Monday, February 18, 2013

Captain Thunderbolt - Australian Bushranger

Death of Thunderbolt -  Australian Town & Country Journal 4 June 1870

Frederick Wordsworth Ward (1835 -1870) was the colonial born son of the convict Michael Ward and his wife Sophia. He grew up in the Windsor district as one of a large family, and later worked as a rural worker on properties in the Hunter Valley. In 1856, with others, he was convicted of the theft of 45 horses and was sentenced to ten years hard labour at Cockatoo Island prison in Sydney Harbour. In 1860 Ward was released on a ticket of leave for the Mudgee district that restricted him to remain in that district to work. While there he met Mary Ann Bugg with whom he had several children, but after breaking his bond conditions, he was sent back to Cockatoo Island in 1863. 

On 14 September, with another prisoner, he managed to escape by swimming across the harbour from Cockatoo Island to the northern shore. From there they went north to the Hunter Valley and Ward later teamed up with Mary Ann and others to form a bushranging gang. With a variety of gang members over successive years Ward roamed across the New England District committing numerous offences including robbing mail coaches, inns and stores. Despite the mythology that later developed about Ward as Captain Thunderbolt, he was a notorious bushranger. Fred Ward was finally caught and killed in a shootout with the troopers at Kentucky Creek near Uralla on 25 May 1870.

Amelia Ward was Fred Ward's elder sister and in 1838 she married James Gough (junior) the eldest son of James Gough. They lived at Windsor in the Hawkesbury district and had eleven children. In 1857 they visited Ward while he was imprisoned in Cockatoo Island jail.

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