You can't take Longford out of this boy

WHEN Longford flooded in 1960, it became cut off from the rest of the world.

It's the version of events as told by media personality Neil Kearney and it's not likely to change any time soon.

Whether it was kicking about the footy club grounds as a child, watching elephants race along Wellington Street or following the Longford races, the village will always be home to Kearney.

The former resident will MC Longford's 200th anniversary celebrations on March 2 at the Blessing of the Harvest Festival.

``It's a privilege for me, I love Longford and I hope that Longford loves me,'' Kearney said yesterday, reminiscing from his Ivanhoe townhouse.

``I heard more funny stories as a child in Longford than I've heard ever since as a journo for the 45 years that I've been doing it.''

While the town may forever hold a part of Kearney, it becomes apparent that the grasp goes both ways.

He said a collection of 14 pictures of Longford hang about the walls of his home, each a flashback to the village's glory days.

Kearney said the most significant of the collection came from about a year ago.

``We went into an art gallery in Longford and there was a magnificent picture of Roy Preece's corner store,'' he said.

``That corner store meant so much to me because Roy was a great mentor to me as a young fella.''

Kearney said he relayed his great appreciation for the image to his wife but thought it costly and thought nothing more about it.

``Some weeks later my daughter [Annie] snuck down to Longford, bought the painting and smuggled it back to Melbourne,'' he said.

``It now holds pride of place in our lounge room - even people who have never been there say what a wonderful painting it is.

``Obviously they very quickly realise how obsessed I still am with Longford.''

The pride stems beyond his own childhood, as he continually references notable personalities to be produced by the town, each touted as a badge of honour.

``Just at the moment Longford's got the Rattrays out at Pateena Road, their horse won the Miracle Mile, one of the best harness horses in Australia,'' Kearney said.

``It's the birthplace of Richard Flanagan, probably one of the best authors in Australia, and it's the birthplace of George Bailey.''

Although he may no longer kiss the cement of Launceston Airport on touchdown, Kearney still has his own rituals, many of which will be carried out when he arrives to celebrate late this month.

``I think that 200 years is a massive milestone, it's not that long ago that Australia was celebrating 200 years of white settlement,'' he said.

Media personality Neil Kearney with his prized painting of Roy Preece's old Longford store by Longford artist David Lake.

Media personality Neil Kearney with his prized painting of Roy Preece's old Longford store by Longford artist David Lake.


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