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Published: April 17th 2011
How many prisoners have swum to freedom through the shark infested waters surrounding Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour? At this stage, we have no idea; but we do know that Fred Ward was one of them.
On 11 September 1863, carrying tools of escape, Fred’s courageous and loyal wife (Mary-Ann Bugg) swam both ways through shark infested waters in order to get her husband back. The pair (plus one other prisoner) then made a daring escape to their freedom.
With Police in hot pursuit, Fred became NSW’s most successful (and last professional) Bushranger. Given the title Captain Thunderbolt by those who knew and loved him, he was by all accounts a gentleman; agreeable, handsome and a good conversationalist who avoided violence. The fact that he was so likeable appears to have helped his success as a Bushranger, as did his excellent horsemanship and his choice of mounts.
Between 1864 and 1870 Fred held up the highways and bi-ways of the Upper Hunter, Liverpool Plains and New England areas in New South Wales. He allegedly committed a long list of crimes including 25 mail coaches, 16 hotels and stores, 16 stations and residences, 6 hawkers, 1 tollbar gate, 80
thefts of horses, 1 escape from lawful custody and numerous firings on police. Mary-Ann joined him at every opportunity and while the highway robbery business thrived (and in just 6 short years), they managed to have four children!
Tomorrow we head off on a road trip along the famous Thunderbolt’s Way. Watch this space for the latest travel information, tips and pics from our journey along this historic Australian touring route.
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