Mary Ann Bugg

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Mary Ann Bugg (7 May 1834[1] – 22 April 1905[2]) was one of two notable female bushrangers in mid 19th century Australia.

Early years[edit]

Mary Ann Bugg was born at the Berrico outstation near in 175 Gloucester in New South Wales, Australia.[3] Her father, James Bugg, who was born in Essex, England in 1801, was convicted of stealing meat (two lambs, a wether sheep and two pigs) at the Essex Asally was a farmer at Cooyal north of Mudgee, and it was there in 1860 that Mary Ann met ticket-of-leave convict Frederick Ward (later to become bushranger Captain Thunderbolt).[4]

Relationship with Fred Ward[edit]

Mary Ann fell pregnant soon after meeting Fred Ward. Ward took her back to her father's farm at Monkerai near Dungog for the baby's delivery, and their daughter Marina Emily was born late in 1861.[5] In taking Mary Ann to Monkerai, however, Ward was in breach of the ticket-of-leave regulations which required him to remain in the Mudgee district and to attend three-monthly musters. As it turned out, he was late returning for the muster, and he compounded the problem by riding into town on a horse claimed by the owner to have been "stolen" (although the owner admitted during Ward's trial that the horse had simply gone missing and that he had heard that it had been seen near Cooyal but had not tried to retrieve it).[4] Ward's ticket-of-leave was revoked, and he was returned to Cockatoo Island to serve the remaining six years of his previous ten-year sentence, along with an additional three years for being found in possession of a stolen horse.[6]

Most Thunderbolt books claim that Mary Ann helped Ward escape from Cockatoo Island, one of the few successful escapes during the island's history as a penal settlement, however this is not correct. Mary Ann, in fact, remained in the Dungog district where she was working to support herself and her two youngest children. She did not meet up with Ward again until after his escape from Cockatoo Island in September 1863.[7][8]

Bushranging with Captain Thunderbolt[edit]

After the Rutherford toll-bar robbery, where "Captain Thunderbolt" first introduced himself,[9] Ward returned to Dungog and collected Mary Ann and her two youngest daughters, Ellen and Marina. In February 1864 they travelled through the mountains west of Gloucester during what became known as the Great Flood of 1864, eventually ending up at the Culgoa River, north-west of Walgett, where Ward's brother William was working.[10] They lived quietly for the remainder of the year, however early in 1865 Ward joined forces with three other miscreants and began to rob hawkers and stations in the north-western plains near Collarenebri.[11] He eventually travelled extensively during his six-and-a-half years as a bushranger, robbing from Newcastle as far north as Queensland, and from Narrabri nearly as far west as Bourke.[11]

In 1865, Mary Ann gave birth to another child, seemingly a daughter named Elizabeth Ann Ward,[12] although she later left the child with friends or relations – as she had her two older daughters – so she could remain on the run with Ward. She was not only his lover but his eyes and ears, helping to keep him safe from the troopers. She acted as his scout, visiting towns to find out if the troopers were around, however there is no evidence to suggest that she accompanied him during his robberies although the community at large believed that she did. Primarily, she looked after their bush camps, hamstringing cattle and foraging for food for Ward and his accomplices.[13] Several reports describe her as looking like a young man wearing knee-length, Wellington boots, moleskin trousers, a Crimean shirt, a monkey jacket and a cabbage tree hat, the dress of the flash stockmen of the day (and at a time when women did not wear men's clothing). Also, she rode astride (as did a man) and not sidesaddle as was customary for women in those days. She was proud of her association with Ward and on several occasions referred to herself as the "Captain's Lady".[14]

Mary Ann's involvement with the outlaw led to her apprehension by the police on three occasions. In 1866, she was sentenced to six months in gaol for vagrancy, however an outcry in Parliament led the Attorney General to examine the paperwork associated with her conviction and to recommend her release on the grounds that the charges had been poorly phrased and did not use the necessary terminology to convict her under the Vagrancy Act.[15] Another conviction, in 1867, for being in possession of stolen goods was overturned when a concerned magistrate looked into her case and discovered that a shop assistant could identify her as having purchased some of the goods.[16]


Most Thunderbolt books claim that Mary Ann died at the Goulburn River in November 1867, however this was a woman named Louisa Mason alias Yellow Long, wife of Robert Michael Mason of Rouchel near Scone.[17] Mary Ann fell pregnant again a few weeks after Louisa Mason's death, but she and Ward separated a short time later. Their son Frederick Wordsworth Ward was born at Carroll in August 1868.[18] In the aftermath, Mary Ann settled again with John Burrows and had another four children who survived infancy: Ada Gertrude (1870), Ida Margaret (1874), George Herbert (1820).[12] Burrows died prior to 1900 and Mary Ann found work as a nurse to support herself, before dying on 22 April 1905 at Mudgee.[2] Her son Frederick took after his birth father, becoming a groom and later a horse-trainer; he died unmarried as Frederick Wordsworth Burrows in 1937.[19]


  1. ^ NSW Registry of BDM: Baptism Vol.23 No.1494
  2. ^ a b NSW Registry of BDM Death 1905/5831
  3. ^ Baxter (2011), p. 11
  4. ^ a b Baxter (2011), pp. 116–117
  5. ^ NSW Registry of BDM Birth 1861/7193
  6. ^ Baxter (2011), pp. 113–116
  7. ^ Baxter (2011), p. 142
  8. ^ Bushranger Thunderbolt and his Lady: Did Mary Ann Bugg help Fred Ward escape from Cockatoo Island?
  9. ^ Maitland Mercury 22 Dec 1863 p.3, 24 Dec pp.2 & 3, 26 Dec p.2, 29 Dec p.2, 2 Jan 1864 p.2
  10. ^ Baxter (2011), pp. 171–177
  11. ^ a b Baxter (2011), pp. 181 et seq.
  12. ^ a b Bushranger Thunderbolt and his Lady: Searching for Mary Ann Bugg’s children
  13. ^ Baxter (2011)
  14. ^
  15. ^ Baxter (2011), Chapter 29
  16. ^ Baxter (2011), pp. 274–276, Chapter 34
  17. ^ Bushranger Thunderbolt and his Lady: Did Mary Ann Bugg die in 1867?
  18. ^ NSW Registry of BDM Birth 1868/0016881 and Baptism Vol.161 No.1400
  19. ^ NSW Registry of BDM Death 1937/00016011


  • Baxter, Carol (2011). Captain Thunderbolt and His Lady. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781742372877. 

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