1870 Captain Thunderbolt (Frederick Ward), the notorious Australian bushranger, was allegedly shot dead by Constable AB Walker. Thunderbolt had been the scourge of inns and mail coaches around Bourke and Uralla, New South Wales, and had done at least 80 robberies netting him £20,000. Many of these ill-gotten gains, however, were in the form of cheques and half notes, pretty useless to a highwayman out in the Armidale tablelands wilderness.
A number of years ago I sometimes used to stay on Cockatoo Island, in Sydney Harbour. The house I stayed in had once been the mansion of the governor of the notorious Cockatoo Island Prison that existed during the convict days of Australia – like a mini-Alcatraz or Robbin Island. In the old sandstone prison yard I have seen the iron rings on the walls, with which prisoners were restrained as they were scourged with the cat o’ nine tails, a leather whip sometimes made more fearsome by the addition of small pieces of sharp lead at the end of nine knotted thongs. Cockatoo has only recently been opened to public tours so visitors can get a feel for what a terrible living tomb it was.
On September 11, 1863, Fred Ward and Frederick Britten were the only prisoners ever to escape from the hell of that place, which they did by covering their heads with boxes and swimming a kilometre or so to land. Some say that Thunderbolt was shot dead on May 25, 1870, but a respectable theory has it that Thunderbolt lived a long life and died in a Sydney boarding house in the 1920s ...
Categories: australia, bushranger, history, biography, law, legal, crime