and all. The Y2K bug was going to shut down life as we knew it. Sydney’s NYE fireworks featured Stace’s copperplate trademark, this time writ large for all the world to see.
I hope he found it.
|This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.|