THE ‘Mr Fremantle’ of the port city’s battle to save its heritage has been awarded an Order of Australia medal (AM) in this year’s Queens Birthday honours list.
Leslie Charles Lauder was the founding president of the Fremantle Society, which burst into action in 1972 as the wrecker’s ball was smashing its way through the east end of the city.
Many buildings had already gone. The post-war Hepburn/Stephenson plan was poised to plough a four-lane highway through its historic West End when Mr Lauder and scores of Fremantle residents rose up and said: “Stop!”
If the plans had gone ahead, much of Market, High and Cliff streets would have been demolished.
Society stalwart Ron Davidson was lecturing in psychology at UWA when he first met Mr Lauder as a student.
“I mean, he was a hero and against all odds he really carried the Fremantle Society and the Fremantle Society carried so many things,” Mr Davidson told the Herald.
He recalls being blown away as Mr Lauder transformed from a “quiet, reticent” young man to a master orator within the space of one meeting; the society’s first.
Mr Davidson revealed that after the society’s formation, Mr Lauder told him he had to move to Fremantle, as long as “you live there and don’t just get tied up in houses”. He took the advice and has been living in the Fothergill Street home Mr Lauder recommended for the last 40-odd years.
Mr Lauder, who’s run an antique and fine arts business since 1979, was also president of the society from 1991-1993, its patron and a life member; he’s also been a Fremantle councillor and a member of the National Estate (now the Australian Heritage Council).
Mr Lauder’s out of town at the moment, but said he’d catch up with the Herald when he’s back.
Author, editor and publisher Wendy Jenkins also picked up an AM for her services to literature and for mentoring and developing Australia’s literary community.
Ms Jenkins has been editor of Fremantle Press for “many years” according to her nomination, as well as a member of the Australia Council and a committee member of the Fremantle Arts Centre.