20 February 2008


As he walked every so often he would stop, pull out a crayon, bend down and write on the pavement in large, elegant copperplate - ETERNITY. He would move on a hundred yards then write it again, ETERNITY, nothing more, just one simple word. For thirty-seven years he chalked this one-word sermon and he wrote more than half a million times.

The mystery all came clear in 1956 and the man who cracked it was the Reverend Lisle M Thompson of the Burton Street Baptist Church. Arthur Stace was actually the church cleaner and one of their prayer leaders.

One day Lisle Thompson saw Stace take out his crayon and write the famous Eternity on the pavement. He did it without realising that he has been spotted . Thompson said :"Are you Mr Eternity?" and Stace replied "Guilty Your Honor".

Lisle Thompson wrote a tract telling the little man's extraordinary story and Tom Farrell, later had the first interview. He published it in the Sunday Telegragh on 21 June 1956.


{1930 Sydney Australia }

- in the Burton Street Baptist Church at Darlinghurst he heard the evangelist, the Reverend John Ridley. Ridley was a Military Cross winner from the World War One and a noted "give-'em-Hell" preacher. He shouted: "I wish I could shout ETERNITY through the streets of Sydney".

Stace, recalling the day, said: "He repeated himself and kept shouting 'ETERNITY, ETERNITY' and his words were ringing thrugh my brain as I left the church. Suddenly I began crying and I felt a powerful call from the Lord to write "ETERNITY". I had a piece of chalk in my pocket and I bent down there and wrote it. The funny thing is that before I wrote I could hardly have spelled my own name. I had no schooling and I couldn't have spelt "ETERNITY" for hundred quid. But it came out smoothly in beautiful copperplate script. I couldn't understand it and I still can't".


In 1968 the Sydney City Council
(8) decided to perpetuate Stace's one-word sermon by putting down permanent plaques in "numerous" locations throughout the city. Sir David Griffin, a fromer Lord Mayor, tried to perpetuate what he called "a delicious piece of eccentricity", but a team of City Commissioners killed the idea. They thought it was too trivial. (9)

For weeks there was angry debate in the Letters to the Editor columns. Some said, better than plaques, let's put the money into decent walkable footpaths,
(10) and another reader believed Mary Anne Smith, who gave us the Granny Smith apple, was far more worthy of recognition. (11)

But finally Arthur Stace did get his plaque. It happened ten years after his death and was all due to Ridley Smith, architect of Sydney Square. He set the message ETERNITY in cast aliminium, set in aggregate, near the Syndey Square waterfall.

The Sydney Morning Herald Column 8 said: "In letters almost 21cm (8in) high if the famous copperplate message ETERNITY. The one word sermon gleams in wrought aluminium. There's no undue prominence. No garish presentation. Merely the simple ETERNITY on pebbles as Arthur Stace would have wanted it.

full article on the history of Arthur Stace

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