History Notes - more about Thunderbolt

31st August 2022

History Notes

Winter has changed to spring and so we move on towards longer, warmer days.  The first spring markets is coming up on Saturday week and in the meantime the society has a ‘sock’ meeting on Friday morning – hopefully, everyone has received their notice.

Last week I mentioned Thunderbolt’s Rock on the Manilla Road south of Tarpoly and then went on to Thunderbolt himself.  This week I found some more information about the rock from Trevor Wearne’s notes published in the Barraba Chronicle in November 1967.  The section is headed “Thunderbolt”.

“The most famous man who ever worked on Piedmont was Fred Ward better known as Thunderbolt, who broke-in horses for my grandfather.  He was a superb horseman, with a great love for a good horse; indeed, it was this passion for good horses that got him into trouble with the law and led to his becoming a bushranger.

He must have had kindly feelings for not once did he interfere with “Piedmont” people or property.

It should be noted that Trevor’s grandfather was John Capel, who raised his family at Piedmont Woolshed rather than Piedmont, however, Fred Ward worked for several landowners around the district and did not interfere with any of them apart from the visit to Ironbark which was peaceful.

Anyway, to continue the story –

A very well known landmark of former days was “Thunderbolts Rock”, an exceptionally large rock of sandstone or conglomerate formation standing beside the road from Barraba to Manilla.

It was from behind this rock that “Thunderbolt” rode out to hold up the mail coach or any traveller worthy of his attention.

In the 1920’s a murder and a suicide took place at this rock, the murderer concealing his horse and buggy behind it while he waited for his victim to approach by car.

It was after this event that the Manilla Shire Council caused the rock to be dynamited and carried away, thereby exhibiting a certain lack of foresight for today.  “Thunderbolt’s Rock” would be regarded as a tourist attraction today. 

Incidentally, I was on the road with sheep at the time of the murder and met and talked with the murderer on his way to commit the crime, though, naturally, he gave no hint of his intentions”.

There are more stories in this series which may interest readers – more next week.

News for August 2022