"Just at the crossroads" Uralla by iandsmith
Uralla Travel Guide: 20 reviews and 70 photos
Uralla is one of the old stage coach stop towns. The next one on is Armidale which has always been a money town. Uralla may well have sunk into oblivion but it's held on and, in some small way, prospered. A bit of community pride has helped along the way with one award winning park and another, more recent, having some notable sculptures in it.
The main thing that has happened though has been the tar sealing of Thunderbolt's Way, named after yet another of Australia's anti-heroes as he was a bushranger.
Forgotten of course are the police who chased him. Such is the way of Australian folklore.
The road links Gloucester to the south with the New England Highway and is a shorter route to Armidale from places like Newcastle and Sydney and has resulted in a slight increase in traffic. Traffic that will ultimately secure Uralla's future.
As for the man it's named after, he has a very colourful history.Thunderbolt began his life as Frederick Ward at Wilberforce near Windsor, N.S.W., in either 1835 or another reference states 16th May 1836. The birth date is not recorded. His father was a convict, Michael Ward, transported to the colony in the “Indefatigable" in May 1815 and his mother Sophia arrived two months later in the "Northampton". About 1846, upon Michael gaining his convict freedom, the whole family moved to the Maitland area.
Fred Ward as a youth became well known for breaking and training horses. When he was about 20 years of age he fell foul 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.
Fred Ward and James Garbutt were sentenced to ten years each with hard labour to the infamous Cockatoo Island prison in Sydney Harbour. 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 sometime in September I861, possibly at Stroud. After their marriage he borrowed a horse to report to 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 .
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.
The two men separated and Ward alone robbed the tollbar at Campbells 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".
Thus began the bushranging legend of Fred Ward, also known as Captain Thunderbolt.
The following list records crimes purported to have been enacted by Thunderbolt and his gang over the following years:
- 25 mail coach robberies
- 16 hotels and stores
- 16 stations and residences
- 6 hawkers
- 1 tollbar gate
- 80 thefts of horses
- 1 escape from lawful custody
and numerous firing on Police in their line of duty.
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