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26-August-2016 (Russell Byers)
26-August-2016 (Russell Byers)

Photographs supplied by Diane Watson / David Evans OAM / Russell Byers / Roger Johnson

The sculpture commemorates the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt (1835 - 1870). The sculpture was erected as a bicentenary project. 

Captain Thunderbolt was born Fred Ward in 1836 at Wilberforce near Windsor New South Wales. In his bushranging career he robbed properties and hotels in the New England area, and bailed up many innocent travellers, including the mail coach `stick up` at Split Rock near Uralla, New South Wales.

In 1866 the Colonial Secretary`s Office posted a reward of 100 Pounds for his capture, which was raised to 200 Pounds by mid 1867 and 400 Pounds in December 1869. Thunderbolt was shot dead by Constable Walker in May 1870 after a long chase on horseback. Ward`s career had seen him involved in more than eighty major hold-ups and robberies, which netted him almost 20,000 Pounds . Much of this money, however, was in cheques and half notes, useless to a bushranger. It is interesting that the reward of 400 Pounds, did in no way match the value of several of the race horses which Thunderbolt rode, which were in excess of 1000 Pounds.

The tiny New England community of Uralla is split by a dispute over a bronze statue honouring one of Australia's most infamous criminals, the bushranger known as Captain Thunderbolt. The statue has been created with the aid of a $70,000 grant from the NSW Bicentennial Council. Many of the locals believe it will be a great tourist drawcard, but others say it is a travesty to glorify a man who shot three policemen during his wild career.  The problem is that the statue transforms a vicious criminal into something "that looks like the Singing Cowboy", according to the author of a book chronicling Thunderbolt's life and crimes, Bob Cummins, of Moree. Mr Cummins is the former president of the Uralla Thunderbolt Committee. "What it looks like is a bloke riding a bloody great horse, and he looks as if he is unarmed and singing happily, for God's sake," he said.

"This is the bloke who shot three NSW policemen, and who was described in his obituaries as 'the greatest criminal this or any other colony has ever produced'. He committed 80 crimes punishable by hanging, and he and his wife ran around the country sticking up the mails, raiding homesteads, stealing from rich and poor alike, and he even pinched little kid's money boxes. He lifted some of the best racehorses in the country, and rode a lot of them to death. For him to be glamorised in a romantic way on the basis of helping tourism is just rubbish.

I just can't understand what the bicentennial authority thought it was doing. I believe this is the first time in the world that a government has paid to glorify a man who has shot policemen." Mr Cummins said the bitterness stirred up by the issue had resulted in neighbours not talking to neighbours, and business people feuding with farmers. The Uralla Shire Clerk, Mr Les Hullick, said he thought Mr Cummins was trying to stir up a controversy in an effort to promote his new book, which was one of four on the subject of Captain Thunderbolt  But he admitted "there is talk of a protest when the statue finally goes up". "People are saying the statue doesn't look like Thunderbolt is armed, but he clearly is," Mr Hullick said.
Selected text from an article published in the Canberra Times
28th February 1988.



Address:Bridge Street (New England Highway) & Salisbury Street, Uralla, 2358
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -30.642528
Long: 151.499157
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Sculpture
Monument Theme:People
Artist:Dennis Adams


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Sunday 4th September, 1988
Front Inscription

Plaque :

1788 - 1988

Bushranger "Thunderbolt"

"Thunderbolt" committed many robberies, bailing-up mail coaches & private homes in the Liverpool Ranges & New England District.

He was shot dead by Constable Walker in 1870 & is buried in Uralla.

An Australian Bicentennial Project, with financial assistance from the New South Wales Government

Plaque :

Bushranger Thunderbolt

This statue was sculpted by Dennis Adams. 

It was officially unveiled by Mr. Ray Chappell M.P Member for Northern Tablelands on 4th September, 1988.

S.Williams Shire President. 
C Dawson BiCentennial Committee Chairperson.  
L Hullick Shire Clerk.

Source: MA, ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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