OPINION: Back in the early '90s, I felt privileged to be invited to visit the Republic of Nauru. With a total land area of 25 square kilometres and a population around 8,000 at the time, it was - and still is - one of the remotest and smallest nations on the earth.
So with times being what they are, and 'news' being what it is at the moment, I thought I would pass it along. As this is a rural newspaper, I thought it fitting. Let it inspire you, as it has me.
How could it ever be possible for an unknown 9-year-old farm boy to capture the attention of his nation, and bring that nation to its feet?
The Great Depression years in the 1930s were truly desperate times. Over in Aussie, like it was here I guess, unemployment was rampant. Rural roads were filled with broken men walking from farmhouse to farmhouse, desperate for any menial job and something to eat.
On the outskirts of the South Gippsland town of Leongatha, decorated WW1 hero Captain Leo Tennyson Gwyther - who had recovered somewhat from his war injuries - lay in a hospital bed with a broken leg. So his 9-year-old son Lennie stepped up, and with the help of his pony Ginger Mick, ploughed the family farm's 24 paddocks and kept the farm running.
How to repay him, his parents wondered? Lennie had been avidly following one of the biggest engineering feats of the time - the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. With Dad back on his feet, Lennie wanted to attend the bridge's opening. Reluctanctly, his parents agreed he could go.
This 9-year-old planned his own trip, packed a few things into a sack, saddled up Ginger Mick and set out on the 1,000-plus km trek to Sydney - alone!
This was all before cellphones, social media and GPS. Hmmm, a different era for sure! But the word still got out.
A statue of Lennie Gwyther and Ginger Mick in the South Gippsland town of Leongatha, Victoria, Australia.
Pretty much the entire population of small country towns gathered to welcome him as he rode through. He survived a bushfire, heavy rain and fog, cold biting winds, and even being attacked by a deranged tramp!
When Lennie reached Canberra, he was welcomed by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. When he finally reached Sydney, more than 10,000 people turned out to welcome him. Autograph hunters wanted his signature and he got to be a key part of the bridge's opening ceremony.
Lennie and Ginger Mick made a starring appearance at the Sydney Royal Show. Even Australia's biggest celebrity of the time, Sir Donald Bradman, requested a meeting and gave Lenie a signed cricket bat!
A letter writer to the Sydney Morning Herald noted that: "just such an example as provided by a child of nine summers, Lennie Gwyther was, and is, needed to raise the spirit of our people and to fire our youth and others to do things - not to talk only."
Author of a book about Lennie's incredible journey, Stephanie Owen Reeder, said a similar thing: "It was the middle of the Depression. People were looking for good news stories, so it captured the public imagination."
When Lennie saddled up Ginger Mick and left for home a month later, he had become one of the most famous figures in a country desperately needing a lift in spirit. And he had provided exactly that for so many! Large crowds waved handkerchiefs and shouted "goodbyes". Many even shed tears.
He finally arrived back home to a tumultuous welcome - a crowd of 800 gathered. Today you can find a bronze stature in Leongatha, commemorating this 9-year-old boy and his pony. A good news story. Now where have I heard that before? The Christmas story, that's where!
Take care & God bless.