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The Bold, the Bad and the Ugly: Australia's Wild Colonial Bushrangers at the Royal Australian Mint

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by Belladonna (subscribe)
Loves going out and about in Canberra and writing about her adventures! Also addicted to coffee, high teas, escape rooms, and dressing up.
Published August 22nd 2019
Saddle up to the Mint this weekend and meet some bushrangers
The bushranger is one of the most enduring images of Australia's past. Characters like Ned Kelly and Captain Thunderbolt continue to be as notorious today as they were when they roamed the Australian bush and countryside in the dangerous early days of the colonies.

Australia's bushrangers are now commemorated in a set of limited edition coins from the Royal Australian Mint in conjunction with an exciting exhibition called 'The Bold, the Bad and the Ugly: Australia's Wild Colonial Bushrangers.'
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Who were the bushrangers?
Colonial Australia was a dangerous place, with roads and townships attracting lawless renegades known as bushrangers. Some bushrangers were anti-establishment heroes to the common people, whilst others were forced into a life of crime. Although feared, Australia's wild colonial Bushrangers also sparked a legacy of art and folklore that continues to shape our national psyche, and helped to create the myth of the Australian 'larrikin'.

The bushrangers featured in the Mint's collection include: 'Brave' Ben Hall, Captain Moonlite, the Kenniff Brothers, Dan 'Mad Dog' Morgan, Moondyne Joe, Captain Thunderbolt and the Captain's Lady, the Birdman of the Coorong, and of course, the Kelly Gang.

'The Bold, the Bad and the Ugly' Exhibition
The Bold, the Bad and the Ugly' exhibition is a fascinating collection of images and objects that provides a small window into the lives and times of these notorious bushrangers.

Such as this revolver, believed to have belonged to Ben Hall, one of Australia's 'gentleman bushrangers'.


Iron manacles like the ones below would have been frequently worn by Moondyne Joe, Western Australia's most notorious bushranger who was well known for his multiple gaol breaks.


This is a letter of thanks addressed to Senior Constable Alexander Walker by the citizens of Uralla, New England, for the capture of the bushranger known as Captain Thunderbolt. 'Captain Thunderbolt' (real name Frederick Ward)and his partner 'The Captain's Lady' (Mary Ann Bugg) became notorious bushrangers in 18631864.


The exhibition also features another letter-and a very famous one at that. It's the Jerilderie Letter, dictated by Ned Kelly to fellow Kelly Gang member, Joe Byrne. It's one of only two original Kelly letters known to have survived.


Perhaps the most fascinating (or most gruesome, whichever way you look at it!) objects of the exhibition are the death masks of some of the bushrangers. Death masks are casts taken of a dead person's face. Here you'll find the death mask of Captain Moonlite, who shared a close bond with his fellow bushranger James Nesbitt. Moonlite wore a ring of Nesbitt's hair to his hanging in 1880 and requested that his remains be interred in the same grave as Nesbitt's (who was killed by troopers in a shootout in late 1879) in Gundagai.


This is the death mask of Mad Dog Morgan, one of Australia's most terrifying bushrangers.


And here is Ned Kelly in death. Ned and his gang are among Australia's best-known bushrangers. Their famous last stand took place at a hotel in Glenrowan, Victoria. Ned was the only gang member to have survived. He was arrested and executed at the Old Melbourne Gaol on 11 November, 1880.

You'll also discover (if you don't already know about him) one of the strangest bushrangers in Australian history: John Francis Peggotty, otherwise known as the Birdman of the Coorong. He was born in Ireland in 1864 and was a premature baby who never grew over the size of a seven-year-old child. At some stage, Peggotty travelled to South Africa, where he learned to ride ostriches. In 1898 he moved to the Coorong area in South Australia and became an ostrich-riding bushranger!


'The Bold, the Bad and the Ugly' exhibition is currently showing at the Royal Australian Mint, Denison Street, Deakin. The Mint is open Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 5 pm and Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays from 10 am to 4 pm. Entry to both the Mint and the exhibition is free. You can also purchase the limited edition collection of bushranger-themed coins from the Mint's gift shop located on the ground floor.

For more information, please visit the Royal Australian Mint's website here.
The Bold, the Bad and the Ugly: Australia's Wild Colonial Bushrangers at the Royal Australian Mint
The Captain's Lady, the companion of Captain Thunderbolt, who was known for dressing and riding like a man

"Such is life."

Ned Kelly's final words before he was hanged in the Old Melbourne Gaol on November 11, 1880

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Phone: 02 6202 6999
Where: Denison Street, Deakin ACT, 2600
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Thanks for the article, definitely want a set of those coins.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|6966) 28 days ago
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