The Bodalla community’s affection and pride in former Bodalla equestrian Neale Lavis and his feat in winning gold at Rome Olympics in 1960 was recognised at a moving ceremony at Bodalla’s Bruce Motbey Park on Saturday.
Neale Lavis was a member of the Australian Equestrian Eventing Team at Rome whose path to victory is the stuff of legend. Eventing involves dressage, cross country and jumping.
‘I can’t put into words the way I feel at the moment,’ an emotional Neale Lavis said after removing a horse rug to reveal the plaque.
Among those gathered at Bodalla were some who had ridden with him on the show circuit over 60 years ago and members of the district’s old farming families.
He thanked Cath Lawler (nee Carden) for the work she had done to make this happen. As far as she was concerned, this plaque had been a long time coming and was only made possible through the support of Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Heritage Advisory Committee
Neale Lavis, now of Braidwood, grew up on a dairy farm on Eurobodalla Road.
‘The greatest time of my life was mustering as a kid out at Belowra with Bob and Basil Carden and the hard riding to bring in rogue cattle,’ he said.
‘Cath and I would compete in local shows, sometimes riding our horses from Bodalla along back tracks.’
Then he discovered eventing which became his passion.
He spoke of the importance of having a good horse ‘not afraid of anything’. ‘Then all you have to do is hang on for the ride and let the horse do the work,’ he said.
Neale spoke affectionately of his two horses that had been the mainstay of his eventing success; first Bennelong and then Mirrabooka who he rode at Rome.
‘Mirrabooka was so good to train, strong, game, courageous and always wanting to help; a horse like that only occasionally comes along,’ he said.
Cath Lawler said it was appropriate the plaque should be placed there because it was part of the site of the former Bodalla sportsground and Bodalla Estate stockyards.
Above:Cath Lawler of Cadgee, Neale Lavis and his wife Velma of Braidwood with the plaque that now commemorates Neale’s success as a member of the Australian Equestrian Eventing Team who won a Gold Medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960. Photo by Laurelle Pacey.
Above:Enjoying the unveiling of Neale Lavis’ plaque at Bodalla on Saturday were Peter and Julie Collett of Bodalla, left, Jen Mathieson (nee Thomson), Kay and Ewan Thomson (formerly of Belowra) with Marion Emmott, seated, formerly of Bodalla. Photo by Laurelle Pacey.
Above:Old riding mates of Neale Lavis – Cath Lawler of Cadgee, Neville Green of Moruya and Alan Holmes of Candelo. Photo by Laurelle Pacey.
Above:Sharing memories at the unveiling of Neale Lavis’ plaque at Bodalla on Saturday were Neale’s brother Keith, left, Cath Lawler, Neale Lavis and Joan Chadwick (nee Lavis). Photo by Laurelle Pacey.