The Donkey Man

The Donkey Man, by Glyn Harper (Reed, 2004) 

The Donkey Man tells the story of Lieutenant Richard Alexander “Dick” Henderson of the New Zealand Medical Corps and his donkey, Roly. Together, Richard and Roly carried wounded soldiers from the Gallipoli battlefields to Anzac Cove for evacuation. 

To the memory of our hero comrade ‘Murphy’ (Simpson) , by Horace Moore Jones.(external link)

To the memory of our hero comrade ‘Murphy’ (Simpson) killed May 1915, by Horace Moore Jones, 1918. Alexander Turnbull Library. Reference C-057-002.


During the First World War, stretcher-bearers undertook the dangerous and important role of carrying wounded men to safety. They often did their work under enemy shellfire.Sometimes it could take six men up to five hours to move the wounded to a dressing station. 

The 1918 painting by Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones is based on a photograph of New Zealand soldier Richard (Dick) Henderson (see photograph on page 10). Murphy was the name of the donkey Private Simpson used. Private Simpson died in 1915. 

Key questions 

  • What can we observe? 
  • What do we already know? 
  • How might people view this image in different ways?  

Possible discussion questions 

  • What do you notice in the painting? 
  • Why is the man on the donkey? 
  • What can you see on the donkey’s nose? What might this be? 
  • What is the path like that they are walking on? Where do you think they are going? 
  • How do this painting and the story make you feel? 
  • Why do you think the artist made this painting? 
  • What do you know about donkeys? What are they used for today?
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