The Eternity waterfall after 40 years

Posted on July 12, 2017 
Filed under History, People, Sydney Diocese

Forty years ago, the Eternity plaque at the waterfall in Sydney Square was unveilled.

On Tuesday, 12th July 1977, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Column 8 wrote:

“TRUE to his words of last November, Ridley Smith, the Sydney Square architect, has immortalised the late Arthur Stace, ‘Mr Eternity’. You may recall that Column 8 campaigned unashamedly for a suitable memorial to Mr Stace, Sydney’s footpath evangelist for 20 vears until 1967. Ridley Smith promised it without strings.

TODAY, the memorial above will be officially unveilled (a small explanatory plaque is yet to come). Yesterday Column 8 had an informal peek. Mr Stace would be proud. There, set in aggregate near the Sydney Square waterfall, in letters almost 21cm (8 in) high, is 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 the pebbles, as Arthur Stace would have wanted it.”

In 1994, journalist Alan Gill wrote, “The waterfall adjoins a modest cafeteria. [The Architect of St. Andrew’s House and Sydney Square, Ridley] Smith once told me that he hoped visitors would say ‘Meet you at Eternity’ as well as ‘Meet you in Eternity’.” (1)

Ridley Smith (pictured) was named for evangelist John G. Ridley, who was a friend of his father. In November 1932, Arthur Stace had been in the congregation at the Burton Street Tabernacle in Darlinghurst when John Ridley preached on the need to be ready for eternity. It was this sermon which inspired Stace to begin his 34 year campaign of writing that word on the streets of Sydney.

Arthur Stace died on 30 July 1967, fifty years ago this month.

Did the ‘small explanatory plaque’ mentioned by Column 8 ever appear? In 1994, Alan Gill wrote that some complained “the present inscription is ‘out of the way’ and doesn’t explain who Arthur Stace was. Other admirers of Arthur disagree. They believe the ‘odd’ location of the present tribute and the absence of an explanation are part of that blend of mystery and surprise that ‘Mr Eternity’ himself would appreciate.”

(Top photo showing the waterfall on the day of the unveilling, and the photo of Architect Ridley Smith in 2009, courtesy Ramon Williams, Worldwide Photos. Ramon adds, “Ridley Smith sprinkled water around the ‘Eternity’ replica so as to help photograph it.” While the pavement around the memorial has been replaced, “Eternity” on the pebbles remains, as seen in this 2014 photo.)

(1) Alan Gill, “Sydney’s Phantom Preacher”, The Catholic Weekly, 31 August 1994.