AN ESTIMATED 600 people watched members of the Gwyther family unveil an incredible tribute of one of their own – the statue of Lennie Gwyther and his pony Ginger Mick now welcomes all who arrive in Leongatha.
For too long it was a story that went without due recognition, but on Saturday afternoon, Lennie’s epic journey as a nine year-old to Sydney to see the opening of the bridge back in 1932 was immortalised.
The life-size bronze structure was glowingly approved by the 60 members of the Gwyther family who came from all corners of Australia to celebrate.
Lennie died in 1992, but his spritely sister Beryl Ferrier took centre stage on Saturday, beautifully describing her single minded brother’s ambition to see the structure in person.
She said every day he would ride down to the rail line near their Leongatha South farm and pick up the rail guard’s discarded newspaper, hoping to find updates on how the bridge was progressing.
She suggested that Lennie saw their father’s injury (a broken leg), as an opportunity to prove himself, and that by running the farm during his recovery, he’d be granted permission to ride the 2000km round trip.
She recalled Lennie’s close attachment with Ginger Mick.
“Exactly two years after Lennie was born, Charlie Simon presented Lennie, his grandson, with a pony. Lennie began riding early. Ginger Mick was his pet and his love, and within a decade they had made history in Australia.
“I thank the people of Leongatha most heartily for this tribute to Lennie and our family.”
The project started four years ago when Bob Newton, who was then a South Gippsland Shire councillor, and is a passionate local historian, decided something needed to be done to recognise the feat.
Mr Newton thanked the Rotary Club of Leongatha for immediately supporting the plans, and with the help of the Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and a hardworking committee, the target of $50,000 was raised.
This included grants from the South Gippsland Shire Council and the Federal Government, and McMillan MP Russell Broadbent was there on Saturday for the unveiling.
“I mentioned Bob and his plan in Parliament,” Mr Broadbent told the crowd.
“I said that this wasn’t a local issue, it was a national issue, because this boy (Lennie) encompasses the enthusiasm that captures the spirit of the nation.
“All of you here today are part of that celebration of the spirit of the Australia, and we’re all extremely proud to call Lennie one of our own.”
Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks was MC and said he was blown away by the size of the crowd, which included the four authors of books about Lennie that have been released and will be released soon.
He listed those involved in the project, including Peter Watchorn, Brenton Williams, Glenn Wright, Gordon Morrison and Robert Sage from the organising committee, to those who got the job done, from the concrete slab to the installation.
Lyndon Davis from Arrow Bronze explained the process of how the statue was made before members of the wither family ended the suspense and revealed the magnificent statue that all agreed will but Leongatha on the map.