Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), Thursday 10 November 1988, page 31
Captain Thunderbolt rides again
A “MUSIC-DRAMA” about the relationship between a singing bushranger and his opera-fancying girlfriend opens in Queanbeyan tonight. It is Captain Thunderbolt by local composer Vivien Arnold, who is also the director of the show.
Captain Thunderbolt, alias Frederick Ward, was in the habit of singing the Victorian parlour song, Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still, and was introduced to opera by Mary Ann Bugg, a half-caste Aboriginal, otherwise known as Queen Yellow-long.
Bugg developed her interest in opera while at boarding school in Sydney where she was sent by her father. She passed her enthusiasm on to Thunderbolt so throughly that he once bailed up a German band and made them play opera numbers.
Arnold said that though Thunderbolt took the band’s money initially, he later returned it “with a tip” and this was one aspect of his character which interested her.
Thunderbolt operated for seven years in the 1860s — at first west of Sydney and then north of Newcastle up to the Queensland border — and stole 20,000 pounds, but he was “the Robin Hood of Australia in many ways”, Arnold said. He would often let would-be victims keep their money if he found they were in need.
But the music-drama was “not totally one-sided” in favour of Thunderbolt. It was recognised that “robbery’s robbery after all” and Arnold attempted to show both sides and tried to make the characters as human as possible.
Arnold based the libretto of the show on a book called A Ghost Called Thunderbolt, by another local, Stephen Williams. Arnold worked from his manuscript before the book was published.
Arnold said she began writing the music-drama a little under two years ago and it took over a year to write part time. The cast began rehearsals in May and have “needed every second of the time”, because the music was quite difficult to perform, Arnold said.
There were two things she aimed for when composing the music, for it to be modern and at the same time reminiscent of 19th century music.
Arnold said a cast of very fine singers who were extremely dedicated and really believed in the music-drama had been assembled including Fran Bosley-Craft and Mary O’Brien. Thunderbolt is played by Lindsay Roe.
Arnold said the show was not like anything the Queanbeyan Players had done before. The fare was usually “light and frivolous”, but Captain Thunderbolt was a “music-drama — very sad . . . tear jerking”. The musical director is David Ellis and the assistant director Allan Cope.
Captain Thunderbolt will run at the Queanbeyan Community Centre from November 10 to 12 and 17 to 19 at 8pm. Tickets are available at the Lucky Star Kiosk, 119 Monaro St Queanbeyan,
and Bass outlets in the ACT. Tickets are $10.50 and $8.50 concession.
Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser (NSW : 1876 – 1951), Thursday 13 October 1927, page 5
In the early seventies of last century (writes ‘Hawkeye’ in the ‘Northern Champion,’ Taree) a young Manning River man had to drive a spring cart from Raymond Terrace to Manning River. Some distance on his way towards Stroud he saw a woman on foot ahead carrying a child. When he caught up and offered her a lift, he found it was the wife of Frederick Ward, who had been down to see him in gaol. With a brave heart she had set out to walk to the Stroud country, where her home was. As they went along, she told the driver odd items of Thunderbolt’s history — and, of course, he was always more sinned against than sinning. That is always the way — and people believe it, sure. Mrs. Ward gave the driver certain bush-Masonic signs and information to be used if he were ever overtaken by her captain. Over hill and dale the long day wore on. Suddenly a man appeared ahead, driving tandem toward them. The lady shouted to him, and then passed her child to our hero, without so much as ‘By your leave.’ Springing from the cart she followed the other vehicle some distance, and conversed with the driver. “He’s not a bad sort,’ and she flashed a bundle of 25 notes he had given her. There is no doubt it was a case of ‘saving the stock on the station’ by helping the bushranger’s wife, and Mackay understood quite well. Many miles farther on the strong, self-reliant woman left, thanking the man with the spring cart, and waving her hand as she left the main road for tracks across hills that only the initiated knew. The driver assured me he had occasion to use the secret code some years after, and found her instructions true in every particular. The flight of time, and the glamor of romance, have surrounded those tribesmen, but, taken all in all, bushranging was a wretched life, and a passing phase of history that can never come again.
It has been a while since a dedicated post reviewing media on A Guide to Australian Bushranging, but what better time than the present to look at some of the recent releases and currently available literature pertaining to this broad field of interest?
Tommy Bell – Bushranger Boy, books 1-3 by Jane Smith
It is often said these days that getting kids to read is one of the hardest things to do as a parent, especially with younger children. With the Tommy BellBushranger Boy series by Jane Smith, we have books about bushranging that are a perfect balance of fun and education for primary school aged readers. All too often books on the subject for this demographic are very dry and uninspiring, and at times wildly inaccurate or oversimplified, but not so with this imaginative series that uses a splash of magic to transport the reader to key parts of bushranger history. Tommy Bell’s magical cabbage-tree hat is just the trick to allow kids to have a relatable character to follow through the olden days.
Book one is Shoot-out at the Rock, and sees Tommy transported back in time for an encounter with Captain Thunderbolt. After Tommy Bell falls behind in his history lessons and steals a donut from a classmate, he is sent to stay with his grandparents near Uralla. Here he discovers the magical cabbage-tree hat inside Thunderbolt Rock that transports him back in time to when Captain Thunderbolt and Fred Britten had a chase and gunfight with the police there. The experience gives Tommy a bit of perspective on his own troublesome behaviour, and stokes a passion for history and bushrangers.
This book starts the series off strong, and sets up the character of Tommy Bell, as well as his family and his horse Combo, very effectively. Young readers will undoubtedly get a kick out of this exciting tale of highway robbery and a dramatic clash with police, and gain a history lesson and a moral lesson at the same time.
Following the narrative is a guide to the history that the story is based on, and a mock Q &A with Thunderbolt. The inclusion of the non-fiction section sets this up as an educational text as much as an entertainment for young readers, and these are features of the subsequent books as well.
Book two, The Horse Thief, sees Tommy becoming mixed up in the early exploits of Frank Christie, alias Gardiner. The Gardiner narrative is interspersed with Tommy travelling to and from a riding competition with his parents and his horse Combo. We are also introduced to Tommy’s new classmate named Francis, who seems to want to get Tommy mixed up in his mischief, setting up a point of comparison with Gardiner roping his friends into horse theft.
Whereas book one’s strength was in its simple story and fairly tame depiction of bushranging, thanks largely to Thunderbolt being a far more “family-friendly” outlaw, book two is a bit more ambiguous. Thematically, it still hovers around the morals of the bushrangers (or lack thereof), and how sometimes it isn’t so straightforward as seeing criminals as inherently evil or nasty, and everyone else as good and pleasant. Frank Gardiner is a scary horse thief who Tommy is clearly afraid of, but as villainous as he is the squatter, William Lockhart Morton, doesn’t seem any better, and even Tommy Bell finds it hard to justify the sorts of punishments that the criminals are subjected to. That the book doesn’t talk down to its readership and make everything clear-cut and black and white is one of the things that elevates it over the usual fare that children are given.
Book three is The Gold Escort Gang, and acts as a direct follow up to its predecessor by exploring the infamous Eugowra Rocks heist. It runs the story of Gardiner assembling his heist crew parallel to Tommy’s schoolmate Francis, from the previous installment, trying to rope him into stealing the rich kid’s bike with his “gang”. As with the prior books, the comparison between past and present is key to making the stories relatable, and therefore informative.
While most children’s books these days try to incorporate some form of gross out gag or toilet humour, these books are thankfully a little more high-brow, with the closest to this bring Tommy encountering Gardiner and Johnny Gilbert skinny dipping in a lake, then having to ride away naked when they couldn’t get dressed in time to evade the police who come up on them unexpectedly. This should hopefully endear the books a bit more to parents who struggle to find books for primary aged readers that aren’t about poo, bums, farts or other bodily fluids and functions.
In this tale, Tommy is right in the thick of the action during the robbery, and attention shifts away from Gardiner to Ben Hall, who is portrayed sympathetically. Again, the moral of the story is more nuanced than what you would normally find in a children’s book; Tommy uses his experience with Gardiner and Hall to reflect on his relationship with Francis in the present and comes to the conclusion that there is a compromise to be made between doing the right thing and being someone’s friend.
All three books feature bold, fun illustrations that are very stylised but suit the vibe of the text perfectly. The only criticism to be made on that front is that the costumes and such as illustrated tend to be based on American Westerns rather than the very distinct Australian style of the era. Nonetheless, it adds a little something to spice up the reading experience.
The first four Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy books are available in a boxed set from Big Sky Publishing (book four, Outback Adventure, featuring Harry Readford, alias Captain Starlight), and form a really neat set to get kids interested in bushrangers. From an educational standpoint, as much as a parental one, it is very hard to go part these books. If you have kids, or know someone who does, then these cone highly recommended.
Books four to six will be reviewed in a future Book Club.
If you would like to purchase the Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy books, you can find them online here.
In the Company of Madness by R.B.R. Verhagen
Few recent novels on the subject of Australia’s history focus on the light side, and In the Company of Madness is no exception. This is an intertwining narrative that takes the disparate strands of the lives of a bushranger, a priest and a soldier and braids them into a poetic, tragic and powerful human story about the foundations of Van Diemen’s Land and the human suffering that they were built on. What’s more, this is based on real people and events, and portrays them faithfully and in detail, which seems like more of a novelty than it should. Specifically, In the Company of Madness is about Alexander Pearce, Rev. Philip Connolly, Lt. John Cuthbertson and all their struggles in the fledgling southern colony.
Some bushranger enthusiasts will go into this book with at least a superficial knowledge of Pearce and his reputation as a cannibal; a fact that is handled artfully. They may also be familiar with the brutality of Macquarie Harbour, but Verhagen makes the suffering all the more savage by framing it through the lived experiences of convicts as well as through the tyranny of the overseers. The feeling of dread and hopelessness is palpable as one reads the artfully constructed prose. As for the murder and cannibalism, that is well handled as well, leaving most of the horror to the reader’s imagination, rather than revelling in the gruesome or gory.
The narratives chop and change throughout the book from chapter to chapter, while the whole is divided into three acts, a prologue and an epilogue. The text itself is rich and dense, and requires the reader to really take in what is being conveyed. This is not a book to be flicked through mindlessly while waiting at the airport, it demands the reader’s full attention.
Verhagen has evidently done diligent research in preparation for this book, and as a result his characters are not only authentic, but engaging. Enthusiasts of Tasmanian history will be pleased to see many important figures popping up such as Robert Knopwood and Lieutenant Governors Sorell and Arthur, as well as detailed descriptions of key environs such as Macquarie Harbour and Hobart Town. This interpretation of Van Diemen’s Land is alive and immersive, riddled with vice and full of people from all walks of life tumbled together in a barely functional penal colony.
It should come as no surprise that this is not a book for the faint-hearted as it contains a considerable amount of adult material. In the hands of a lesser writer this would come across as exploitative or merely titillation, but Verhagen uses the sordid side of the tales he is telling to highlight core truths about the human condition and the respective struggles faced by each core character. Pearce struggles against the brutal oppression and tyranny that he is subjected to, his humanity reduced to a crude approximation somewhere a little above a wild animal; Cuthbertson’s hubris and bigotry allows him to dehumanise those in his charge and torture them to death if only to scare the rest into compliance; Connolly struggles with his human urges and his devotion to Catholicism that requires their suppression. Readers should be aware that some of these moments are very confronting indeed and some may go so far as to find them distressing, so discretion is advised. For those who persevere with the book, it will be a rewarding and moving experience.
To supplement his book, Verhagen has curated a page of his website with maps, music and imagery to help round out the experience, which you can find here.
If you would like to procure a copy of In the Company of Madness, there is only very limited stock left, but can be purchased online here.
A special thanks to Jane Smith for providing copies of the Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy books for this review.
Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW : 1894 – 1954), Friday 9 July 1920, page 7
The Manning from 1865
From the Files of the ‘Manning River News,’ 1865 onwards.
(Reprinted from Wingham “Chronicle.”
April 28, 1865: The Annual.Show of the Hunter River Agricultural Association has just terminated. It is said that, as regards the number and quantity of the exhibits, the Show was a very great success. A prize amounting to nearly £25 was given to the Rev E. Holland (Port Macquarie) for sugar, which the judges considered first class; and also another prize of £1 for treacle, which was a was a superior marketable article, The same genteleman gained a third prize for cotton — which is said to have been a good specimen of the variety known as ‘Sea-Island.’
An inquest was held on the body of Morgan, the bushranger, on April 11th, 1865. It was fully identified by Mr Kidson, a squatter, at the Billabong, who was twice stuck up by Morgan; by Bronche, a pedlar, who had also been twice robbed by him; and by a servant girl from Dr Mackay ‘s station in N.S.W., where the bushranger had lately paid a visit. Following verdict was recorded: “The deceased, whom we believe to be Daniel Morgan, met his death from a gunshot wound inflicted by John Windlaw on the morning of the 9th of April, 1865, at Peechelba Station, on the Oven’s River; and we further consider that the homicide was justifiable; and we further consider that great praise is due to all in the capture of deceased.” Morgan’s head was taken to Melbourne and handed over to the medical authorities for scientific purposes; but decomposition had set in to such an extent as to render it nearly useless.
April 7, 1866; It will be remembered that the police party, under Mr Garvin, brought in Thunderbolt’s wife or mistress, and left her at Mr Hooke’s station. It appears that she left soon after the police, and was later captured by the Dungog party, and taken to Stroud. She was there charged with vagrancy, and sentenced to 6 months in Maitiand gaol. This woman stated that Thunderbolt had retired for a season to recover from his wounds — and she thought he would not live long.
April 28, 1866: Since Thunderbolt escaped from this district, he has been seen not far from the Namoi River. He is supposed to be now about the head of the Gloucester River.
In the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales on Thursday, April 5th, 1866, Mr Buchannan brought up the case of Thunderbolt’s wife, who he said had been illegally imprisoned by the Magistrates at Stroud. Mr Martin promised to inquire into the matter. Mr Hart and Dr Lang pronounced the proceedings grossly illegal.
April 28, 1866: Thunderbolt’s wife or mistress, has been discharged from gaol by order of the Government.
Oct 4th; 1865 (from Maitland “Mercury”): Yesterday afternoon we received from our Singleton correspondent a report which we give below of the discovery of gold ore on some of the head waters of the Hunter, flowing from the ranges dividing its valley from the valley of the Manning. We hope it may prove a really productive field; but it will be well to await further information before diggers hasten to the locality. Our correspondent writes as follows: — I hasten to inform you that gold has been struck at the table-land, at the head of the Barrington River, about 50 miles from Singleton. Gold is also stated to have been found in payable quantities in several of the gullies leading from the Mt Royal Range, at the head of Stewart’s Brook and Rouchel Brook, only about 35 or 40 miles from here. Rumours of this discovery have been afloat in Singleton for several days past; but it is only a day or so since it has oozed out that a party had found gold there some time ago. Being deficient in tools they had to return to Singleton. The gold found by the party is said to have been found in a drift near the surface, underneath which are heavy boulders; but the party were unable to remove these boulders for want of tools. This party is strengthened by several others, and numbering eight altogether are stated to have left Singleton for the new diggings this morning. Another party of six — amongst whom are several well known Singletonians, left here last Saturday for the new Eldorado. A good deal of excitement prevails in Singleton respecting the new diggings. — Singleton, 9th Oct, 1865.
Bushranger history has long been the province of male authors and historians, even as far back as 1818 with the infamous pamphlet Michael Howe: The Last and Worst of the Van Diemen’s Land Bushrangers by T. E. Wells being perhaps the first dedicated text on the subject. However, in recent years we have seen a new guard forming that is being largely driven by female authors and historians, whose unique perspectives on both an emotional and intellectual level have challenged long held beliefs and, in many cases, set the record straight by digging up information that has long been forgotten or ignored by their predecessors. The first signs of this shift in the 1970s when Margaret Carnegie wrote the first biography of Daniel Morgan, Morgan: The Bold Bushranger. It went beyond the oft-repeated hyperbole about how nasty Morgan was and returned to the source material with a fresh pair of eyes to sift through it all and get to the truth of the man rather than the infamous legend. Similarly, Dagmar Balcarek’s contributions in subsequent decades infused many bushranger stories with more feminine sensibilities and helped inject some life into what was seen at the time as stale and boring by many.
Here we will showcase some of the more notable individuals who are, at present, making a big impact on our understanding of some of the most notorious men (and women) in Australian history.
Carol Baxter is one of the most notable female historians where bushranging is concerned. Her biography of Frederick Wordsworth Ward and Mary Ann Bugg is the most definitive account to date, locking in place an understanding of the story derived from recorded facts rather than folklore and hearsay. This refusal to accept many of the long held assumptions and oral traditions has seen her looked down upon in some quarters, but respected by others. Baxter describes her situation succinctly on the website for her book:
I soon realised that the role of mediator had become my own. As a professional researcher, genealogist and historian, I had no personal connection to either Fred or Mary Ann and no pre-conceived ideas, prejudices or agendas. All I sought was the truth. And the truth was most surprising. Many of the well-known Thunderbolt and Mary Ann stories proved to be wrong. Utterly and unquestionably wrong. They were myths propagated by the ignorant and perpetuated by the gullible, and are still being voiced today – vociferously – by those with a personal, political or financial agenda.
Baxter’s background in genealogy has given her a knack for sniffing out information that is often overlooked or forgotten. Rather than regurgitating the same old stories about Thunderbolt that have done the pub circuit for 150 years, Baxter made an effort to find the truth of who the historical Ward and Bugg were. The result is a new understanding of these fascinating historical figures that has redefined how they are portrayed.
Not all librarians have a knack for writing, but in the case of Jane Smith it is certainly true. A desire to write children’s books cane to Smith after working with children in a library setting, resulting in her series of children’s non-fiction books on Australian bushrangers. Since then she has written a historical fiction series (Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy), and the definitive biography of Captain Starlight.
While most historians and authors have been more inclined to write about the Kellys, Ben Hall or Frank Gardiner, Smith’s decision to chronicle the life of the notorious Frank Pearson has gifted bushranger enthusiasts a detailed account of a frequently forgotten figure. The ability to put her resources to use in nailing down the narrative of a renowned conman, notable for his use of aliases, demonstrates her formidable prowess as a historian.
It is also important that so much of her work is aimed at younger audiences, as it reflects a desire to ensure these stories are kept alive into the future, which is essentially the purpose of historians and authors. In an interview with A Guide to Australian Bushranging, Smith explained what keeps her so engaged with researching and writing about bushrangers, and history in a broader sense:
I really enjoy history; I enjoy learning about how things were in the past and marvelling at the differences and similarities compared with life today. I think that knowing something of history is really important if you want to be a well-rounded human who can make informed decisions. When I was at school, however, I found history lessons boring. It seemed to me that history just meant memorising names and dates – and yet it’s so much more than that!
One of the most important things a historian must do is ask questions. In the case of Judy Lawson, her journey of exploration is a series of questions that started from one key query: did Tommy Clarke really murder the special constables in the Jingera Ranges?
This question resulted in her book The Clarke Bushrangers: A Clash of Cultures, which explores the crimes attributed to the Clarke bushrangers and the cultural context in which they arose. The discussion around the police murders raises more questions than answers, leaving the conclusion open for the reader to interpret rather than the author feeding their opinion as fact. By providing an alternative viewpoint on the crimes, Lawson has challenged the deeply held assumptions that have made the Clarkes a taboo subject in the Braidwood district for 150+ years.
The second edition of her book goes further, examining many of the other crimes attributed to the Clarkes and their associates in the same way, bringing readers to reassess their views. Ultimately, this was all born from encountering a depiction of events that contradicted the information that she had come upon herself independently. This assumption of guilt, combined with the assumption that the crimes were the result of some innate criminality, or simply the product of work-shy laggards who simply didn’t want to follow the rules proved irksome, and were motivations to set the record straight.
Today we can sit back in our climate controlled houses, complaining about our increasing weight while planning our next overseas trip and say well if they had lived an honest life they would not have had those dreadful things happen. But is that the answer? Can the events of the 1860s in Braidwood be attributed only the the fact that the boys were seen as dishonest? They were not in this class alone.
Judy Lawson, The Clarke Bushrangers: A Clash of Cultures
This assumption of guilt where many bushrangers are concerned has been all too common, but authors like Lawson are working hard to turn the tide.
Followers of A Guide to Australian Bushranging will be familiar with Georgina Stones, who has frequently contributed to the website and social media. Her work on Joe Byrne sheds light on parts of his story that had been overlooked or completely ignored by other historians, and has allowed Byrne’s story to be studied in much the same level of detail as Ned Kelly’s. Her ongoing project, An Outlaw’s Journal, is a mixture of her historical research and short stories based on, or inspired by, the recorded history. While this has, in some corners, attracted some level of controversy, Stones’ work does not shy away from some of the more taboo or risque aspects of Joe’s life and times. In her research she has uncovered some aspects of Joe’s early life not otherwise talked about such as his role as a witness in the murder case of Ah Suey, and his relationship to Ellen Salisbury.
Since then, Stones has also begun a second project titled Michael Howe: Governor of the Woods, which operates in much the same way as An Outlaw’s Journal. Her research has quickly redefined the way Howe is viewed, and is proving to be invaluable in learning the stories of his gang members, and the men that hunted them. Though the research is ongoing, the impact this has on our understanding of the early Tasmanian bushrangers is profound, and she has plans to release a book later this year.
Stones’ interest is firmly on peeling away the myths to uncover the forgotten histories of the bushrangers, but she is the first to admit that her age and gender play a significant role in how her work is perceived. During a live stream on A Guide to Australian Bushranging’s Facebook page she explained:
Sometimes I don’t think that we’re taken seriously for our work and I think we’re dismissed. I mean, I honestly believe sometimes that if I was a man perhaps some of my work might be taken a bit more seriously and I mightn’t be sometimes spoken down to as often as sometimes I am, which is a bit upsetting but true. I think people assume we are soft on these men, like because we’re females we’re just doe-eyed, but I don’t think that’s true. I think a lot of the time people like Judy Lawson and Carol Baxter, the reason why they’ve been able to kind of shine a new light is because as females we can kind of… understand things a bit different and deeply than maybe what men sometimes do.
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 portrayedso 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!
Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), Tuesday 30 April 1867, page 2
ROBBERY OF THE NORTHERN MAIL, BY THUNDERBOLT.
(From the Armidale Express, April 27.)
On Sunday night, about half-past nine, as Mr. Brereton was driving the down Northern mail coach, and had arrived about three miles on the Tamworth side of Bendemeer, a person rode up and asked if the escort was with the coach. On Mr. B replying in the negative, he was directed to bail up by the armed bushranger, who, he states was Thunderbolt, and in whose company was a lad (possibly the half-caste woman). After an unsuccessful attempt to proceed Mr. Brereton was obliged to comply with the demand and the coach was taken a convenient distance off the road into a scrub, and the bushranger ordered the only passenger, an old man, to throw out the mail bags, which he did. Thunderbolt then examined the letters, in which there appeared to be little money, but he pocketed what was believed to be a number of cheques. When about to decamp he told the mailman to gather up the opened letters. He and the lad then left, in the direction apparently of Hall’s Creek, on the Namoi. Nothing was taken from the driver or the passenger. It is believed that there was not much value in the mail, and from Armidale it appears there were no registered letters. The sticking up occurred close to one of Mr. Perry’s sheep stations, so near that the persons at the station heard people talking at a short distance, although they did not know what about. In the morning, on going down to the scrub, they saw that the mail had been robbed and reported it.
It is believed that prior to the robbery, Thunderbolt let loose a knocked-up horse, belonging to Mr Gill, outside Mr Perry’s paddock, from which he took a valuable horse of Mr Perry’s. The following being Easter Monday and a holiday, the news did not reach Armidale till the afternoon, when Inspector Brown left with some troopers for the scene of the robbery. But although police from Armidale, Bendemeer, Walcha, Tamworth and Nundle were out as soon as the report reached them, we can hear nothing of their having discovered any trace of Thunderbolt and his companion since they left the spot, although they made enquiries at the various stations, and endeavoured to intercept the bushranger at spots which he is now known to have passed on former occasions.
Tuesday, 24 May, 1870, began as any usual day would for Fred Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt. He arose early and left his camp at the big rock on horseback. The rock was a bizarre natural structure, like a huge marble defying physics to teeter on a cliff, split down the middle providing ample space to hide for a bushranger. On the way he met a man named Pearson who was en route from Salisbury Mountain. Ward asked Pearson if he would make it to Blanche’s Inn by going in that direction, to which he replied in the affirmative. Pearson was an old associate of Ward’s and asked if he remembered him from their days breaking in horses in Mudgee. Ward replied that he did but added that he could not stop to chat. After the brief interaction Ward rode off on his way. For months Ward had laid low, only emerging once in a while to resume his trade. Many had assumed that he had left New South Wales altogether. Now he was ready to get back to work and he thought he knew the perfect spot for highway robbery.
Blanche’s Inn was situated at Church Gully between Bendemeer and Uralla and it was here that Ward decided to work for the day. Before midday Ward had robbed three travellers, including the proprietor of the inn and his wife who were returning on a spring cart from an outing to Uralla. Ward deprived Mrs. Blanche of a purse then allowed them to continue on their way. Word reached the police in Uralla at 3:30pm when Giovanni Cappasoti, a hawker who had been one of the victims, made a complaint that a bushranger had stuck him up at Blanche’s Inn and stolen £3.13s.6d, a watch and chain, a gold nugget and jewellery. Cappasoti had been heading to the Uralla races from Tamworth when accosted. Following this he had gone into the inn for a drink, which Thunderbolt shouted him after following him inside. Cappasoti then drove his wagon to Donnington’s farm, took his horse out, and rode to the police station. In response to the news Senior Constable Mulhall and Constable Walker set out in pursuit of the infamous Captain Thunderbolt.
Ward was in the process of robbing a man when Senior Constable Mulhall came into view. The hapless victim had been taking a horse belonging to a Mr. Huxham into Armidale when Ward had bailed him up. The handsome grey horse Ward was on when Mulhall appeared was in fact Huxham’s and the man was attempting to get it back when they were interrupted. Spotting the trooper, Ward immediately turned and fired twice at the him, who returned fire twice. Ward took off towards Kentucky Creek, the stockman in pursuit. Mulhall turned back and met Walker who had been bringing up the rear.
“There is the wretch; I have exchanged shots with him. Shoot him,” Mulhall ordered Walker. Walker, dressed in plainclothes, immediately pursued Ward. The other man accidentally cut Walker off by blocking the path with his horse, which was evidently spooked by the commotion. As Walker drew his revolver he accidentally discharged it into the ground. Ward, believing he was being shot at, fired at Walker but missed. The bushranger took off as fast as the horse would take him, the trooper following suit.
For the prior seven years, Ward had been able to outride the police and escape capture at every opportunity, however this time he was missing the key ingredient for his success – his wife Mary Ann Bugg. In previous incidents, Mary Ann had often run interference for Ward, allowing herself to be captured in order to give her lover time to get away. Now that Ward was operating alone he was entirely reliant on his horsemanship and the speed and endurance of his horse.
Constable Walker galloped after Ward, brandishing his revolver and calling on the outlaw to halt in the name of the Queen. Ward replied by firing at the trooper with a pistol. The hooves of the animals churned up the dust, which coiled in large sandy coloured clouds behind them. The rhythmic pounding of the galloping passed through the bodies of the riders. Wind whipped at Ward’s thin curls and he jabbed his spurs into the horse’s flanks. Walker stuck to him like glue, matching every dodge and weave as they bounded over creeks and through bush for around an hour.
Finally Ward reached a junction of Chilcott’s Waterhole and Kentucky Creek. He dismounted and began to wade out into the waterhole. Walker rode to the bank, shooting Ward’s horse to make escape impossible should he double back. As Walker found a spot to cross, Ward climbed out of the waterhole and discarded his coat. He ran 120 yards up Kentucky Creek and crossed to the opposite bank. By now Walker had caught up and was by the creek with his pistol drawn. Ward returned the gesture. As they faced off Walker finally got a good look at the legendary Thunderbolt. Far from being a handsome, dashing highwayman in stolen finery, Ward was skinny, ill-kempt and balding. His sinewy hand flexed as he steadied his revolver towards the trooper.
“Who are you?” Ward demanded, confused by the policeman’s attire.
“Are you a trooper?”
“Yes, and a married man,” Walker stated.
“In that case, think of your family and keep off,” Ward barked.
“Will you surrender?”
“No! I will die first.”
Walker tightened his grip on the reins of his horse. He could feel his heart in his throat.
“Well, then it is you or I for it,” Walker said. With that he directed his mount into the water and the beast crashed into the creek, becoming totally submerged.
Ward, unable or unwilling to follow through with his bluff, rushed into the water attempted to drag Walker out of the saddle. Water splashed around them as they struggled, the horse becoming increasingly hard to control. Walker fired a shot into Ward’s left breast just below the clavicle. The ball punctured both lungs as it made its way out under the right shoulder blade. Ward collapsed into the water but the rose and lunged at Walker again, the trooper clubbing the bushranger in the head with the pistol. Ward uttered no words as he sank into the water. Walker waited for a reply, but none came. He rode back onto the bank of the creek and dismounted before wading into the water to recover the body. He dragged the drenched bushranger onto dry land but by now dusk was settling in. Walker rode back to Blanche’s Inn and procured a horse and cart to recover the body but by the time he reached the location again it was too dark to find the exact spot.
The following day at 3:00am, Walker and Senior Constable Scott returned to the junction of Kentucky Creek. To Walker’s consternation, the body was gone. The immediate panic was allayed after a brief search of the area when they found Ward’s dead body in the scrub on the opposite side of the road. After Walker had left Ward had just enough life left in him to drag himself across the road. As he made it into the scrub he collapsed and there he died alone in the night. The body was loaded into the cart and taken back to Blanche’s Inn. When the corpse was inspected by the troopers they found a collection of jewellery taken from the Italian hawker, a silver stop watch, a small gold nugget, imitation gold jewellery and a well-used meerschaum pipe. They also found an iron horseshoeing hammer that they suspected was Ward’s own. Ward was dressed in strapped moleskin trousers, long boots, two Crimean shirts, and had been wearing an old cabbage tree hat. After a post mortem was completed the corpse was photographed so that it could be identified without the body having to be viewed as there was not adequate facilities for the body to be preserved.
J. Buchanan, esquire, the local police magistrate, helmed the magisterial inquiry into the remains at 2:00pm on the Thursday. For six hours evidence was taken from Walker, Mulhall, Senior Constable Scott, Cappasoti the hawker, a banker named Ward who had been robbed by Thunderbolt near Moredun the previous April, Senior Sergeant Balls, Pearson, Blanche the innkeeper and Dr. Spasshat. The body was compared to the official description put out by police in October 1863: 5’8 1/4″ tall; pale, fallow complexion; light brown, curly hair; hazel eyes; mole on right wrist and two warts on the back of the middle finger of the left hand. Senior Sergeant Balls, who had been one of the guards on Cockatoo Island when Ward had escaped with Fred Britten, positively identified the body as Ward, as did Ward the banker, Pearson and Dr. Spasshat.
In consequence of his meritorious conduct, Alexander Binning Walker was given a promotion to the rank of Senior Constable and placed in charge of a station. He also received £32 from a subscription collected at the conclusion of the inquest.
It was considered by a great many people that the death of Captain Thunderbolt would signify an end to bushranging in New South Wales. By this point Ben Hall, Johnny Gilbert, John O’Meally, Dan Morgan, and Tommy Clarke were all dead, and Frank Gardiner was in prison along with scores of other bushrangers. Many were hopeful that now they could travel safely through the colony without fear of molestation, and they need not worry that their farms or stores would be raised. It was true that the peak of bushranging ended with Thunderbolt’s death, but it would be at least another fifty years before the scourge of bushranging had evaporated almost entirely.
Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder (NSW : 1913 – 1954), Thursday 24 December 1925, page 9
(NOTES BY JAS. R. SCOTT).
A very fine collection of firearms and other relics of the bushranglng and pioneering days has been got together by ex-Councillor Scott, of Cessnock. The collection consists of upwards of one hundred pieces, just a few of which are illustrated and described in the notes herewith. The collection is rich in military arms, by which the evolution of the British Service Rifle can be traced through the period of three centuries. A description of these will form the subject of another paper. —Editor.
“The Eagle” of 18/12/1925 contains an interesting article on certain phases of the Bad Old Days, from the pen of Mr. R. McNamara, of Mount View. Incidentally, he invites me to tell the story of my acquisition of Thunderbolt’s popgun. Also, of other relics. Very well. Listen!
No. 1 — The first weapon in the picture is a flint lock horse-pistol of English manufacture. Single barrel; smooth bore; 16 calibre. Length of barrel, 9½ inches; length over all, 20 inches, weight 4lbs. The principle of the weapon is this: The charge of coarse powder is rammed home (as in ordinary muzzle loading guns; then the wad (generally paper): next the bullet (just about the size of a bottle-oh” marble: and lastly the second wad or paper. That is the “loading” operation. To “prime” the weapon (to prepare it for firing), a small quantity of finer powder is placed in the “pan,” to connect through a vent or touch-hole in the breech with the powder-charge within the barrel. The “anvil” — the piece projecting in front of the hammer — is then closed over the pan. The hammer is a vyce, gripping a piece of flint. When the trigger is pressed this flint is forced into contact with the anvil, which it causes to rise upon a spring, exposing the “priming” — the fine powder. Simultaneously a shower of sparks is emitted from the flint in its semi-circular frictional contact with the anvil. These sparks ignite the priming, which in turn (bar accidents) ignites the charge. It sometimes happens that the ignited priming fails to connect through the vent. (Hence our saying — “A flash in the pan” — a harmless fiasco. Similarly, another saying, “Keep your powder dry” — has its origin in the flint-lock. And who has not heard of one person “priming” another?) In the event of a mis-fire, the weapon could be used as a club; and for this purpose the stock is heavily bound in brass. The flint-lock pistol dates from 1776.
No. 2. — The second weapon illustrated is a percussion-lock horse-pistol of Danish manufacture; Single-barrel. Smooth-bore; 18 calibre. Length of barrel, 9 inches; length overall, 19 inches; weight 3lbs. The butt is steel-shod, so that the weapon, upon mis-firing, or after discharge, may be reversed and used as a club. The bullet-mould (bottom left of picture) accompanies this weapon. The calibre is inscribed in Roman numerals (XVIII). The percussion principle (nipple and cap) dates from 1830.
No. 3. — The third arm is a six-chambered muzzle-loading revolver, of English manufacture (Joseph Bourke: London and Birmingham). The calibre is equivalent to that known in modern arms as ‘point-four-five’ (.45 of an inch diameter). The bore of the barrel, is rifled in thirteen grooves — an unlucky number for the man in front! Length of barrel, 7½ inches; of chambers, 15 inches; length over all, 17 inches; weight, 31bs. The weapon is hammerless, and the whole of it is highly engraved. A silver shield is fitted to the stock — intended for the owner’s initials or crest; amid a neat cavity in the butt, with spring trapdoor, is provided for holding the caps. Each of the six chambers bears the proof mark of the British Government. Made in 1865, it was evidently the last word in revolver construction in those far-off days.
No. 4. — This is a six-chambered pinfire revolver — the earliest type of breech-loader. The pin-fire principle dates from 1847. The specimen illustrated is of later date. It is of Belgian manufacture, bearing on the various parts the proof-marks of the Belgian Government (E.L. over G. In the circle) The calibre is 9 millimetres — the equivalent of the English and American “point-three-eight” (.38 in. diameter). Length of barrel, 6 inches; of chambers, 1¾ inches; length over all, 18 inches; weight 1½lbs. A close scrutiny of the illustration will show that the hammer has no projection — or striker. This is accounted for by the fact that ignition is secured by a “pin” or striker being fitted into the base of the cartridges. In action, this pin protrudes through a slot in the side of the chamber, projecting at right angles to the plane thereof. Modern revolver ammunition is convenient and safe, but the handling of the pin-fire variety in vogue in the days of our grandfathers was playing with sudden death. The various weapons depicted and described in detail herewith have come into my possession at different times and under different circumstances. No. 1 (the flint-lock horse-pistol) was carried by the bushranger, Patrick Bruen during his escapades in and around Cessnock in February, 1843. Bruen was an escaped Wollombi convict, the story of whose shooting and capture by Crawford’s party, in Black Creek, Cessnock, on February 14, 1843, was recounted in detail in this journal by the present writer some time ago.
JEW BOY AND THUNDERBOLT
No. 2 (the percussion-lock horse pistol) was part of the equipment of the ‘Jew Boy’ Gang (Edward Davis and others). Those familiar with the story of the capture of this gang by a mixed party of soldiers and civilians headed by Captain Edward Denny Day, Maitland’s celebrated police magistrate, at Doughboy Hollow (now Ardglen), on the eve of Christmas, 1840, will remember that two of the gang were surprised at the campfire, engaged in moulding bullets for future use. One of the bullet-moulds is illustrated. Both of the horse pistols were presented to me by descendants of men intimately associated with the capture of the respective desperadoes. No. 3 (the muzzle-loading sixshooter) is a relic of “Thunderbolt.” At the time of the last exploit of this bushranger, in May, 1870, the well known telegraph contractor, John Doyle, J.P., of Cessnock, was engaged on a telegraph contract near Uralla. His camp cook (one John Lynch) was an eye-witness of part of the ride for life. At one stage of the journey something fell to the roadway from the flying horseman. Lynch picked it up, took it to his tent, and said nothing. In due course the body of Frederick Ward was identified at an inquest held at Uralla before Mr. Coroner Buchanan, J.P., when a verdict of justifiable homicide was returned. Lynch still said nothing, and kept on saying it until the completion of the telegraph contract. Then, before going on the wallaby, he intimated to his late “boss” that he was not desirous of being a travelling representative for ironmongery, and, producing the murderous looking weapon, with holster complete, and loaded and capped, explained how he had come by it. An inspection of the holster (which had the “flap” removed, and the revolver butt projecting so as to be readily gripped upon emergency) shows that the stitching of the “keeper” — the strap which the belt passes through — had given out, thus allowing the three-pound weight to fall. When one remembers that Ward’s revolver, with which the duel with Constable Walker was fought, was subsequently found in the waters of Kentucky Creek, with one chamber null charged and the cap, bearing the impress of the hammer, indicating a mis-fire, one realises that but for the merest accident the story of Thunderbolt might have had to be told in very different terms. Lynch told his late employer that he had better take the fire-arm and when going on his way his pocket held something of more use to him than a “squirt” — a photo of the Queen, minted in gold. Forty-five years later (In November, 1916) this interesting trophy of the bad old days was passed on to me by Mr. Doyle after he had made an inspection of my collection of ancient arms, which, during the Great War, I had on exhibition for patriotic purposes.
IF IT COULD SPEAK
Respecting No. 4 (the pin-fire revolver): If this weapon could speak, it could probably tell a story worth listening to. Its history is unknown, beyond this: that in 1900, with an old pair of handcuffs, it was found by a schoolboy in a cavity under a large log in McGrane’s paddock, Cessnock, just about where Mr Walter Phee, J.P, of Love Street lives to-day. The relic bears no marks indicating Government ownership, (police weapons are broad arrow-branded, and engraved, “New Stouth Wales Police”), thus discounting the theory that some bold, bad man (say “Yellow Billy”) had been “having a lark” with ”the law.” The schoolboy of 1900— now Mr Thomas Frederick Higgins, J.P., of Newcastle — held his “find” for 16 years, when he presented it to my collection.
Many tall tales are told of the various bushrangers from the “glory” days of the 1860s. It must have seemed at one stage that every man and his mother had a story to tell of Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner, Johnny Gilbert, Blue Cap, Dan Morgan or Captain Thunderbolt. Through these yarns, well-spun and oft-repeated, many of the falsehoods generated to raise one’s standing among barflies were accepted as fact and the facts forgotten in favour of the more preferable “big fish” stories. Perhaps owing to his longevity, Frederick Wordsworth Ward, alias Thunderbolt, became the subject of much myth-making. Even today, people maintain beliefs in things like Thunderbolt’s hidden treasure or that he was never really killed, simply because the idea of a colonial Robin Hood with a name that conjures images of a dashing highwayman, on a braying steed illuminated in the night by the jagged streak of a bolt of lightning, are far more exciting than the reality of a robber who was considered more of a nuisance than a bold outlaw. So when someone comes forward with a story of meeting Thunderbolt that portrays him as neither a dashing highwayman or even a competent bushman, it leads one to think that there may be more than a grain of truth in the tale. So it is with this anonymous article, published in 1902 – just over thirty years after Thunderbolt was killed.
Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW : 1900 – 1954), Wednesday 19 November 1902, page 2
In digging among some musty old newspapers I came across a communication headed ‘Recollections of Thunderbolt,’ which may interest the reader : — “As my acquaintance with Thunderbolt was of very recent date prior to his being shot, it has occurred to me that it might interest the majority of your readers (Armidale Telegraph, August, 1870) were I to give an account of the leading occurrences of his life, as narrated to me by the bushranger himself since the time he took up lawless pursuits. My first introduction to the freebooter arose in this wise: My father and myself, who are miners, were engaged in prospecting in a very wild and desolate part of the district of New England, situated among the gorges at the head of Guy Fawkes, a tributary of the Clarence. And here, while we were engaged in driving our packhorses over a creek, we one day encountered a lone bushman, who joined our party. The man was dressed in moleskin trousers, long boots and spurs, Crimean shirt, and rough high hat. He bestrode a horse which was more remarkable for strength than beauty, and carried, rather ostentatiously, as I thought, a revolver in his belt. The stranger seemed equally surprised with my father and myself at the meeting, and after merely exchanging the compliments of the day, rode off, and disappeared in the neighboring ravines. My father, who told me afterwards that he had known Ward personally at an earlier period of his career, said, ‘Did you know who that was?’ And on my answering him in the negative, replied, ‘That is Thunderbolt.’ After the bushranger’s departure we continued our work for some hours till the sun was getting low, and when we settled in camp for the night and were seated at the fire I was surprised on looking round to see the mounted bushranger at my back. He accosted me by saying, ‘Good evening, stranger,’ and inquired whether I had seen any horses about. After telling him that I had not he inquired the name of the nearest station, and how far it was away. I said that Nowland’s or Newby’s was the nearest, the latter being called ‘Paddy’s Land’, which was 12 miles off. ‘And what may your name be?’ said the bushman. ‘My name is —, and the man with me is my father.’ Thunderbolt thereupon dismounted, hobbled his horse, and spent the night with us. He revived his old acquaintanceship with my father, gave us an account of his later career and the robberies, perils, and hardships of his bushranging life. He refused the proffered shelter of our tent, remarking that for the last seven years he had never slept but for one night in a bed, and preferred camping in his own blankets outside. I had never seen the bushranger before, and was much struck with the mildness of his conversation, the candor of his narratives, and the justness of his views regarding his unlawful courses. I was astonished at his tales, and felt much commiseration for the misguided and unhappy criminal. His account of his daring and courageous escape from Cockatoo, seven years before, more particularly interested me, as I had often heard it stated by those well qualified to give an opinion that he never could have swum from the island, by reason of the distance, not less than on account of the number of sharks, and that he must have been assisted by some confederate in a boat. The way he told he accomplished his escape was by getting a fellow prisoner, as a first step, to build him up and secrete him in a quantity of bricks lying near the water. There in silence he lay, awaiting the approach of night. He heard, with anything but satisfaction, an officer order a party of convicts to place upon the bricks a quantity of lime, in bags, a small cargo of which had been landed at the island. The order was executed, and for a short time the bushranger was under the idea that he would be smothered. At dark he commenced to disentomb himself, and after many struggles succeeded. He heard the sentries marching their round by the margin of the island, one of whom was posted just opposite to where he lay concealed. The first idea which occurred to him was to run and tumble the guard into the water and swim away, but, fortunately for the sentry, he himself rendered such a step unnecessary by withdrawing to have a chat with his comrade, during which the bushranger glided into the water and swam three miles to a place of safety. He hated the bondage of Cockatoo and its convict company, and seemed to regard it as a place little better than the infernal regions. Besides his natural hatred of confinement, another object, he said, induced him to effect his escape from Cockatoo, which was a desire to shoot his uncle, who, he affirmed, bore false witness against him, thereby leading to his conviction on a charge of horsestealing, of which he was quite innocent. This revengeful purpose forsook him as he was swimming, when he formed a resolution to shed no blood on any account, and his whole criminal career was free from cruelty, treachery, and bloodshed.
‘Thunderbolt was a generous robber, if a term like that can be applied to such a criminal. He related to us how he had occasionally visited Queensland, Liverpool Plains, the Gwydir, and other districts in the course of his predatory life. He boasted that he was not afraid of the police, because they were no bushmen, and unable, consequently, to ride after him. He referred, among other encounters he had had with the police, to one at the Rocks at Uralla (near the spot where he ultimately met his death), where the police, under Sergeant — now Superintendent — Grainger, attacked him and his mate, and wounded him. He said his horse got bogged and that he limped away on foot, the police not daring to follow him. He confessed to having been hard pressed at times, particularly on one occasion by a Constable named Dalton, near Tamworth, who he said was a brave man. On one occaslon he said he had robbed the mail of £1700, but he seldom had as much money as would pay his way, which he always did when possible. He had often to endure great hardships for want of food, and more especially for want of water. On one occasion, in company with another bushranger, during drought, they were three days without water. His mate’s horse died and the rider succumbed, and lay down to die also. Thunderbolt left him in search of water, assuring him of his return if he found it. His own hunger and thirst increased to such a degree that he shot his horse for the purpose of drinking its blood, after which he collected a quantity in his boot for future supply. Wandering about for more than a day he came upon sludge, and sucked the muddy water from the earth, but could collect none for his mate. Looking about, he saw a hole covered with a piece of bark, but no water in it. He continued his search, and found other holes covered in like manner, and dry. At last, on lifting a piece of bark, imagine his delight on discovering about a bucket of water in a hole. After refreshing himself he filled his boots, and travelled back to where he left his dying mate, from whom he found the breath of life just departing. Wetting his lips, and gradually supplying him with more water, he recovered strength, and joined Thunderbolt in his journey. New England was the chief place of the bushrangers’ resort. He was afraid to leave what he deemed his safe haunts in that district and imperil his liberty by attempting to escape to a foreign country. It was his proud boast that he never violated female virtue, nor shed blood, and he regretted that he should ever have induced youths to join him. Some had joined him unasked: He himself was 16 years of age before he was guilty of any crime, and then he was led by others into it. Although in appearance he looked between 40 and 50 years of age, he was not more than 30. It was a peculiarity of Thunderbolt’s that he could never rob anyone with with whom he had first entered into conversation, his nature would not permit him, hence his custom was to ride up to a person whom it was his intention to rob, and, without another word, demand his money. He pretended never to have known what fear was and instanced this by telling a story of some gentleman in New England who had made a boast that he would shoot him the first he met him. A short time after Thunderbolt met the boaster and saw that he was armed. Boldly riding up to him the bushranger asked his name, and he told him. He intimated that he knew who he was, adding that he was Thunderbolt. The gentleman, he said, trembled and fumbled for his revolver, observing which he cried out, ‘Up with your arms, or I’ll blow your brains out. You were to shoot me, now is my time.’ He then took from him his gold watch and a revolver, the gentleman expecting as a matter of course to be shot. Thunderbolt, however, assured him of his safety, and rode many miles along with him on his way. In company with one of his youthful proteges he one day stuck up a public-house where a number of men were drinking in the bar. He entered and, according to the usual fashion, ordered them to ‘bail up’. The publican, calculating how a compliance with the demand would affect his cash box, made a desperate leap and seized the bushranger by the arms in a way which prevented him from using his revolver ; the half-drunken men stolidly looking on during the struggle without rendering assistance. His young mate began to think Thunderbolt was captured, and before proceeding to remount his horse called out, ‘What shall I do?’ ‘Your knife,’ replied the bushranger, ‘Let his bowels out.’ At once the boy’s knife was unsheathed, seeing which, Boniface instantly released his hold and ran for shelter. The bushranger admitted this to have been the narrowest escape from capture he had ever experienced.
“The morning following the conversation just related Thunderbolt rose up early, before we were astir, and rode away up the creek. About an hour after he brought down, a mob of young horses, which he rounded among some large rocks near our camp. Pointing to a high-bred animal, be said, ‘I want that one,’ and with a little trouble he had him roped and saddled. The horse, which had never before been tackled, he proceeded to mount, when it bucked in a most furious manner until completely exhausted. Thunderbolt then riding off on it, leading another horse. The thought possessed me for a moment to capture the bushranger, and the opportunity was a good one, for he was most careless and confiding ; but I felt unable to betray the confidence be seemed to repose in us. On an after-occasion, when meeting him at Puddledock, the same thought possessed me respecting his capture, and the same feeling of reluctance to betray one so confiding prevented me. The thought and object of his life must have been to elude capture, and I am inclined to think, from the recklessness he showed in encountering the police at Kentucky Creek, that he rather courted death than shunned it.”