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COOYAL's own lady bushranger


Babyfeet Caves (pic right and above), out near Bylong, were once home to the infamous Captain Thunderbolt, who was 'adopted' by local aboriginal people when he married Mary Ann Bugg, an Aboriginal woman. Local Aboriginal elder, Wally Washbrook says Thunderbolt lived in one of the large caves at one time, and there was certainly evidence of someone with old bush skills living in the cave, the remains of an old bush bed being one item, a huge stone fireplace another.


Did you know that Cooyal lays claim to Mudgee's own lady bushranger, Aboriginal woman Mary Ann Bugg, an amazing woman who became 'Captain Thunderbolt's wife.

The famous bushranger was also associated with Cooyal, being paroled to Cooyal Station, then imprisoned again when he failed to 'follow the rules'.

But the amazing and beautiful Mary Ann Bugg aided and abetted him in all his endeavours. It is said that without Mary Ann,  Fred Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt, would never have succeeded as a bushranger. Mary Ann not only  taught the bushranger to read and write, but used her Aboriginal skills to help him hide and to keep him well fed and safe for years at a time when as a wanted man, he 'took time off' bushranging to devote time to his family each time she had a new baby. Thunderbolt became one of the Aboriginal people; he belonged to them; and they protected him and aided him.

There are many legends about Thunderbolt and his lady, and, interestingly enough, both of them were rumoured to have died, mysteriously but rumoured to have lived on for many years after their official death. In her new book, Captain Thunderbolt and His Lady being released on August 22nd, 2011, Carol Baxter, professional researcher and historian, says she puts an end to some very false rumours concerning Thunderbolt and Mary Ann's death. See www.thunderboltbushranger.com.au

However, the family of Fred Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt, have their own family stories that have been passed down and they insist they know the real story. See Barry Sinclairs story at: http://users.tpg.com.au/users/barrymor/Mary%20Ann%20Bugg.html

There are also many other versions of the Thunderbolt and Mary Anne Bugg legend.

See Kali Bierens book, " The Captain's Lady: Mary Ann Bugg"  at http://eprints.utas.edu.au/8748/2/02_Bierens_complete.PDF

Also see: http://hillendfamilyhistory.com/bushrangers/mary.php

and http://www.nedkellysworld.com.au/bushrangers/ward_f.htm

The town of Uralla has immortalised Captain Thunderbolt, building a huge tourist industry around the famous bushranger. They claim to have Thunderbolt's grave in their cemetery - a fact that is challenged by many other versions of the story. However, whatever the truth may be, the grave or the mystery, Uralla is onto a good tourist attraction. You can see their version at: http://www.uralla.com/captain-thunderbolt-50.html

This site will take the journalist stance and not take sides on the story. We have given you the resources to read it all - fascinating history, a fascinating mystery - and make up your own mind. Google Captain Thunderbolt and Mary Ann Bugg and look at all the evidence.  Whatever the outcome might be, Cooyal is still shrouded in this historic mystery and like Uralla, should capitalise on it for the tourism industry.

What we do know is that both Mary Ann Bugg and Fred Ward were both associated with Cooyal. We know the two partnered and had children together. We know that Mary Ann, half Aboriginal and half white, was well educated and taught Fred Ward to read and write. She also protected him with the help of her Aboriginal people and was herself an amazing, heroic, intelligent Aboriginal woman of her time who deserves her own legend.

We know that Mary Ann aided Thunderbolt in his bushranging pursuits, going into town and collecting information about coach travels and trooper movements. She was arrested a number of times, once heralding an outcry in Parliament to release her when she was unfairly arrested for 'vagrancy', but really as bait to try and capture Thunderbolt.

We know that without Mary Ann, Thunderbolt would never have evaded police as he did; he would never have been the gentleman bushranger that he was, avoiding guns; he would never have been accepted into Aboriginal clans like he was.

Mary Ann Bugg was an amazing woman of her time; an amazing example of Aboriginal womanhood. She is a legend in her own right.

And because of her, Fred Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt, earned a reputation as the gentleman bushranger and the most successful bushranger Australia has ever had.

And Cooyal, the sleepy little village on the outskirts of Mudgee, does not realise what a treasure they hold in their historic old hands.









Cooyal, once home to Captain Thunderbolt and his wife, lady bushranger Mary Ann Bugg.










'Captain Thunderbolt and His Lady' by Carol Baxter





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