Fred Britton & Fred Ward

1870 saw the end of the bushranging era in New England. It proved an exciting year for William Northey. The most notorious and feared outlaw in the district was Captain Thunderbolt, or Frederick Ward. Born in May 1836 at Windsor NSW to well respected parents he received some formal education before taking up his trade as groom and horse breaker. Ward first clashed with the law when he was charged with stealing 15 horses from Tocal on the Patterson River in the Hunter Valley. Although he produced a receipt in court, for some unknown reason, because the horses had been stolen from a previous owner, Ward was goaled for a period of 10 years at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. In June 1860 he received a ticket of leave but was soon arrested and charged with receiving stolen horses. The official accounts of the second arrest are vague. However one popular version places him as the scape-goat of a crooked horse trainer who persuaded Ward to ride for him a!
t a bush meeting without telling him that the horses were stolen. Ward soon found himself back at Cockatoo Island. It is interesting to note that Annie Rixon in her book " Captain Thunderbolt" appears to have accumulated a lot of evidence to suggest that Ward was innocent of the abovementioned charges. Ward and a companion Fred Britton escaped on 15 September 1863. They were assisted in this venture by Ward's aboriginal (half cast) wife known as "Sunday". Ward vowed that he would rather die than return to Cockatoo Island and , after many hair-raising adventures decided to go it alone as a Bush Ranger in the New England district of NSW ranging as far afield as Maitland and Gloucester in the East and toward the Queensland border in the North.


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