Spotlight: Thunderbolt (1941)

Note: Readers are advised that the following contains language that is considered offensive in the modern day. It is included intact only for the purposes of accuracy to the historical document that is being transcribed, and context. It is important to see the way in which such derogatory language was so flippantly used in the past in order to better understand the impact it has had on those who were portrayed so derisively. Understanding the cruelty of the past can act as a tool to prevent its perpetuation, even in such a seemingly innocuous thing as a word, phrase or description. It’s not the words that hurt, but the ideas behind them.


Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (NSW : 1886 – 1942), Friday 9 May 1941, page 2


A writer in Wingham ‘Chronicle,’ discussing the career of Frederick Ward, alias Thunderbolt, says he was a crack horse breaker before developing into a scientific bushranger and horse thief on a big scale. Nevertheless, his daring horsemanship procured him many friends. One station owner out West is said to have obtained 700 clean skins through his agency in one season. Again, when old Neil Macinnes seized him in the Denison pub, not a man stirred to assist Macinnes, who was fair to desist when threatened with the boy Moulton’s knife.

One of his favorite places of call was the house of Jimmy Bugg, on the Middle Monkerai. Bugg was a short, fair-complexioned Englishman, with a decided nasal accent, caused by a blow from an abo’s tomahawk. He had been sent out for some trifling offence, and being assigned to the A.A. Company, had spent his first Xmas in Australia at Campbell’s Valley, near Stroud, dining sumptuously on a boiled eel. By good conduct he had risen to the office of overseer on one of the Company’s out sheep stations. Later, he shifted to the Middle Monkerai and settled on a farm not far from where in the early days the wild natives had killed and eaten Sam Tongue, one of the Company’s shepherds.

Like many of the old hands, Bugg had contracted an alliance with a native woman, who afterwards saved his life at Berrico, when attacked by the blacks, by firing on them. Bugg married her out of gratitude, and she, discarding her native patronymic, adopted the name of “Charlotte.” There were eight children, the two eldest, Jack and Mary Anne, being fairly well educated. Mary Anne was the half-caste girl who threw in her lot with the bushranger, and she was with him in all his wanderings, and bore him 4 children — all daughters. His narrowest escape was on Massies Creek, on the Upper Allyn. Here he was sighted by the police and two young men of the district who were expert horsemen. In the chase that ensued, the police were left far in the rear, and the fugitive was so hard pressed by the leading horsemen that when fired on he took the desperate course of leaping his horse over a cliff of rocks and vines. He thus escaped, but he was too good a judge of horse flesh to go far — for, very shortly after, his pursuer’s pony was counted amongst the missing ! !

Thundrebolt was now ensconced in a little cave on the Buckets (above “Bookan” — “Big Rocks”) near the present Trig Station. Here one of his children was born. He obtained water at a spring away to the left, but where he kept his horses was a mystery. On the big flat, in front of Gloucester, the periodical race meeting was in full swing, and old Tom Brown’s hotel booth was doing a roaring trade. All the local flyers were competing, and amongst them the Monkerai crack — Martin’s Wild Hawk — performed with signal success. Five police were on the ground, and, having suspicions of Thunderbolt’s whereabouts, kept a close eye on the movements of the half-castes, Jimmy Doyle and young Jimmy Bugg. But, under the very noses of the police, liquid refreshments were conveyed to Thunderbolt, who was watching every race from behind the thorn bushes by the river, and, when darkness fell, he, with true hardihood, mixed amongst the throng. Next morning great was the uproar — the Monkerai crack, Wild Hawk, had found a new master!

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