This week's 3 Minute Speaker was Phil Keys about a wonderful 9 year old who had a deam
An eastern Victorian community is remembering the epic 1,000-kilometre journey of a nine-year-old who rode a pony solo to Sydney in 1932 for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Accompanied by pony Ginger Mick, Lennie Gwyther left the South Gippsland town of Leongatha on February 3, 1932. When he finally arrived in Sydney in March, his story had captured the imagination of the Australian public and had generated a sizeable press following, including in the London Times.
It began during the midst of the great depression. As Lennie's war veteran father was suffering a leg injury, so nine-year-old Lennie had to step-up and run the farm for several months. As a reward for his efforts, Lennie's parents Leo and Clare Gwyther gave him permission to travel to Sydney, by himself, to witness the opening of the harbour bridge.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was an engineering marvel at the time, the largest single-span bridge in the world and an unprecedented width which included six traffic lanes, train and tram carriage ways. Fascinated to see the construction of the bridge, Lennie set off carrying a letter from the Woorayl Shire president addressed to the Lord Mayor of Sydney.
He had challenges throughout the journey, including travelling through bushfires at Traralgon. He then went on to Orbost, Cann River, Bombala and Canberra, where he met the prime minister of the day Joseph Lyons.
The boy and his pony then rode onto Goulburn and through to Sydney, mobbed by well wishers along the roadside, offering food and lodgings.
Lennie met the Lord Mayor at the Sydney Town Hall and was invited to take part in the opening of the bridge ceremony. During his visit, Lennie visited Circular Quay, Bondi Beach, Taronga Zoo, and was gifted a cricket bat signed by his cricketing hero Don Bradman.
He was 10-years-old by the time he returned to Leongatha on Ginger Mick inland via the Hume highway track. It was a four-month round trip that culminated in a reception at the Leongatha Town Hall.
Legend cast in bronze
Lennie Gwyther with Ginger Mick
Lennie Gwyther's story was largely forgotten in the Leongatha community, although two books and a song have been written about his adventures.
Peter Watchorn from the Leongatha Chamber of Commerce said the town wanted to install the statue, now on its main street, to commemorate a great achievement.
Lennie Gwyther with Ginger Mick
Lennie Gwyther and his pony Ginger Mick were born on the same day.(Supplied: Leongatha Chamber of Commerce)
"He just got on his pony and away he went. It was a big event in Australian history and he wanted to be part of it. "Apparently, Lennie never made a big deal about the whole story. He just got home to Leongatha and went on with life. "He went to war, and then became an engineer with Holden."