An original photograph of the re-enactment of the death of the bushranger Frederick Ward (1835-1870), alias 'Captain Thunderbolt'
The vintage sepia-toned albumen paper photograph (97 x 138 mm) has been recently removed from an old album leaf and mounted on acid-free card; there is a small light watermark or similar in the sky in the centre of the image, and the letter 'M' is pencilled in the small portion of clear sky in the top right-hand corner; overall, it is in excellent condition.
The 'Australian Dictionary of Biography' waxes with undue eloquence about Ward. 'He undoubtedly had great nerve, endurance and unusual self-reliance and his success as a bushranger can be largely attributed to his horsemanship and splendid mounts, to popular sympathy inspired by his agreeable appearance and conversation, and to his gentlemanly behaviour and avoidance of violence; he also showed prudence in not robbing armed coaches, or towns where a policeman was stationed. The last of the professional bushrangers in New South Wales, Ward was the most successful'. More prosaically, it notes that on 25 May 1870 he 'was surprised while testing an inferior horse and was chased and shot by Constable Alexander Binney Walker at Kentucky Creek near Uralla' (the horse also died). Barry Sinclair, 'Captain Thunderbolt Family Historian & Researcher' has made easy work of what is at first (and subsequent) glances a curious photograph. In his online rebuttal to the Uralla Historical Society's criticisms of his 'Fact sheet on the Death of Thunderbolt', he quotes the 'Armidale Express', Friday 3 June 1921 (which is turn is quoting itself from 4 June 1870): 'Mr Andrew Cunningham has taken several excellent photographics to illustrate the end of Thunderbolt, and other matters connected with it. Of Ward's dead horse there are two views. There are three different views of the spot on which the final struggle took place, Mr Walker being shown in the same dress and on the same horse as he had when he came upon the Western side of the creek; the reality of the scene being added to by Mr Smoker, of Uralla, representing, on the E. side, Ward - each with weapon levelled at his opponent. To secure a good view, Mr Cunningham took the trouble to cut down several trees' (and these are clearly to be seen in the foreground to the left). Sinclair's account is illustrated with another one of the three 'final struggle' images.