Ray turns 20 as a leapling

GYMPIE "leapling" Ray Hardiker is fed up with being a teenager and is looking forward to finally be taken seriously once he turns 20 today.

Ray was born on February 29, 1932 - a leap year that occurred eight decades ago - but he has yet to celebrate his 21st birthday. That won't happen until 2016, but even before Ray reached that all-important age of 18 (eight years ago) he says he had no trouble getting into pubs or clubs because he has always looked mature for his age.

"I am a very mature looking 20 year old," he said.

The sax-playing octogenarian is not alone; there are several Gympie leaplings celebrating their birthdays today, among them council worker Heather Kelly and Mary St businessman Warrick Hosking.

Heather turns 11 today and Warrick 12, but they have both lived lives way beyond those years - and they both love being leaplings.

Heather, Warrick and Ray are all planning special celebrations today.

Warrick headed off to Fraser Island for a week yesterday, Ray and his wife are having a second honeymoon on the Sunshine Coast tonight and Heather, though she has to work, says there will be a long morning tea and lunch, followed by some serious celebrations this weekend.

"I just love my birthday," she said.

"I get so excited about it."

Even as a child, Heather's birthdays were always special, particularly on leap years.

"I love it because not only are my birthdays really special every four years, on the (common) years it's plural. I have a birthday on February 28 and March 1, and any other day nominated at random."

Warrick grew up in Victoria where his father owned a newsagency and he had his own paper route from the time he was seven.

"Every four years we used to do something big," he says of his childhood birthdays.

"For a number of years we would go to Melbourne and go to the Puffing Billy."

Hundreds of years ago leap years had no recognition in law. The day was "leapt over" and ignored, hence the term "leap year".

February 29 is added to the calendar every four years to bring the solar year of 365 and one quarter days into line with the calendar year of 365 days.

It is the one day of the year on which, traditionally, women can propose to men. It was once considered that as the day also had no legal status, it was reasonable to assume that tradition had no status, so women took advantage of this and proposed.

A law once existed in Scotland forbidding a man to refuse a proposal made to him. Punishment for such an offence was a large fine.

Ray, Heather and Warrick have some famous fellow leaplings. Australian television personality Jonathon Coleman celebrates his birthday today and American motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

The summer Olympics also take place every leap year, and Gilbert and Sullivan helped make leaplings famous in their comic opera The Pirates of Penzance, when leapling Frederic the pirate apprentice discovered he was bound to serve the pirates until his 21st birthday rather than until his 21st year.

The Olympics also take place every leap year.

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