Bushranger Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt)
and Mary Ann Bugg
Message from your host, Carol Baxter
Holding a contract from publishers Allen & Unwin for a book about bushranger Frederick Ward and his part-Aboriginal lover Mary Ann Bugg, I innocently stepped into the “Captain Thunderbolt and Mary Ann” paddock and found myself in a minefield. Warring parties were camped on either side. Punches had been thrown (reportedly) and insults continued to fly – all over events that happened a century-and-a-half ago!
How was I to steer a safe course? There was no umpire stationed between the camps, no mediator to professionally assess all the evidence and separate fact from myth. So I ducked my head, redid all the research using primary-source records, and wrote Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady: the true story of bushrangers Frederick Ward and Mary Ann Bugg (see also Acknowledgements).
I soon realised that the role of mediator had become my own. As a professional researcher, genealogist and historian, I had no personal connection to either Fred or Mary Ann and no pre-conceived ideas, prejudices or agendas (see Me). All I sought was the truth.
And the truth was most surprising. Many of the well-known Thunderbolt and Mary Ann stories proved to be wrong. Utterly and unquestionably wrong. They were myths propagated by the ignorant and perpetuated by the gullible, and are still being voiced today – vociferously – by those with a personal, political or financial agenda. They have even found their way into a novel, Thunderbolt: Scourge of the Ranges. Yet they are surprisingly easy to disprove, as I have done in the Myths Debunked pages. Astonishingly, the myth perpetuaters are discredit the evidence, not by presenting rebuttal evidence (they haven't any, as the myth-debunking pages show) but by attempted character-assassination.
History is about evidence, not belief. Evidence needs to be presented by historians in a scholarly, erudite fashion so that others can readily assess its merits. Everyone has the right to question a historian's conclusions and, if their own conclusions differ, then they should present their evidence and conclusions in an equally calm, reasoned and erudite manner. A good historian will consider these arguments and, if the arguments are sound, re-assess their position. Those who choose character-assassination – or attempted character-assassination – rather than reasoned historical debate are communicating loudly and clearly that they have no evidence whatsoever to back up their claims.
This Thunderbolt website serves as both a back-up to my book (which is already critically-acclaimed – see Reviews) and as an information source in its own right. It does not extol myths or beliefs or family stories; rather it documents exhaustive primary-source research: annotated Timelines detailing all the facts discovered for Fred Ward and Mary Ann Bugg and their families, including all of Fred's robberies; articles that deal with controversial issues; brief but accurate biographies of Fred and Mary Ann; photocopies and transcriptions of original records including birth, marriage and death certificates (see Index); indeed everything necessary to ensure accuracy and historical transparency so you can determine the truth for yourself. The only problem is that it now contains so much information it can seem overwhelming so I have begun a Blog to make it easier to digest. The blog will include summaries of the evidence, links to the more detailed evidence for those who are curious to read more, and announcements of exciting things to come.
Fred Ward and Mary Ann Bugg are an intriguing couple and it is time their true story was told. I hope you will enjoy this journey through Australia's fascinating past.
Photograph of Thunderbolt statue by C Goodwin
8 Aug 2013: Free newsletter. My email mailing list has now become a six-page monthly newsletter. Click here to see copies. If you subscribe to the mailing list you will receive the newsletters as email attachments every month (and be in the draw for free books when they are published).
12 Mar 2013: Free books: Join my email mailing list to be informed when I have a new book being published. My next book, The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable comes out internationally on 5 September. Everyone on my mailing list will go in the drawer for a free book when it comes out. You can send me your details via my Contacts page.
8 Jan 2013: Thunderbolt Conspiracy talk is being aired on A-PAC channel (see Blog)
22 Jul 2012: Thunderbolt heritage sites gazetted (see Blog)
6 Jul 2012: I've just heard that my book has been longlisted for the Davitt Awards (awards for women crime writers).
26 Feb 2012: Link to Exposing an Exposé: Fact versus fiction in the resurrection of Captain Thunderbolt (Journal of Australian Studies, March 2012)
8 Feb 2012: "Captain Thunderbolt conspiracy debunked". The breaking news is on every major online newspaper in the country as well as AAP and World News. Amazing. Go to my Blog for further information.
24 Dec 2011: Seasons greetings to all. Lots of interesting information to come in the new year.
22 Oct 2011: "Carol Baxter is doing for Australian history what our athletes are doing for our sport; she's making it exciting, interesting and world class." Wow!! What a wonderful Review.
6 Oct 2011: The Blog page is now available. I will use it to make announcements, to discuss the historical evidence, and to explore the myths. You can even make your own comments!
18 Sep 2011: What a wonderful venue and what a beautiful day for the launch of Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady at the Thunderbolt museum (McCrossin's Mill) at Uralla. My thanks to Kent Mayo and staff, and to the Hon. Richard Torbay MP who launched the book. Perfect!
12 Sep 2011: I guess the saying is true: "Those who cannot destroy the message will seek to destroy the messenger." But this historian will not be silenced. Go to the Myths Debunked pages for Fred and Mary Ann and see for yourself the irrefutable evidence disproving claims made in recent Thunderbolt publications and letters to the editors of various newspapers. The truth will out!
27 Aug 2011: Great interview on the George and Paul show today (Sydney's 2UE).
See previous Updates