LOCAL business man Glenn Wright has opened the Lennie Gwyther statue campaign with a donation of $1000.
Mr Wright said it was with some embarrassment he admitted he didn’t know the story of Lennie Gwyther and his horse Ginger Mick.
“I’ve lived in Leongatha for 40-plus years but I didn’t know the story until recently.
“And I don’t think I’m the only one! I think there are probably a lot of people in the same boat.”
Lennie Gwyther (after whom Gwythers Siding Road is named) rode his pony Ginger Mick over 1000km to Sydney to witness the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The epic ride was a reward for his hard work in the 1931 harvest.
He was nine year’s old.
“It’s incredible! Could you imagine that happening these days?!” Glenn said.
“He rode up and back, obviously with quite a bit of community support, participated in the official party of the opening, competed in the Sydney Show (but didn’t win anything) and then rode back.
“This is such a unique story of Leongatha that it deserves to be told.
“All towns these days seem to have an image [the Big Banana, Koala, Lobster] but we don’t have something commemorating that is so unique for Leongatha and the district, which celebrates such a historic event.”
South Gippsland Shire Council Mayor, amateur historian and Rotary member Bob Newton is also on the statue committee.
He said the family was supportive of the project and commemorating Lennie’s place in history.
Cr Newton said the committee is collecting quotes from artists for the life-size bronze statue.
An application for funding has been made for a Federal Government community grant.
However a possible grant would not cover all the costs.
As such, the committee has set up a fundraising arm (through the Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Rotary is overseeing the project).
“My wife [Shirley-ann] and I are kick-starting the campaign,” Glenn said.
“We’ll need $60,000 for the statue, signs, and other items.”
The committee is hopeful of raising the money in record time, to have the statue started this year.
The statue will either be erected temporarily at Centennial Park, or the adjacent Rotary Park on Anderson Street/South Gippsland Highway opposite the police station, until the Bair Street Revitalisation project is completed and the statue can be relocated in a prominent position in the centre of town.