Ballarat City Fire Brigade will become the custodian of two historically significant horse hooves, which belonged to Larry the horse, who was a member of the brigade for around 20 years.
The proud, grey horse joined the Ballarat City Fire Brigade in 1882 and was able to grow and flourish in his role leading the brigade’s horse-drawn two-wheel fire carts during incidents.
Station Keeper Jim McKay trained Larry and subsequently formed a close bond with the horse, however, Larry tragically died in harness while responding to a fire in 1902, which was made even more devastating in that he was not meant to be on-duty at the time.
Ballarat City Fire Brigade Secretary Nicole McGrath said Larry the horse was described as a dutiful, highly trained horse and has become symbolic of the brigade’s rich and proud history.
“He reminds us to celebrate those that forged our path before us and to honour them as we continue our work in protecting our community,” Ms McGrath said.
“Larry and Jim were a dynamic duo. They remind us of who we are, where we have come from and where we are going as a brigade.
“Larry has quite obviously made a lasting impression on those in our community who encountered him when he was alive and we understand why the brigade chose to honour and immortalise him in this way.”
Following Larry’s death, his hooves were preserved and the rear hooves were distributed among the Ballarat City brigade and the Mayor of Ballarat, while his two front hooves were presented to Station Keeper James McKay and have remained with the McKay family ever since.
The hooves handover from Jim’s family to the brigade will reunite Larry’s front hooves with his two rear hooves that are currently in the brigade’s possession.
Ms McGrath said not many people would have predicted the legacy Jim and Larry left behind at the Ballarat City brigade.
“Larry and Jim’s story is important to our brigade. We still have people that talk about them; it’s become part of our culture.”
In 1944, Ballarat City veteran firefighter Dick Mann told the Ballarat Courier that Larry had “astonishing knowledge of the job” and knew the meaning of all the bells in the fire station.
“He would position himself beneath the up-ended shafts of the brake when the call came and the shafts with the harness attached were lowered onto him,” Mr Mann said in 1944.
Ballarat City Fire Brigade looks to celebrate the brigade’s history further during Ballarat Heritage Weekend from Friday, 29 May to Sunday, 31 May. The brigade will host talks and tours at the station on the weekend of the event, focusing on the pivotal role many members had on transforming Ballarat in to the community it is today.