Bushranging Gazette #20

Saturday, 1 October 2022

Thunderbolts Festival 2022

This year’s Uralla Thunderbolts Festival is scheduled to go ahead on 29 October. Despite the festival intended to commemorate the town’s most popular local bushranging legend, the advertising is more focused on Marvel superheroes and Disney princesses.

The 23rd such festival since its inception, which has seen thousands of visitors attend each year, this year’s event will include markets, Fleet Warbirds street parade that features superheroes and princesses, a rock climbing wall, a hula hoop competition, dual giant slide, live entertainment by Chilli Jam, a jumping castle, and little ones merry-go-round. The event is being held in conjunction with Oxley Riders Bail Up Poker Run and will be held at Alma Park.

New novel tells the story of Thunderbolt and Monckton

Peter Spencer, the great-grandson of Captain Thunderbolt’s boy sidekick William Monckton, has just released a new novel that dramatises his forebear’s life as a boy bushranger.

Thunderbolt and Monckton as depicted in the cover art for Too Young to Hold a Gun [Source]

Spencer, who was a plumber by trade but is now retired, has spent the better part of four decades researching bushrangers, with a particular emphasis on the Thunderbolt story and Monckton’s role in it. Too Young to Hold a Gun is his first novel and attempts to portray a more tangible, relatable version of history than a dry history book. It is also edited by Jane Smith, known for own work on bushrangers, including Thunderbolt, who also assisted with the research and fact checking.

This is my debut novel based on William Monckton, my great-grandfather. It is a fictionalised account told from William’s perspective. It reveals, firsthand, the hardships of a life on the run and the challenges of returning to community life after serving time as a convicted felon.

Of course, I do not know what the characters of this book said, nor whether my account of their emotions is accurate. However, after conducting my research and following contact with the wider family of William Monckton, this is my best reckoning. It is also a tribute to the man who learned a hard lesson and spent the rest of his life as an exemplary member of society.

Peter Spencer [Source]

Copies of the book are available directly from the author. For more information go to https://pjspencer.com/ or email tooyoungtoholdagun@gmail.com

Doing the Bolt

Doing the Bolt is an exhibition of convicts and bushrangers. There is an extensive collection of exact replicas and originals including: 30 story boards and banners detailing the life of bushrangers and convicts, pistols and guns flag flown at Eureka Rebellion, cat ‘o nine tails and whipping post, shackles and locks, and much more.

The exhibition is housed adjacent to the Library in the Old Printery building, the historic printing office of the Jerilderie and Urana Gazette run by Mr Samuel Gill. On Monday, 10 February 1879, Ned Kelly tried to find Mr Gill in order to have his manifesto, “The Jerilderie Letter” printed. The restoration of this building was completed in 2012.

Vale Jack Charles

Veteran actor and Aboriginal activist Jack Charles passed away on 13 September following a stroke. Uncle Jack was a Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta man who was part of the stolen generations, co-founded Australia’s first Aboriginal-led theatre group in Melbourne in 1971, and overcame periods of homelessness and drug addiction to become one of the most valued and respected elders.

Uncle Jack will be familiar to fans of bushranger stories on screen, having portrayed Billy Dargin in the 1970s Ben Hall television series, appeared as Harry Edwards in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, and latterly cameoing in True History of the Kelly Gang as a waiter. He leaves behind a proud legacy on stage and screen as well as his important role in the indigenous community as an Elder and activist.

Uncle Jack Charles as Billy Dargin in Ben Hall [Source]

Thunderbolt documentary delayed

The makers of a long anticipated documentary on Frederick Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt, have regretfully announced that their aim of completing the film for this year’s Thunderbolt festival has fallen down.

Posting to their Facebook page, they stated:

But we just can’t meet our self imposed deadline of getting the doco finished for the 2022 Thunderbolt Festival towards the end of October. Fingers crossed we can get it finished for 2023, but we’re not making any more promises. It will happen when it happens. We hope you’ll stick with us.

Via Facebook

The team had previously updated on their progress in May 2021 and their decision to change the angle they were approaching with the film. It was originally pitched as a film exploring the popular conspiracy theory that Ward had not been killed in 1870, but will now focus more on the journey the filmmakers undertook in trying to find the truth. This was a decision made after the optimistic release year of 2020 was impacted by the pandemic. While a revised release date is yet to be confirmed, it is likely that it will be released in 2023.

Starlight’s artwork

Author and historian Jane Smith recently shared a post about some artworks discovered by the National Art School by Frank Pearson, aka Captain Starlight.

Along with a photograph of herself with the paintings, Smith wrote:

Paintings by Captain Starlight recently came to light and are now on display at the wonderful ‘Captivate’ exhibition at the [National Art School] , celebrating its centenary. It’s also 200 years since they started building Darlinghurst Gaol, which has housed the art school since 1922. Fascinating history! It was a privilege to be at the opening last night.

Via Facebook

The paintings are part of an exhibition that comprises a range of artworks found in a scrapbook owned the former prison governor Sir John Cecil Read that was donated to the art school that now occupies the former Darlinghurst Gaol where many of the most notorious bushrangers did time or were executed.

Read more: https://www.smh.com.au/culture/art-and-design/thrilling-gift-reveals-artistic-side-of-killers-and-bushrangers-20220902-p5bf0l.html

Jingo was Born in the Slum Exhibition

From 1 October 2022 to 4 March 2023, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery will be hosting an exhibition of Matthew Thorne’s photographs from the making of True History of the Kelly Gang in its Nolan Gallery, alongside many of Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly paintings.

The CMAG describes the collection as, “a darkly powerful exhibition reflecting on the bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang’s exploits in late 1870s Australia and the enduring legacy of the Kelly myth in contemporary culture.”

The exhibition will also include some of the costumes worn in the 2019 film, designed by Alice Babidge.

The Kelly Gang at Glenrowan, Dandenong Rainforest, Victoria, 2018. By Matthew Thorne

Read more: http://www.cmag.com.au/exhibitions/mathew-thorne-jingo-was-born-in-the-slum

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