LOCAL historians have cast aspersions on the authenticity of the gun that killed Thunderbolt, but there is no doubt the relic is an important part of the region’s history.
The pistol now resides at Uralla’s McCrossin’s Mill and was donated by a family from Western Australia.
UNE School of Humanities senior lecturer David Roberts has researched the notorious bushranger and said fiction and myth were tangled in Captain Thunderbolt’s history.
“I doubt we could ever really know whether or not the gun is actually authentic, but it has a close and a long history attached to it,” Dr Roberts said.
“I guess the story’s as nice as the reality.”
He said the acquisition was vital for a small town like Uralla and it was fitting the material slice of history should reside close to the scene of the bushranger’s death.
“Why should we have to go the National History Museum in Canberra?”
McCrossin’s Mill director Kent Mayo said the donors were direct descendants of John Gordon, who was given the gun a few days after the shooting by Constable Walker almost 150 years ago.
Author of Thunderbolt’s Last Hours, Russell Blanch, said if the gun was kept in the family, it could logically be traced.
Mr Blanch agreed with Mr Mayo that the killer weapon would have been a revolver rather than a long-barrelled Colt, as is commonly depicted.
“I’m sure it was a handgun,” Mr Blanch said.
“The gun that shot Thunderbolt also bludgeoned him to death.
“The mechanics of it would be interesting – a lot of those guns are quite heavy.”
Dr Roberts said the museum was “the heart of the town” and a great resource for local schools.
“Try teaching stories of Thunderbolt the bushranger to a bunch of kids – it can be very difficult. But if you get them up to McCrossin’s Mill to see objects like the gun, it’s a much better way to stimulate their imaginations,” he said.