IT WOULD be quite wrong to say that the arrival of a life-size statue of Leongatha hero Lennie Gwyther and his horse Ginger Mick is as eagerly awaited as the day in 1932 when he returned home from his 2000km round trip to Sydney.
We’re unlikely to see the huge crowd that assembled in the town on June 10 that year but there’ll be plenty of hoopla and pageantry anyway, on Saturday, October 14 at 2pm when the statue is officially unveiled.
Already the location and the concrete slab for the statue has been prepared, complete with information sign, in Centenary Park and all that remains is for the statue to secretly arrive.
At a cost of more than $50,000, most of it raised locally with the addition of $11,500 from Russell Broadbent MHR and the Federal Government, the community has plenty of skin in the game, such is the legend of Lennie still honoured and revered in the community.
In 1932, nine-year-old Lennie Gwyther dreamed of being on the spot for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The fact that he lived 1000 kilometres away in Leongatha didn’t faze him. In February 1932, with his parents’ blessing, he set off on what was to be a four-month odyssey with his pony, Ginger Mick.
Lennie and Ginger Mick followed bush tracks and barely formed dirt roads through the Latrobe Valley, east to Cann River then north to Canberra.
Horse and boy survived a deranged tramp jumping out at them a few days into their ride, a bushfire near Traralgon, heavy rain and fogs.
In the fledgling town of Canberra, where sheep grazed in front of old Parliament House, Lennie shook Prime Minister Joseph Lyons’ hand, and took tea in the members’ refreshment rooms.
And on March 19, Lennie and Ginger Mick took part in the Sydney Harbour Bridge opening pageant, crossing the bridge among indigenous groups, war veterans, schoolchildren and bridge workers and saluting the governor-general and the NSW premier.
On March 21, at a match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Lennie met his idol, Donald Bradman, who gave him a signed cricket bat.
Lennie convinced his father that he should ride Ginger Mick home and when he arrived back in Leongatha on June 10, a huge crowd turned out in the main street. More than 800 people attended a civic reception.
How many will come on October 14 – let’s see.
Lennie’s statue almost here