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The concept behind Thunderbolt Tours... and a piece of Australian colonial history!

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The Concept

A place that is likely world's away from your everyday. Where the majesty of Mother Nature reigns supreme. It might be on a remote highway in the NSW outback. Or a forgotten byway nestled somewhere within the grandeur of the USA Great Plains. It is somewhere, anywhere within here that, for the last 10 years, we have tracked down majestic organised severe thunderstorm, known as supercells, and their progeny; incredible lightning, hail and tornadoes. This is a reality witnessed by a lucky few. Gradually we began to share this unique and incredible perspective, with others. First was the development of Australia's largest severe weather resource, Australian Severe Weather, in 1995. It soon became clear to us that there was indeed a healthy latent interest 'out there' in documenting severe thunderstorms, lightning and tornadoes. Our storm chasing reports provided you with a taste of our world in BIG weather. Thunderbolt Tours was born in 2001 and now provides 'THE experience'!   Why not come and experience it for yourself! Find out more about our upcoming tours!

Who/What is a Thunderbolt?

In Australia, The Thunderbolt legend lives on in the New England district of northern New South Wales and especially around Uralla. This area is within a severe thunderstorm corridor of NSW.       For almost six years and six month Fred Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt), was pursued by regular mounted Police, especially commissioned bounty hunters and enlisted Aboriginal trackers. Bushrangers were regarded as heroes by the battling small landholders that also recognised their common enemy as the Government and the Law. They considered Thunderbolt to be a victim of circumstance and they sympathised and identified with him. Of all the bushrangers who engaged in their illegal and often colourful careers in Australia during the first 100 years of white settlement, Thunderbolt, hero or horse thief, was at large for probably the longest period. A little Australian colonial history.......... "Fred Ward as a youth, became well known for breaking and training horses. When he was about 20 years of age he fell fowl of the Law. Helped by James Garbutt, they drove stolen horses from his brother William "Harry" Ward and Michael Blake's farm at Lambs Valley for sale at the Windsor sale yards. Several of the horses were recognised as being Messrs. Zuill and Reynolds' property. Others were marked with the famous Tocal brand. (i). Fred Ward and James Garbutt were sentenced to ten years each with hard labour to the infamous Cockatoo Island prison in -Sydney Harbour. (ii) On the 1st July 1860 Fred Ward was released on a ticket-of-leave to work in the Mudgee district. While working near Mudgee, he made acquaintance of Mary Ann Bugg, a well educated half-cast aboriginal girl who had been recently widowed. When she returned to the Hunter Valley to take up work at Dungog, Ward followed her. They married some time in September I861, possibly at Stroud. (iii) After their marriage he borrowed a horse to report the Mudgee Police for muster, but on arriving late he found his ticket-of-leave revoked for failure to "attend muster". In addition he was charged with stealing the horse and was sent to serve the remainder of his original sentence. Two weeks after Fred Ward's return to prison, Mary Anne Bugg gave birth to their first child, Marina Emily Ward. (iv) Mary Anne Bugg followed Fred Ward to Sydney and assisted him and another prisoner, Fred Britten, to escape from Cockatoo Island. They swam through shark infested water to the mainland on the night of 11th September 1863. The two men headed for New England and stole a double-barreled gun and some pork from a widow on Gostwyck run, near Uralla. Several days later, Sergeant Grainger came upon the escapees attempting to hold up a mail coach at the "Split Rocks" (soon to become known as "Thunderbolt Rock") south of Uralla. Fred Ward was shot through the knee but managed to escape. (v) The two men separated and Ward alone robbed the tollbar at Campbell's Hill near Maitland. He proceeded to pound on the wall of the office and demanded the surrender of the toll money. It was this act which earned him the name "Thunderbolt".   Fred Ward relied on his ability to outwit and out distance the mounted Police and he would only resort to gunfire to hasten proceedings or when being fired upon. He was frequently joined by other outaws, but at times they became a liability. This brief account is typical of a bushranger's life, "Fred Ward has again made his appearance in these parts by sticking up the mail man and rifling the mail bags. The mailman, after crossing a creek and on gaining the further bank, heard a horseman ride up behind him and order, 'Bail up'. He was ordered about 80 metres away while Thunderbolt opened and rifled anything of value, including an amount of gold from the pouch of the saddle."     Story researched and written by Arnold Goode of Uralla, NSW

© 2001-2009 Thunderbolt Tours

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