Lennie Gwyther: A 9-year-old Who Journeyed Solo Across Australia

May 4, 2023 1 comments

On February 3, 1932, nine-year-old Lennie Gwyther packed his bags and left for Sydney. He was going to attend the opening of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, which was at that time a marvel of engineering. Accompanying him on this journey was his horse Ginger Mick, who was also nine years old. What made this trip legendary, apart from the fact that Lennie Gwyther was such a young boy, was the distance—Sydney was 900 km away, and Lennie Gwyther was travelling alone.

Lennie and Ginger Mick. Photo: Wikimedia

Lennie Gwyther was born in April 1922. His father was a lieutenant in the Australian Army in the Great War who won the Military Cross and bar for two incredible acts of bravery at the front, and was promoted to Captain. Gwyther’s parents owned a farm, where the family grew onions, mangolds, oats, wheat, barley, sorghum, and millet.

When Lennie was two years old, his grandfather presented him with a chestnut pony, which Lennie named Ginger Mick. Both shared the same birthday and were inseparable. “He is quiet and does not mind double-dinkey in the least, has few tricks and is easy to catch and lovely to ride, game as they are made and can carry twelve stone without effort,” Lennie told The Sydney Morning Herald. Lennie rode his pony to school everyday, a distance of four miles, and in winter time they had to swim through a stream. Ginger Mick also ran on races and won many at Leongatha, Foster and Yarram.

In 1931, Lennie’s father fell heavily from his tractor and broke his leg. While Lennie’s father lay at home healing, Lennie ploughed the fields and sowed the seeds. Lennie’s father was pleased and he asked his son how he would like to be rewarded. Lennie answered that he wanted to see the opening of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

The route of Lennie Gwyther’s journey. Photo: The Newcastle Sun

Although initially taken aback by Lennie’s choice, his parents soon agreed, and Lennie began preparation for the journey at once. A map was purchased and a route was planned. It was decided that Lennie would stay with friends and family of his parents along the way. The plan was to travel 25 to 30 kilometers per day, weather permitting. In case of accommodation difficulties, Lennie would seek assistance from the local Agricultural or Show Society or stay at a hotel. As a precaution, Lennie carried letters of introduction from the President of the Shire of Woorayl to the Mayor of Sydney and the Secretary of the Royal Agricultural Society. Additionally, a booking was made with a shipping company to transport Lennie and Ginger Mick back to Melbourne after the Bridge opening was completed.

Ginger Mick was also prepared for the upcoming journey. A period of five weeks was allotted for him to acclimatize himself to the forthcoming trip; in the last week he was ridden daily so that he got used to the daily routine to come. Additionally, he was fitted with a fresh pair of shoes, and an additional set was kept in reserve in case of need during the trip. Lennie ensured that an extra piece of automotive spring steel was placed beneath the shoe toes, which not only increased the longevity of the shoes but also provided more comfort to Ginger Mick while traveling on paved roads.

Lennie Gwyther arrives in Sydney. Photo: The Sydney Morning Herald

On February 3, Lennie set off 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 hung around his neck.

Lennie and Ginger Mick rode along bush tracks and dirt roads, through bush fires and heavy rains. He reached Cann River after five days where his father was waiting to accompany him to Canberra to make sure his son was fine. Lennie and his father travelled together, sometimes joined by other travelers and school children. Lennie chatted with his new friends as he rode.

At Bombala, Lennie and his father received a grand welcome from the mayor. Afterwards they were taken to the local public school where they addressed the children. Lennie's father was impressed by his son's self-sufficiency and consequently made the decision to depart the following day and allow Lennie to continue on his own.

Photo: The Sun

On reaching Canberra, Lennie was taken on a tour of Parliament House, and had afternoon tea with Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. He also met Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs, and other dignitaries. Continuing north, he reached Moss Vale, where Lennie took part in the annual Moss Vale Horse Show and came second.

Arriving In Sydney, Lennie and Ginger Mick were mobbed by the public and the press. Some souvenir-hunters even tried to pluck hairs from the tail of Ginger Mick. Lennie attended the Electrical Radio Exhibition that was being held at the Sydney Town Hall and spoke about his experiences on the journey on the radio. The next day, “The Sun” newspaper took Lennie on a sightseeing tour across Sydney.

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 New South Wales 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 in the opening parade during the opening of the Sydney Bridge. Photo: Wikimedia

The original plan was for Lennie and Ginger Mick to return to Melbourne by ship. Lennie’s father arrived in Sydney to supervise the loading of Ginger Mick onto the ship. However, Lennie had enjoyed the ride to Sydney so much that he persuaded and convinced his father to let him ride back, this time along the Hume Highway.

Lennie stayed in Sydney for more than a month taking part in parades and meeting new people. On April 11, Lennie started his journey back home. Along the way, he celebrated his tenth birthday.

Forty-seven days after leaving Sydney, Lennie and Ginger Mick walked into their hometown Leongatha. They were welcomed by over 800 cheering and waving people.

Later Life

Lennie enlisted in the army for World War II at the age of 19. After the war, he became an engineer at General Motors’ Australian Holden Plant, in Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne. He died in 1992, at the age of 70. At the time of his death, he was building a yacht, which he planned to sail to Tasmania and New Zealand.

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

In 2017, Leongatha unveiled a statue commemorating Lennie and Ginger Mick's journey.

Statue of Lennie and Ginger Mick in the Australian town of Leongatha. Photo: Ollee/Wikimedia

# The Boy With The Pony, The Sydney Morning Herald
# The Lennie Gwyther Story, Westprint Blog
# Lennie Gwyther, Monument Australia


  1. What an amazing young man. Our kids today are too soft and would barely make it to the end of the street.


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