• Compiled for Westprint by Barry Ridding.

The Plucky Boy’s Ride

Picture of Lennie Gwyther as a young boy
“…a rebuke to cowardice and a clarion call to courage.”[1]

The boy from Gippsland

Charles James Lenard (Lennie) Gwyther was the eldest of three sons born to Leo Tennyson Gwyther and Clara Amelia Simon[2]. He was a “plucky”[a] young lad, just like his father who was a lieutenant in the Australian Army in the Great War and was awarded the Military Cross and bar for two incredible acts of bravery at the front a couple of months apart[3]. Because of this, he was promoted to Captain, a title by which he would forever be known. The Gwyther family had settled on their farm in 1876 where Lennie’s grandfather (James Gwyther) cut the property out of virgin bush and established a rail siding that joined the main South Gippsland line. Lennie’s mother (Clara), was also from a Gippsland pioneering family.[4] In the rich chocolate soil, the farm grew onions, mangolds, oats, wheat, barley, sorghum, and millet.

On Lennie’s second birthday, his grandfather had presented him with a chestnut pony, which Lennie named Ginger Mick[b]. They were made for each other; having both been born on the same day; 18 April, 1922.

In February 1931, Lennie’s father fell heavily from his tractor whilst ploughing the fields ready for planting. He was rushed to Royal Melbourne hospital, about 150kms away, where he was found to have sustained multiple fractures in his right leg. This put an end to the ploughing for several months, and meant there would be no crops planted, consequently the family would have no income for the foreseeable future.

This was serious! Australia was still in the grip of the Great Depression, and there were no government handouts to ease the burden. In Lennie’s mind there was only one thing to do; he would have to do the ploughing himself! At the age of nine he harnessed the farms’ four draft horses and ploughed the whole ten hectares himself. On his return from hospital, Captain Gwyther was thankful, but not surprised, at what his son had accomplished. He knew his son was “plucky”.  Leo Gwyther was a fair man; he regarded the saying that “a fair days pay for a fair days work” was the honourable way to go. Consequently, he offered Lennie the reward of his choice. He expected a choice of something like a new pair of breeches[c] or maybe new work boots, or perhaps even a new saddle for his horse, Ginger Mick. But Lennie had no hesitation in informing his father that he wanted to ride Ginger Mick to Sydney to see the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 19 March the following year. Although taken aback slightly, his father agreed, although his mother took a bit more convincing. All that was in Lennie’s mind was that he was going to ride his horse from home to Sydney to see the opening of the Harbour Bridge.

Wanting to see the Bridge opening ceremony was not just something Lennie decided on in the spur of the moment. He had wanted to do this for some time and had given it much thought. He was very mechanically-minded, and was always helping his father with mechanical tinkering and repairs to the farm and its equipment. It was the mechanics and construction of the bridge that interested him.

He was also aware that the luxury liner, the R.M.S. Strathaird, would be in Sydney at that time, on its maiden voyage, and he definitely wanted to see that. At Port Melbourne he had previously stood on the deck of the H.M.S. Hood, which at 47,429 tonnes was almost twice the weight of the Strathaird, but this was one of the largest ocean liners in the world.[5]

RMS Strathaird as it arrived in Sydney Harbour
RMS Strathaird with her 3 funnels[d] as it arrived in Sydney Harbour.
BAE Systems, https://www.baesystems.com/en/heritage/rms-strathaird , Retrieved 20 September 2021.
Photo of the ship HMS Hood.
H.M.S. Hood.
Naval Encyclopedia, https://naval-encyclopedia.com/ww2/uk/hms-hood.php, Retrieved 20 September 2021.

A map was purchased to plan the route so he could stay with friends and family of his parents along the way. Letters were written, and replies were received from most, and the route settled on. The plan was to travel 25 to 30kms a day, provided the weather was good for travelling. In the event that accommodation couldn’t be arranged, Lennie would make contact with the local Agricultural or Show Society for a place to spend the night. If that failed, he carried £1 to pay for hotel accommodation. Just in case things went astray in Sydney, he carried letters of introduction from the President of the Shire of Woorayl to Lord Mayor of Sydney[e], Colonel Eric Campbell[f] and the Secretary of the Royal Agricultural Society. Lennie also mailed his entry to compete in several events at the Royal Easter Show. A booking was made with a shipping company to transport Lennie and Ginger Mick from Sydney to Melbourne after the Bridge opening was complete.

The most important part of Lennie’s ride was Ginger Mick. He was given a spell of five weeks, then one week of being ridden daily for him to get used to the daily routine to come. He had a new set of shoes fitted, as well an extra set that were carried if needed on the journey. Lennie made sure that an extra piece of automotive spring steel was fitted under the toes of the shoes as this made the shoes last longer, and was more comfortable for Ginger Mick on paved roads.[6]

As the time for departure approached, it was decided that Captain Gwyther would join his son at Cann River, driving a “jinker”, and continue with him to Canberra. Lennie set-off on 3 February wearing khaki breeches, boots, leggings, a thick coat, and a cloth sun hat turned up at the front. On his back was a backpack which contained his pyjamas, a toothbrush, and changes of clothing. A water bottle slung over the saddle, and a watch on a chain around his neck completed his list of gear.[7] He also had £1 in his pocket.

Up to this time no-one had heard of Lennie Gwyther, or his ride to Sydney. His first night was spent camped at Mirboo, and the next day reached Traralgon, where half the town turned out to welcome him.[8] For the next couple of days Lennie moved through great clouds of smoke  from the bushfires to the north. Vision and breathing for both him and Ginger Mick was extremely difficult. On reaching Bairnsdale, he decided that Ginger Mick needed some time at pasture for a couple of days. Continuing on, they had days of heavy rain and morning of pea-soup fog, but they kept going. Eventually they arrived at  the end of the sealed road, from here to Canberra the road was mainly dirt.

Lennie reached Cann River after five days[9] travelling where his father was waiting for him. As they travelled together, they were occasionally joined by other riders, drovers, children going to school, etc. Riding together Lennie would chat with his new friends, and sometimes they would invite him to spend a night with them, which he almost always accepted. Only once was he turned away when a settler told him “…get on your horse and keep going.” He then rode another 3kms down the road and found welcoming hospitality. At another town, a hotel keeper wanted to charge him 10/- to stay the night. Lennie declined the offer. He approached another hotel in the same town, where the owner was only too happy to provide food and accommodation for Lennie and Ginger Mick at no cost. When the first hotel keeper realised who the young customer was, he ran up the street, and finding Lennie, shook his hand and offered him accommodation for the following night. However, the next day Lennie moved on.

Bombala was the first town where they were officially welcomed. They were greeted by the Mayor, George Waine, and William Dunsmore, owner of the Globe Hotel[10], who insisted that Lennie and his father be his guests for the night. They were also taken to the local public school where Lennie and his father addressed the children. Afterward Lennie allowed some of the children to ride Ginger Mick around the school yard. That night Lennie’s father decided to return home the next day and allow Lennie to continue by himself. He was impressed with his son’s ability to look after himself and confident that he would come to no harm.

On arriving in Canberra on Friday 26 February, Lennie was accommodated at the Canberra Grammar School where he played with a spinning top, which he had never seen before, with some of the students. The following day he was taken on a tour of Parliament House, and had afternoon tea with the Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, and the Member for Gippsland Thomas Paterson, then returned to the school. Joseph Lyons had, many years previously, been in the same predicament as Lennie. When his father had been in hospital, he had cultivated the fields of the family farm in Tasmania. After his father’s death, Lyons had run the farm to the point of making a profit year after year.[11]

As Lennie was now running ahead of schedule, he decided to stay in Canberra until Monday. The following day he was taken to meet the Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs, and other dignitaries[12],[13].

After riding through Goulburn, Lennie continued on to Moss Vale, where the annual Moss Vale Horse Show in progress. Unannounced, he rode into the showground, and on a whim entered an event for boys under 10 years old. He came second, and was presented with a blue ribbon by the Bowral Horse Show Committee. He then continued riding north. Accepting an invitation, he stayed a night with the Walker family in Bowral before continuing through Mittagong, where he was given a hearty reception, and onto Liverpool[14], where he stayed with the Nichol family.

Lennie set-out for the city at 9.00am on 9 March flanked by two horsemen sent by the Royal Agricultural Society to act as escorts into the city, intending to reach the G.P.O. at noon. However, as they neared the city the crowds were such that they spilled across the road[15]. All the while Ginger Mick trotted along calmly, with the blue ribbon he had won in Moss Vale over his neck, not fazed by the pressing crowds. Passing down George Street to Martin Place, 25 Police officers tried to form a square around him keep the crowds back to allow a free passage for the plucky lad. But to no avail. Some souvenir-hunters even tried to pluck hairs from the tail of Ginger Mick . Riding through the city Lennie was amazed at all the tall buildings, and turning into Martin Place he gasped at the G.P.O. clock tower and the Commonwealth Bank building.

He was officially welcomed by Colonel Sommerville and Mr. Rafferty, of the Royal Agricultural Society, and the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Alderman Sir Samuel Walder. Rescuing Lennie from the throng, Col. Sommerville told him he was “a little brick”, to which Lennie replied “Oh, what a bosker town!” After riding along Circular Quay for a quick look at the Bridge, he was taken by relatives back to Campsie where he spent the night.[16]

Photo of Lennie Gwyther on his pony Ginger Mick.
BOY’S LONG RIDE TO ATTEND THE ROYAL SHOW. (1932, March 10). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 12. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16846839

After resting for a few hours at Campsie, Lennie returned to the city to attend the Electrical Radio Exhibition that was being held at the Sydney Town Hall. He had agreed to speak on radio station 2FC about his experiences on the journey from his home town. Among his statements was: “When we came to a farm house at night, I always asked them if they would stable him [Ginger Mick] and give him a feed, because everything depended on him”[17]

The following day the management of “The Sun” newspaper took Lennie under its wing and showed him the city. It was a busy itinerary, and it was all the newspaper staff could do to keep the surging crowds at bay. He crossed the harbour in the vehicular ferry that was about to be made redundant by the new bridge. As they passed under the bridge, all Lennie could say was “Golly!” He raced across the harbour in a speedboat, which the owner let him steer…for a short time! He stood on the bridge approaches at North Sydney and marvelled at the huge structure, which he would cross in a couple of days. He was taken to the main fire station in the city to see the largest fire engine in Australia. The Fire Chief even allowed him to sit in the driver’s seat. He remarked to a fireman standing near-by, “Have YOU ever driven a speedboat — because I have.” He was taken to Parliament House to meet the Premier, John Dunmore Lang. Finally, he was taken to the R.A.S. Showground at Moore Park. He looked forward to this as he was going to compete in several events in a few days. He was also very pleased because Colonel Sommerville had given him a free pass that would allow him to go everywhere, including side-shows. “Golly,” he said “I like side-shows.[18] At one point he remarked to his guides that during the trip he had found autograph hunters “most pestiferous.”[19]

Photo of Lennie Gwyther.
Lennie on his tour of the city.
Setting The Stage For The Show Good Wine Up For Judgment (1932, March 14). The Sun (Sydney, NSW: 1910 – 1954), p. 12 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229883846

Lennie’s father, Captain Gwyther, later wrote to “The Sun” newspaper “…expressing thanks for the splendid treatment accorded to his son by the people of Sydney and the committee of the R.A.S.”[20]

Saturday, 19 March 1932 was the date Lennie had been waiting for, and the reason he had ridden nearly 900kms to Sydney. It was the official opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He and Ginger Mick were up early, whilst the city was still in darkness. The pony was given a good brush, and Lennie put on the suit he had bought for the occasion. They rode through the quiet streets before arriving at the mayhem that was the parade assembly point at Queens Square. The parade marshals ensured the Lennie was correctly placed, between the bridge construction workers and the Aborigines.

The parade moved-off at 10.30am and proceed via College, Park, and York streets. The head of the procession passed the official dais on the southern approach of the bridge at 11.10am. It  continued over the bridge to Alfred Street, where they turned and returned over the bridge. When the procession reached Kent Street the participants dispersed in all directions.[21] Although Lennie didn’t show it, he was elated, and spoke of almost nothing else for the next week.

Photo of Lennie and Ginger Mick passing the official dais at the opening ceremony parade.
Lennie and Ginger Mick passing the official dais at the opening ceremony parade.
(Public Domain)

Among those who watched Lennie in the parade was his father. The original plan was that after the bridge opening and the events at the Easter Show, Lennie and Ginger Mick would return to Melbourne by ship. Captain Gwyther had arrived in Sydney to supervise the loading of Ginger Mick onto the ship. However, things had now changed. Lennie had enjoyed the ride to Sydney so much that he convinced his father to let him ride back, this time along the Hume Highway.[22] As Lennie had proven that he was able to look after himself, his father agreed with his sons plans. His only hesitation on giving his consent was that Lennie would be missing more school time than originally planned. Lennie brushed this aside, convinced that he could catch-up, which he ultimately did. It seems that the travel bug had bitten him and he wanted to see more of Australia.

For the next couple of days, the Easter Show played a big part in Lennie’s life. Every day he participated in the Grand Parade[23] which generally took place between 1.00 and 2.00pm every day. As normal, the N.S.W. Police band led the parade, with Lennie right behind them. The Sydney Morning Herald  wrote: “Perfectly self-possessed, he rode as if show processions were part of his daily life. And, after all, what was riding under the direction of a ringmaster, when you had blazed a trail for youth across part of a continent?”[24]

Photo of The Royal Easter Show Grand Parade, 1930s.
The Royal Easter Show Grand Parade, 1930s.
Cropped from Hood Collection part II : [Royal Agricultural Society Showground: Easter Shows, Sheep Shows, Highland gatherings, etc. (and including other agricultural industry scenes)]. State Library of NSW, the Mitchell Library. Image No.: a359002h

When not competing or riding in the Grand Parade, Lennie roamed the 29ha site in awe of the people, the stalls, the many streets and alleys, and the food available. And it was all free for him!

On the Wednesday of the Show, the Governor-General presented Lennie with a “…handsome cup[g]” to commemorate his ride[25].

When competition time came, Lennie was not successful. The main event he entered was the “J. M. Dempster, Ltd.[[h]] Cup”, for boys under 12 years old. Unfortunately, the judges decided that Ginger Mick’s coat needed clipping, and was eliminated from the field of 37.[26]

The next day, Lennie visited the Sydney Cricket Ground[i] to watch the Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and South Australia[27]. During a break in play Lennie met his idol, Donald Bradman, who gave him a signed cricket bat. As he couldn’t carry it on his journey home, Lennie gave it to his father for safe transport.

Lennie couldn’t stay in Sydney for ever. It was on Monday, 11 April at 10.30am when he started from the Sydney Town Hall. As he swung onto the saddle he shouted “TOODLELOO!”, and waved his hat at the crowd. Many women who would have loved to mother Lennie waved their handkerchiefs and cried.[28]

Lennie’s route was planned as: Liverpool, Picton, Goulburn, Yass, Wagga Wagga, Narrandera, Leeton, Lockhart, Albury, Wangaratta, Seymour, Melbourne, Nyora, Korrumburra, and Leongatha. However originally, he had planned to travel straight down the Hume Highway to Yass then to Albury, then to Melbourne.

On leaving Liverpool, Lennie made good progress. He arrived at Camden at 11.00am the following day, and made his overnight stop at Picton, just after 3.30pm. He stayed as a guest with Mr. & Mrs. Smith at the Royal George Hotel, where Ginger Mick had his own room in the stable with a full feed bag. Leaving the hotel at 8.45am, Mrs. Smith saw to it that his pack was full of “eats”.[29]

He continued along the Hume Highway through Bowral, Goulburn, to Gunning, where due to the rain, he had to stay a couple of days. The other reason for staying in Gunning was the celebrate his tenth birthday. The owner of the Club House Hotel provided Lennie with free accommodation, and Ginger Mick stayed at the stable of the Cargo Brothers, with all the food he could eat[30]. During his stay, Lennie visited the Gunning Public School and talked with the children about his journey. He also attended a meeting of the Shire Council, where the councillors presented him with a £1 note to celebrate his tenth birthday[31].

Arriving in Yass, he stayed with a local farmer who gave him a bag of fruit to eat the next day as he travelled. Before leaving Yass, he decided to deviate from his planned route and visit Burrinjuck Dam that had been completed only four years previously, but was not yet full of water. He spent two nights at the property owned by the Cregan family, and spent the day sightseeing in the area[32].

He arrived in Wagga after lunch on 28 April, he was met by a large and admiring crowd of mainly children and teenagers at the Pastoral Hotel. There were even people in the crowd who had previously lived in Leongatha, and were anxious to know the latest news from the town. Lennie had to explain that he hadn’t been there for 11 weeks and so couldn’t help them. After a short rest he was taken to the Wagga saleyards by the saleyards manager, James Stockton. That night he spent the night with Agnes Aberdeen, at her home in Beckwith St., Wagga[33]. After dinner he was the guest-of-honour at the Capitol Theatre. During the intermission, the manager, Mr. Dal Cross, presented Lennie with a cheque (of an undisclosed amount).

Advertising (1932, April 28). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954),
Advertising (1932, April 28). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143179247

The next day, Friday, Lennie decided to have a rest day as Ginger Mick’s front legs were slightly swollen from constantly walking on paved roads. That night he was the guest of Lena Andrews, the proprietor of the Pastoral Hotel.

Whilst in Wagga, Lennie was told about the “Riverina Movement”[j], and became a devotee. For the remainder of his journey, he wore the movements badge. Although a popular move in New South Wales, some in Victoria questioned the wisdom of a 10-year-old boy being a political advocate.

Picture showing the badge of the “Riverina Movement”
The badge of the “Riverina Movement”
Michelle Maddison, Curator – Museum of the Riverina, 2005 https://museumriverina.com.au/collections/highlights/senator-charles-hardy-and-the-riverina-movement#.YUUjALgzZPY , Retrieved 18 September 2021

Leaving Wagga Wagga at 9.00am, Lennie and Ginger Mick headed for “Arajoel”, the property of the Lenehan family. It was a long day, about 45kms, and was the limit of Ginger Mick for one day. They arrived late in the afternoon, exhausted.

With a good rest and full stomach’s Lennie and Ginger Mick set-off for Narrandera the next day, where they were to be the guests of Charles Culley and family[34]. As Lennie approached the Murrumbidgee River bridge, he could see that there were at least 500 people assembled on the north side to welcome him. The Boy Scouts formed a guard-of-honour at the southern approach to the bridge. Also assembled there was, Charles Culley and several others on horse-back, several cars full with well-wishers, and the Mayor, Alderman Thomas Mancy. The mayor formally welcomed Lennie to Narrandera and expressed the hope that his brief stay here would be pleasant. Lennie replied “I thank you, Mr. Mayor and kind people”. Lennie followed Mr. Culley to his stables behind the Royal Mail Hotel, where Ginger Mick was comfortably housed with another horse, Dark Beauty. A large crowd then followed Lennie and Mr. Culley to the front of the hotel, and as Lennie disappeared through the door, he turned and said loudly, “Good-bye boys and girls, I’ll see you again.”

The following day Lennie visited the Narrandera Primary School, St. Joseph’s Convent School, and the hospital. At all stops he signed autographs and posed for photos. They then visited the towns doctor, Dr. Harold O. Lethbridge[k] at his property of “Maranoa”, where more photos were taken. After chatting for some time Dr. Lethbridge presented Lennie with a compass, although, so far on his journey, Lennie had not become lost. After lunch, Lennie and Charles Culley, rode to Yanco and Leeton, where they spent the night.[35]

Royal Mail Hotel, East St., Narrandera. Photo taken 1949.
Royal Mail Hotel, East St., Narrandera. Photo taken 1949.
Cropped from “Lost Narrandera” Facebook page, March 16, 2019. Retrieved 14 September 2021.

On arrival in Leeton, which he reached mid-afternoon. He was met by Mr. F. R. King, the President of the Leeton Show Society who took Lennie on a tour of the town, including, the Scout Hall, the High School, and the Leeton Memorial Clock, where he was officially welcomed by the Shire President, Councillor Mountford.

A Reporter from the local newspaper “The Murrumbidgee Irrigator”, had been following Lennie around, and finally had the opportunity to ask him a few questions. As Lennie was from a farming area that received adequate rainfall, the reporter asked; “What do you think of the irrigation area”, to which Lennie replied; “all right.” In fact, he was very interested in irrigation, and, since arriving in the town, had asked many questions on the subject. He was mainly interested in the fundamentals of irrigation, such as; how was water distributed to various paddocks and properties, how was it measured and regulated, the price the farmers had to pay, and what was the unit of measurement[l] of the water supplied to the farms.  Lennie made it his business to find out everything he could, and Fred Chaffey, and others were only too willing to educate the young farmer.[36]

Leaving Leeton, the next morning, Lennie returned to Narrandera. On his way through the town, he said goodbye to all the many locals that had come out to see him off. He continued down the road to the small town of Corobimilla[m] where he visited primary school. The teachers and students gave him three cheers, and wished him the best of luck on the remainder of his journey.[37] He spent the following two nights at Widgewa, on the property of  Otway Falkiner[n].  Lennie spent one whole day with two men “…in a half-ton lorry”. The three of them spent the day chatting about “…’roos and dogs”. He would later remark that that day sticks more in his memory “…than a handful of civic receptions.”[38]

He arrived in Urana the following afternoon and was given a reception at the Shire Hall by the President (Councillor Culley). He attended the annual children’s ball that night, and left for Lockhart the next morning. [39]

Leaving Urana, Lennie backtracked slightly towards Wagga Wagga, stopping at the town of Lockhart. As he approached the town, he met people who had stopped by the side of the road to welcome him. By the time he had reached to town itself, he had been greeted by over 12 adults and children. At the showground, he was met Mr. A. G. Scott, Chairman of the Lockhart Urban Committee, Councillor J. J. Nolan, the Shire President, many other civic dignitaries, and the Boy Scouts. The Scouts escorted Lennie to the School of Arts, where he was met by more dignitaries, and the girls of the Junior Red Cross Circle under the direction of Mrs. Meldrum. This was the official welcome, and all of the dignitaries who had previously met Lenny, including several Ministers of religion, the Scout Master, and Mrs. Meldrum, gave speeches of welcome to Lennie.

Once everyone had entered the hall, Ginger Mick was taken by the town’s blacksmith, Bill Campbell, and led to his stables where he was well fed, well-groomed, and rested, ready to start the next section of the journey.

In the hall, after all the speeches, Mrs. Meldrum presented Lennie with a box of sweets made by the Red Cross girls, and with the Presbyterian Fair being in full swing at the time, it was fitting that the Red Cross girls and the Scouts should entertain the hero with afternoon tea.

Once the official proceedings had concluded, Councillor Nolan took Lennie to his own home for a rest and dinner. After dinner they returned to a packed School of Arts for another presentation. The master of ceremonies for this event was Patrick McCarthy, the Shire Solicitor. He had a certain way with words, “The Lockhart Review and Oaklands Advertiser”, of May 10 1932, reported it best:

“To extol in choice and throbbing terms the exploits of a young Australian is a theme which fires Mr. McCarthy’s soul. As he gazed with high-souled admiration upon the little Australian at his side, he finely expressed the pride we all felt for the boy’s pluck and reminded the boys and girls that in Lennie Gwyther’s courageous ride, they had an illustration that nothing could hinder them in their acheivements [sic] if they exerted the will to achieve.”

To which Lennie replied, “Thank you very much”, as he was presented with a fountain pen. The assembled crowd then gave him three hearty cheers, to which Lennie replied, “Thank you all very much”. At the end of the evening, Lennie again accompanied Councillor Nolan to his home for the night.

The following day the manager of the local silos, James Mulcahy, showed Lennie over the storage facilities, which were unknown in Leongatha. When Lennie showed interest in one of the cars parked at the silos, the owner offered to show Lennie how to drive it. He took to it immediately, and drove the car down the road for a few kilometres before returning to the solos. In the afternoon Lennie was escorted to “Yarran”, the property of Thomas Bond, a famous breeder of horses and Corriedale sheep. Thomas took great pleasure in showing the young farmer how he bred his horses and champion sheep. Lennie asked constant questions, and soaked it all in. Thomas was greatly impressed with the boy’s depth of knowledge. After a full day’s activities, Lennie spent the night at “Yarran”.[40]

Lennie took a few days to travel via Walbundrie, Albury, and Wangaratta, before arriving in Benalla in the late afternoon on Tuesday 24 May. When about eight kilometres from the town, he was met by the Shire Secretary, Mr R. J. Murray, leading citizens of the town, and the Boy Scouts. They escorted Lennie to the Shire Hall, where he was met by the Shire President, Councillor Fred Cook, and a large throng of the townspeople, mainly children. Councillor Cook gave an inspiring welcome speech, who said, in part: “that he [Lennie] was one in thousands who had the inspiration to carry out his ambitions. It showed what the Australian boy was capable of doing.” After three hearty cheers, that was now becoming obligatory, he was escorted to the “Bank of Australasia” where he was the guest of the manager, Mr. Harry Johnston and Mrs Johnston until Thursday morning.

Wednesday was a day of rest for Ginger Mick, Lennie gave him a rubdown and trim. That night, Lennie was the guest at the “Benalla Talkies”. At intermission, the manager Mr T. J. Davis, escorted Lennie on to the stage and introduced him to a large audience. In a few words Lennie thanked everyone for the welcome given him since his arrival and said he was enjoying his stay in Benalla. Again, he was given three hearty cheers. The following morning Lennie and Ginger Mick left for Euroa.[41]

After spending the night in Euroa, Lennie arrived in Seymour to be greeted by the local Boy Scouts, over 100 horsemen and women, as well as many cars and bicycles. He was escorted to the Town Hall where the Shire President, Councillor Chittick welcomed him to the district. Lennie thanked the town for their welcome and spoke of the kind treatment he had received during his journey. The following day he left for Kilmore where he spent one night.[42] The following day he rode to Somerton in a few hours. Here he prepared himself and Ginger Mick for their arrival in Melbourne.[43] His only real trouble at the moment arose from his uncertainty about the plan for his reception in Melbourne on Monday. “I don’t know whether I will have to go to the Post Office or the Town Hall.” he confided in friends. “I wish I were sure what they are doing.”[44]

Riding Ginger Mick through the traffic of Melbourne on Monday was a totally new experience.  There had been traffic in the country towns he had passed through, but nothing like Melbourne, at least since he left Sydney.

As he neared the city, an unofficial escort formed round him and guided him to the Town Hall. On his arrival, the Police had to force a path through the crush of admiring, mainly, women and children for him to reach the portico. After being greeted by officials he was taken upstairs to meet the Lord Mayor of Melbourne Alderman Sir Harold Gengoult Smith. On meeting the Lord Mayor, Lennie produced a letter from the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Alderman Sir Samuel Walder to be presented to the Lord Mayor of Melbourne on arrival. On receiving it, Alderman Smith, handed it back to Lennie to add to his souvenir collection.

Meanwhile Ginger Mick had been taken to the council stable until reclaimed by his owner.

The Melbourne officials, and the horde of reporters, were impressed with Lennie’s amazingly retentive memory. He remembered every town he had passed through, every resting place, even statistics, such as the capacity of the Burrinjuck dam and the thickness of its walls. One of the reporters asked Lennie why he was wearing a “Riverina Movement” badge. He replied “That’s against Mr. Lang, you know”. There was no further discussion on the subject.

He admitted that he had fallen behind in his studies, he explained, “I won’t try to put on a spurt,” he continued, “I’ll just keep jogging along and I’ll catch up to them presently.”

Asked his opinion of Sydney and its bridge he answered “good oh”. But asked whether he prefers Melbourne or Sydney, he replied in a tone that expressed amazement at such a stupid a question; “Aw, Melbourne! If we had the harbour and the bridge and a few of the offices Leongatha would be as good as Sydney.” After final photos, Lennie joined his parents and friends and  slipped away through a side door to find some lunch.[45],[46]

For the next four days, Lennie and his parents stayed with an uncle,  Mr. H. A. Fry and his family, at their home in Preston. [47]

Whilst in Melbourne, Lennie had become quite a celebrity, and was in demand for personal appearances. Typical of these was the State Theatre in Flinders Street.

Advertising (1932, June 2). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), p. 11.
Advertising (1932, June 2). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 11.
Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242977110
The Moorish-style State Theatre shortly after it opened in 1929.
The Moorish-style State Theatre shortly after it opened in 1929.
Former State Theatre (Forum Theatre), Peter Maltezos, 10 April 2013, https://www.urban.com.au/forum/former-state-theatre-forum-theatre, retrieved 13 September 2021.

Leaving Melbourne, Lennie was full of trepidation. His life on the road, meeting people, seeing new sights, learning new facts and ideas, was over. His parents were following in their car, other relatives and friends were in other cars, and there were always plenty of horse riders to talk to as they rode. Reminding himself; he had taken 35 days and one hour to reach Sydney, and 47 days to return home, and it had cost him 10/-! Among his souvenirs was a gold cup from the Governor-General (Sir Isaac Isaacs), an autographed bat from Don Bradman himself, a riding whip from the Mayor of Canterbury (N.S.W.), a fountain pen from Lockhart, and a score of other tributes.[48] Lennie had all his memories stored away in a small black diary, which he kept handy in the breast pocket of his coat. This diary detailed how he rode from Leongatha to Sydney, of the people he met on the way, of the return journey through the Riverina with all its new experiences, of the patience of Ginger Mick, and of days when it rained, and days when the sun shone.[49]

Riding into Leongatha, Lennie was met by the Leongatha Boy Scouts, three of the oldest horsemen in the district; Charles Simon, who was the boy’s grandfather, Carl Hamann, and John O’Reilly,  and many other people. At the front of the Shire office’s he was met by over 800 cheering and waving people. The President of Woorayl Shire Council, Councillor Robert McIndoe, complimented him on his achievement and wished him well. As part of his “…good to be back home” speech, Lennie presented the Shire President with a letter from the Lord Mayor of Sydney. At the conclusion of the official welcome, Lennie and his parents were the guests of the council for afternoon tea.[50]

Lennie Gwyther Home Again (1932, June 14). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 9
Lennie Gwyther Home Again (1932, June 14). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 9 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved September 18, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230119251

MY LATEST AMBITION.

When my toy aeroplane I fly,

I ‘magine I’m up in the sky:

Though Daddy says it’s a myth,

I tell myself I’m Kingsford Smith.

When on the garden lawn I stand,

With Daddy’s racquet in my hand,

I feel I’m some great tennis star―

Crawford, Lacoste, or Viv. McGrath.

With bat and ball I sometimes play,

And if one bowl I chance to stay,

I call to Mummy, “Mummy look,

You watch me do the Bradman hook.”

But since Len Gwyther came to town,

He’s tumbled all my idols down,

And on my rocking-horse I ride,

I’m Lennie from the Gippsland side.

V. G. WILLIAMS.

MY LATEST AMBITION. (1932, April 16). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved September 18, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16856582

AFTER THE RIDE:

In 1940 Lennie enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as a “fitter”. In 1944 he was re-assigned as air crew on Liberator bombers and posted to Morotai Island in the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia today.

Charles James Lenard Gwyther on enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force on 11 December 1940.
Charles James Lenard Gwyther on enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force on 11 December 1940.
National Archives of Australia NAA:A9301,19924, https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=4582037
Retrieved 18 September 2021

Lennie married and had one daughter, and the family lived in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton. He worked as an experimental engineer at General Motors’ Holden plant at Fisherman’s Bend. He was also was a keen fisherman, astronomer, ice skater, and sailor. He died aged 70 in 1992 of cancer.[51]

Ginger Mick lived to the age of 27 and was buried on the Gwyther farm.

Lennie's planned route to Melbourne after he left Sydney was changed so he could visit Narrandera, and other towns in the Riverina.
Lennie’s planned route to Melbourne after he left Sydney was changed so he could visit Narrandera, and other towns in the Riverina.
Rocketting Car Wheel Boy’s 1300 Mile Ride (1932, June 1). The Newcastle Sun (NSW: 1918 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165368788
Lennie's deviated route through the Riverina area. Base map: Orangesmile.com,
Lennie’s deviated route through the Riverina area. Base map: Orangesmile.com, https://www.orangesmile.com/travelguide/australia/interactive-map.htm

Additional captions: B. W. Ridding

END NOTES:


[a] Having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties – Oxford Languages.

[b] From the book “The Moods of Ginger Mick” by C. J. Dennis.

[c] A word sometimes used in casual speech to mean trousers or pants.

[d] Strathaird had compact boilers which precluded the need for more than one funnel. However, in order to counteract the false public perception that single-funnelled ships were less powerful, dummy first and third funnels were added. These were removed in the 1947 refit. https://www.poheritage.com/the-collection/galleries/Photographs/Ships/STRATHAIRD-at-sea , Retrieved 20 September 2021.

[e] Sir Samuel Walder.

[f] Eric Campbell, the leader of the far-right organisation, the New Guard in New South Wales.

[g] Some reports mention a cup, others mention a medal.

[h] J.M. Dempster Ltd were merchant jewellers and silversmiths, of 311 George Street, Sydney.

[i] Next door to the Showground.

[j] “Riverina Movement” started in the late 19th century as a protest against the politicians in Sydney who the local residents believed did not care about them. It fizzled on and off until the early 1930s when the movement was led by the charismatic  Charles Hardy Jr. The widely held belief was that the New South Wales Premier, Jack Lang was the cause of the economic downturn in the Riverina. By the mid-1930s, economic prosperity started to return, and the movement died.

[k] Dr. Harold Octavius Lethbridge (1880-1944) was born at Forest Vale Station, in the Maranoa region of southern Queensland. Graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Medicine in 1904 and moved to Narrandera in 1907 where he was the sole doctor. He often travelled at night by horse and buggy to make remote house calls in all weather conditions. He often accepted no payment from the poor, and the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people. He translated and published Aboriginal songs into English and collected Aboriginal artifacts. He established the Narrandera Museum (now the Narrandera Parkside Cottage Museum) with items from his own collections, including Aboriginal artefacts. https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/6621203 & https://cadresidency.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/in-search-of-dr-h-o-lethbridge/

[l] Acre-feet; enough water to cover an acre (0.41ha) of land to a depth of one foot (31cm).

[m] About 17kms south-west of Narrandera.

[n] Otway Rothwell Falkiner  (1874–1961). At one time he was reputed to be the owner of the world’s largest merino stud, selling rams all over Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand from the early 1900s.


[1] LENNIE GWYTHER (1932, April 15). Morwell Advertiser (Morwell, Vic.: 1888 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65899913

[2] Wikitree, Charles James Lenard (Lennie) Gwyther, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Gwyther-202 , Retrieved 18 September 2021.

[3] VALOR REWARDED (1918, January 10). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242447971

[4]THE BOY WITH THE PONY. (1932, March 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16847676

[5] THE BOY WITH THE PONY. (1932, March 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16847676

[6]  https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/16847676?searchTerm=%22Lennie%20Gwyther%22

[7] BOY’S LONG RIDE (1932, February 23). The West Wyalong Advocate (NSW : 1928 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article188340855

[8] BOY’S LONG RIDE. (1932, February 26). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article192326937

[9] BOY’S 600-MILE RIDE (1932, February 18). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 15 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved September 21, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230527787

[10] Subject of Hero Worship. (1932, April 29). South Western Advertiser (Perth, WA : 1910 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article148928189

[11] LENNIE GWYTHER’S EXAMPLE. (1932, March 18). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved September 18, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16849134

[12] Nine-Year-Old Boy’s 550-mile Pony Ride to Sydney (1932, March 9). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129320922

[13] Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 13). Lennie Gwyther. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:09, September 18, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lennie_Gwyther&oldid=1044117112

[14] YOUTHFUL HORSEMAN. (1932, March 8). The Southern Mail (Bowral, NSW : 1889 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114301030

[15] BOY RIDER ARRIVES IN SYDNEY (1932, March 11). Singleton Argus (NSW : 1880 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83429676

[16] TRIUMPH (1932, March 9). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 10 (LAST RACE EDITION). Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229890927

[17] PONY WAS FIRST THOUGHT (1932, March 13). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 11. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229886364

[18] HIS DAY (1932, March 10). The Sun (Sydney, NSW: 1910 – 1954), p. 15 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229893733

[19] On Pony. (1932, March 17). Mullumbimby Star (NSW : 1906 – 1936), p. 1. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125176982

[20] “TOODLELOO!” (1932, April 11). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 6 (LAST RACE EDITION). Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229890277

[21] THE PAGEANT. (1932, March 18). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16849180

[22] MESSAGE FROM CHILDREN (1932, March 19). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242828322

[23] Young “Paul Revere” In Grand Parade (1932, March 26). The Labor Daily (Sydney, NSW : 1924 – 1938), p. 1. Retrieved September 12, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article236969102

[24] SUCCESSFUL DAY AT ROYAL SHOW. REMARKABLE CATTLE “PARADE.” (1932, March 25). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16850545

[25] Boy Pony Rider Honored. (1932, March 24). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved September 12, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article67915464

[26] Children Took Charge of R.A.S. (1932, March 29). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 9 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229882517

[27]  Cricinfo, 2007, Sheffield Shield, 1931/32, New South Wales v South Australia, Sydney Cricket Ground, 19,21,22 March 1932 (4-day match), http://static.espncricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1930S/1931-32/AUS_LOCAL/SS/NSW_SOA_SS_19-22MAR1932.html

[28] “TOODLELOO!” (1932, April 11). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 6 (LAST RACE EDITION). Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229890277

[29] Of Local Interest (1932, April 13). The Picton Post (NSW : 1907 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112759774

[30] “SHE’S SWELL” (1932, April 21). Yass Tribune-Courier (NSW : 1929 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article249513212

[31] LENNIE GWYTHER RETURNING. (1932, April 21). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136872075

[32] “SHE’S SWELL” (1932, April 21). Yass Tribune-Courier (NSW : 1929 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article249513212

[33] LONE BOY RIDER (1932, April 30). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143177854

[34] LONE BOY RIDER (1932, April 29). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143167665

[35] “THE LONE RIDER.” (1932, May 3). Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser (NSW : 1893 – 1953), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article101235708

[36] IN TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION (1932, May 3). The Murrumbidgee Irrigator (Leeton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved September 15, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155895750

[37] Corobimilla (1932, May 10). Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser (NSW : 1893 – 1953), p. 1. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article101244704

[38] ON A LITTLE PONY (1932, May 30). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242802055

[39] LENNIE GWYTHER. (1932, May 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved September 18, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16861812

[40] [?]ENNIE GWYTHER. (1932, May 10). The Lockhart Review and Oaklands Advertiser (NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137907800

[41] VISIT OF LENNIE GWYTHER (1932, May 27). The North Eastern Ensign (Benalla, Vic. : 1872 – 1938), p. 3 (Morning.). Retrieved September 16, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70786264

[42] NEARING HOME (1932, June 2). The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate (NSW : 1894 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131609839

[43] BOY’S LONG RIDE. (1932, May 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 7. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4454950

[44] HOME NEAR (1932, May 27). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved September 18, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242799599

[45] ON A LITTLE PONY (1932, May 30). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242802055

[46] BOY’S LONG RIDE. (1932, May 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 7. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4454950

[47] BOY’S LONG RIDE. (1932, May 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 7. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4454950

[48] ON A LITTLE PONY (1932, May 30). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242802055

[49] HOME NEAR (1932, May 27). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved September 18, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242799599

[50] YOUNG HORSEMAN HOME. (1932, June 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 22. Retrieved September 18, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4456942

[51] The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 January, 2015, Carolyn Webb. https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-nineyearold-who-rode-a-pony-1000km-to-sydney-20150121-12v3kq.html  Retrieved 18 September 2021.