Monday November 14 marks 90 years since Arthur Stace started writing the word Eternity all over Sydney.
To celebrate the milestone film director and producer Richard Attieh has made a film about the man who became known as Mr. Eternity.
He told Vision Radio about Arthur’s troubled start to life:
“He was born into an underprivileged home. His parents were addicted to the bottle. And he was fostered out at a very, very young age and went from home to home. Very much a product of what was going to then be the Great Depression.”
“His life story does make us feel uncomfortable because it parallels so much of our history going back to the late 1800s and into the 1900s.”
Arthur enlisted to serve his country in the First World War. He was a stretcher bearer who returned suffering from undiagnosed PTSD and for many years he resumed the life of an alcoholic.
In 1930 Arthur was convicted to give his heart to the Lord after hearing legendary church leader R. B. S. Hammond preach.
He never drank again.
Two years later, another preacher sowed the Eternity seed as Richard Attieh explained:
“He gets wind that evangelist John Ridley, a former World War One veteran, is going to preach at the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle as part of a crusade. On Monday, the 14th of November 1932, Ridley preaches a sermon called The Echoes of Eternity …. and says: ‘I wish that I could echo Eternity across the city.’ Arthur literally took it as a challenge.”
“He goes on to write Eternity on the streets more than 500,000 times over the next 35 years.”
“As the legend goes, he gets up at 4:00 in the morning or thereabouts, and he would write it at least 100 times a day … Arthur is getting up every single day and writing Eternity on the streets of Sydney every single day.”
“I do have this picture in my head that Arthur was somewhere around the harbour, writing Eternity on the street as the Japanese subs were coming in. When the first person flicked television on in Australia, Arthur was up in the morning writing Eternity on the street. When somebody clicked over the first Holden car in Australia on that day, Arthur Stace was writing Eternity on the street. It’s a remarkable story of conviction, of passion, of perseverance. ”
Richard Attieh’s film is called Written in Chalk: The Echo of Arthur Stace.
There will be a free open-air screening at Sydney’s Town Hall Square on November 11 and 12 at 7.30pm.
The 70-minute documentary looks back at the history of Arthur’s iconic artwork which appeared on the Sydney Harbour Bridge at the Millennium fireworks and at the Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
“Remembrance Day is one of the most significant dates in our national calendar and I am thrilled to be honouring some of our World War One heroes in the film on this day,” Mr. Attieh told Eternity News.
“The war plays a significant role in the Eternity story as it was a catalyst for the chance meeting between Arthur Stace and John Ridley, a former army captain and recipient of a Military Cross for Acts of Bravery.”
Photo: South Metropolitan Cemeteries, NSW