Australian bushranging stories hold many myths and exaggerations. Recorded historical information may be found about individual bushrangers by contacting the closest historical society where the bushranger in question roamed or lived. Some historical facts for this page were sourced from these societies. A detailed listing of Historical Societies may be found on this site.
Born an Irishman, Lawrence Kavanagh had little respect for the law and seemed to thrive on the brutal gaol system. Tried in Dublin for burglary he was transported to Sydney in 1829. Not accepting the life ahead of him he ventured on his criminal ways and was eventually sentenced to Norfolk Island. During the years ahead he committed many a crime resulting in a wounding when in the company of another desperate law breaker, Martin Cash. Tired of running and with the wound turning serious, he surrended on the ninth of July 1843. Tried in Hobart he was found guilty and sentenced to death along with Cash. This sentenced was changed to imprisonment and later an offer was made to shorten his sentence if he remained of good character whilst in gaol. Kavanagh being a devout criminal ignored this generous offer and with William Westwood and other hardened criminals at his side they mutinied in the prison with extreme violence acted on various officials. Norfolk Island had immediate justice for these criminals and all were sentenced to death on the gallows in October 1846.
Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt)
Fred Ward was born around 1832/33 at Wilberforce near Windsor New South Wales being born to convict parentage. Fred in his youth was a horse trainer and breaker till starting his criminal career in his early twenties stealing horses. He and his partner in crime James Garbutt were sentenced to ten years gaol. When released he married Mary Bugg and continued on his criminal ways around Uralla inheriting the name Captain Thunderbolt, various reasons are credited to this nickname. Thunderbolts Rock can be found today near Uralla. He stole from Hotels, farm houses, stores, coaches compiling a large list of criminal activities. Fred Ward was shot by Constable Walker after a long chase on horse back in May 1870.
The Notorious Ned Kelly and Gang
Ned Kelly was born at Beveridge, Victoria on December 1854 to John and Ellen Kelly. His father John had been deported to Australia from Ireland for stealing pigs. The family lived on a dairy farm near Avenel where Ned attended school. In their teens the Kellys worked as horse breakers and cattle musterers then started their criminal careers stealing unbranded cattle from the settlers. Ned was imprisoned in the Benalla lockup in 1869 for assault, a magistrate rightly dismissed the charges. Later he was imprisoned again for assault followed by the more serious charge of receiving a stolen horse which he was sentenced three years for. Ned was released in 1874 his criminal career was accruing fast now. Again after release Ned and his brothers started horse stealing, aided by his mother's new husband George King. Warrants had been posted for Ned and Dan Kelly again. A trooper serving the warrant was involved in a scuffle at the Kelly house wounding himself when his revolver went off by mistake. He was later to tell his superior officer that the Kelly boys inflicted the gun wound on him. The brothers fled just before the police came calling at the homestead. Ned's mother was imprisoned for three years for helping in the attempted murder of a policemen. The trooper Fitzpatrick was later to be thrown out of the force.
The Kelly brothers started gold panning, along with various friends, in the Mansfield area on the high slopes. The police hunted the gang seriously now led by a Sergeant Kennedy. There intentions were to capture the gang, dead or alive. A shootout eventuated in the police camp where two police had been left, whilst the others searched the area. One was killed by Ned whilst the other, McIntyre, surrended. The hunt continued by the police but the gang seemed always one step ahead robbing cattle stations and the bank at Eurowa Victoria. The reward was now one thousand pounds, a fortune in 1878.
Ned held up the Glenrowan Inn on the 24th of June 1880. Ned and his gang were eventually ambushed where Ned is reported to have been shot (regardless of his armour) 42 times. He was hung in Melbourne gaol on November 11th 1880.
"All creatures great and small" so why as Christians are we killing these defenceless creatures. E. Jason Brennan
Mad Dog Morgan
Mad Dan Morgan was born in 1833, reportedly in Campbelltown, NSW. A very vicious individual he lived throughout NSW where he was framed for assaulting a trooper thus starting his criminal career as he strived for revenge for false committal. Starting at the young age of 16 on his own his first reported criminal offence was to burn down a farmers barn, other offences included robbery in Castlemaine, horse stealing and robbing outlying homesteads. For robbery he was sentenced to 12 years gaol.
Born Benjamin Hall in 1837 in Liverpool Plains he was a stockman at Sandy Creek. In April 1862, after his wife and child deserted him, he was arrested for robbery at the races. He returned home finding his house raised to the ground, stock dead throughout. Thus his real criminal career started teaming up with John Gilbert forming a gang they proved to be very efficient in their "career" , well armed and with good horse stock. In 1864 Hall and his gang including Gilbert and John Dunn, concentrated on the Sydney to Melbourne road just out of Goulburn. They controlled the roads around Jugiong (NSW) robbing large numbers of travellers during their reign of terror. During one robbery a trooper was shot and in January 1865 Constable Nelson was shot at Collector near the town of Goulburn. A reward of 1000 pound was offered for Ben Hall. After being shot by police on May the 5th near Goobang Creek, he was buried in the NSW township of Forbes.
William Westwood soon to be nicknamed "Jackey Jackey" was born in England in 1821 and after being criminally charged was sent to Australia. His first venture into lawbreaking in Australia he and a mate named Curran robbed a house belonging to a Mr King. Curran and Jackey Jackey were unlikely partners in crime as Curran was uncouth whilst Jackey Jackey was renowned for his gentlemanly attitude. Their partnership broke up after Curran was sentenced to death (1841) and hung in Berrima Gaol for rape of a farmer's wife.
Jackey Jackey continued on his criminal ways stealing valuables from unsuspecting travellers around Queanbeyan, Braidwood and Tarago. An excellent horseman on the best of stolen stock from homesteaders in the areas. After a reward was offered for his capture, Jackey Jackey found himself in Darlinghurst Gaol on his 20th birthday. Caught in Bungendore by locals, he escaped but was later recaptured and sent to Cockatoo Island finally spending the remainder of his life on Norfolk Island.
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