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Tractor man rides into home town

Derek Percival is unmissable on his Ferguson tractor, painted by kids from Newcastle to Melbourne.

Derek Percival is currently on a journey from Newcastle to Melbourne, slowly chugging his way across the country on a brightly painted Ferguson tractor.

On Sunday he swung by to visit the place where it all began. He was born in Tumut Hospital and lived here until he was four, regularly visiting throughout his childhood to see his grandparents, who lived in Richmond Street.

He’s on his journey, along with mate James Glover and a team of volunteers, to raise awareness and funds for Art Cabriolet, an art therapy group who work with children who have suffered trauma.

Tumut wasn’t initially on his route from Gundagai to Albury, but he decided to make a special detour to see the town where he grew up.

“As soon as I turned up here into Richmond Street it all started to flood back to me,” he said.

“I’m just looking around now at where I used to ride my skateboard. So it’s been good reminiscing about all the fun times! It’s lovely being here; we were going so close past and thought we may as well pop in and say g’day.”

He definitely makes an interesting sight. The tractor is a riot of pastel colours and patterns, the result of Art Cabriolet working with kids along the way. After they arrive in Melbourne it will be auctioned off as an art piece for the charity.

According to Derek, they deserve the money.

“I’ve heard of what they do, but now that I’ve actually witnessed it and been involved, it’s been transformational,” he said.

“You really have to take your hat off to them. The highlight of the trip for me is seeing what they can do for children. It’s fascinating to see; it’s quite confronting some of the places we’ve been, and it’s quite honourable, actually, what they do. I’m looking forward to the next stop where hopefully we’ll be able to provide some joy for the children there as well.”

Derek’s trip started the way so many great ideas do – as a joke. He and James would laugh about the idea of travelling from Melbourne to Sydney whenever they saw a slow moving vehicle on the roads, like a ride-on mower.

Then they thought – well, what if we actually did it?

Derek contacted Art Cabriolet to get them involved, and that was that.

“We haven’t stopped even today,” he said.

“On the way in here we looked at that old steam train down at the museum, and James said, imagine driving that one to Sydney!”