Leongatha Launch of To the Bridge – Thursday, 12th March, 2020
On Thursday, 12th March in Leongatha, we celebrated the launch of the long-awaited To the Bridge. Townspeople, friends, media and relatives of the main character, Lennie Gwyther, gathered at his statue in the middle of Leongatha. In in 1932, when Lennie and his precious pony, Ginger Mick, were both nine years old, they rode from Leongatha to Sydney to see the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Local newsagent and bookseller, Peter Watchorn was the MC who welcomed everyone, before introducing Publisher, Maryann Ballantyne to officially launch the book. I followed with some history on how the book came to be and illustrator Andrew McLean also spoke about creating the book, as well as drawing a superb Lennie and Ginger Mick, on the spot. Bree and her pony, Dodge looked terrific, joining the celebrations.
There was, however, a sadness which hung heavy over the day.
On Wednesday afternoon, Lennie’s little sister, Beryl Ferrier was meant to fly from the Gold Coast and she and I were to travel down to Leongatha together – just Beryl, me and the launch cake. On Wednesday morning I received a call from Beryl’s niece, telling me that Beryl had been involved in an accident on her way to teach her French class at the Tugan U3A University. Hours later we learned that Beryl had been fatally injured and she passed away late Wednesday morning.
To the Bridge would not exist if it wasn’t for Beryl. From the beginning she was a keen supporter of me to tell the remarkable story of her brother Lennie and his much-loved pony, Ginger Mick, in picture book form. In 2015 I traveled to the Gold Coast to visit her and since then I’ve had ongoing communication with this incredible woman. In December, 2018 I invited Beryl and her niece here with illustrator, Andrew McLean and his wife Janet, so that Beryl could see, first-hand, Andrew’s superb work. She told him, ‘I would trust you with anything you wanted to illustrate, Andrew.’
From the beginning, Beryl’s approval of the book was the single most important thing to me as a writer. When she received the book she rang me, excited and full of praise for what we had created. That call and her obvious delight and approval of the book is something I will cherish forever. One day last week I also read my launch speech to her, over the phone – I am so pleased I did that.
Early on Thursday morning I walked down to the statue from where I was staying at the Leongatha Motel and left a single yellow rose on the statue and later, at launch time, we all felt that Beryl was there looking down upon us. The book will not be available in shops (other than at the Leongatha Newsagency) until April 1. March 12 was chosen for the Leongatha launch as it was to be Beryl’s 95th Birthday and she was to co-launch the book. Some things are just too hard to explain.