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Mr Eternity - Arthur Stace

Listen in Real Audio Listen to the song Mr Eternity    (sung by Jim Low)

Listen in Real Audio Listen to Arthur Stace recorded in 1964

© Jim Low

View Words

The year 2000 burst into life with an explosion of colour, as fireworks painted the sky over Sydney for almost half an hour. The display climaxed with the gradual appearance, through a residue of smoke, of the word Eternity. It was written in yellow lights across the centre of the Sydney Harbour Bridge arch.

For many, the sight of this word would have awakened old memories. For me, it was enough to transport me over 40 years, back to the streets of my childhood in North Sydney. The word, carefully written in yellow chalk, would mysteriously appear on the streets of our suburb. It was always viewed with curiosity.

On a visit to North Sydney in 1993 I recalled some of the places where I had seen the word written. There was something very special about its appearance. It was not until later that I heard about Arthur Stace and his story.

Mr EternityFor me, the mystique surrounding Mr Eternity persists to this day. My 1993 visit to North Sydney and the childhood memories it awakened resulted in my writing a song. The idea of a man resolving to write one word upon the streets of Sydney and its suburbs for more than thirty years is unusual to say the least. The same word that I saw as a child in the 1950’s had already been written by Arthur Stace for over twenty years. Such repeated practice had resulted in a perfection of style. As a child, this did not go unnoticed. These were still the days of the copper plate writing style when we dipped our pens into small ink bottles, neatly inserted in school desk tops, and learnt to write by repeated practice.

I was intrigued by the look of the word and the way that it rolled effortlessly off the tongue when you said it. The word’s meaning introduced me to a concept of time which was hard for any young mind to understand without some sense of anxiety.

The temporary nature of the medium used by Arthur Stace appears at odds with the message he wished to communicate. But once read, it was that indelibility in the memory of many that allowed it to endure.

Listen in Real Audio Listen to Mr Eternity, Arthur Stace, talking to 2GB announcer Jim Waugh in 1964. It was replayed by the ABC several years ago after John Barwick from Gunnedah who recorded it in 1964 on an old tape recorder sent it into the ABC. John also gave a copy to Rex Beaver who in turn gave us permission to reproduce his copy here.