Dear David and Carol,
Please let me introduce myself. My name is Leigh Astbury and I am now retired from Monash University where I was an academic.
I read your article on Captain Thunderbolt in the most recent issue of the J.A.S. with great interest and I thought it very good - your detailed use of evidence to debunk a Thunderbolt myth was indeed exemplary.
One of the added reasons I enjoyed reading the article was that it took me for a trip down memory lane. Many years ago now I found the correct title of painting by Tom Roberts which helped to expose a smaller Thunderbolt myth. The picture had been formerly given several closely related titles to do with Thunderbolt's name e.g. 'Thunderbolt in an encounter with police at Paradise Creek, N.S.W', suggesting that it was meant to depict one of Thunderbolt's specific exploits. In 1985 I published the correct title in my book, City Bushmen. Mary Eagle later supplied a full history of the picture's different titles in her book, The Oil Paintings of Tom Roberts in the National Gallery of Australia. (She reproduces a photo of the scene, which you may find of interest).
Your J.A.S article was not of course concerned with visual representations of Thunderbolt in any way and I assumed that, being experts on Thunderbolt, you'd know of the Roberts' 'Thunderbolt' picture anyway. However, the thought later occurred to me that the idea of the Roberts' picture being associated with Thunderbolt's name may have slipped off the academic radar since the picture has become known by its correct title for quite a few years now and I assume that you are both much younger than I am. Thus I decided to contact you in the off chance that you didn't know of the connection with Tom Roberts.
I imagine that the Thunderbolt title of Roberts's picture had much to do with the influence of local tradition and folklore when he visited New England where he was to to paint Bailed Up. (I'm afraid I've never been to New England, save passing through in a car. I had to do my research from old maps in the State Library of Victoria).I'd be very interested to learn please if you have any new insights or information about the Tom Roberts connection.
Congratulations once again on the article.
Here is a link to a copy of the picures In a corner of the Macintyre and Bailed Up.
In response to my request to publish Leigh's letter, he added:
Carol, please go ahead and add my email as is to your site. I don't think I've really got much to expand on. Patrick H. McCarthy's book, Bailed Up: the story behind the painting, published in 2006, focuses almost exclusively on the painting of its title and only really mentions In a corner on the Macintyre and Thunderbolt in passing. However, it may be of more general interest to you because of its bushranging subject and the fact that he draws on some local people as sources for his information. He also mentions the film made around 1971 about Roberts's bushranging subjects in New England, but I must admit that I've never seen this film.
A few days ago, Leigh wrote again:
Since I last wrote, I have had the chance to reread Patrick H. McCarthy's book, Bailed Up: the story behind the painting, and I now realise that my previous message was a little ambiguous. In that message I said that McCarthy mentions Roberts's picture, In a corner of the Macintyre, and Thunderbolt only 'in passing'. While I think it is fair to say that McCarthy's treatment of In a corner of the Macintyre and its possible relationship to Thunderbolt's story is not very extensive, his treatment of the possible influence of the Thunderbolt story on Roberts's conception of Bailed Up is quite extensive, indeed more so than I remembered when I last wrote. So I wouldn't want to dissuade Thunderbolt enthusiasts from reading McCarthy's book because it could be of real interest to them.
Many thanks to Leigh for his interesting contribution to the Thunderbolt saga.