Famous Sons & Daughters

Tenterfield has produced a number of famous sons and daughters. Solicitor J.F. Thomas who defended Breaker Morant in the South African War in 1902 lived in Tenterfield and owned the Tenterfield Star Newspaper, which is still in publication today. Then there were rebels who became part of Australian folklore such as Captain Thunderbolt, the bushranger whose hiding places were in and around Tenterfield town. Well known poet Banjo Paterson also came to Tenterfield and married his sweetheart, local girl Miss Alice Walker.


Sir Henry Parkes' political campaign peaked with his famous Federation Speech to the people of Tenterfield at the Tenterfield School of Arts on 24th October 1889, and in doing so he won immortality as the "Father of Federation" with his catchcry, "One People. One Destiny". 

Born into poverty in Warwickshire, England on the 27th Mary 1815, he applied for assisted passage to Australia in 1836 as an adult, after marrying his teacher Clarinda Varney.

Once in Australia, Henry worked many lowly paid jobs before becoming very influential politically. He became elected to Parliament in 1854 and in May 1872 he became Premier of New South Wales, serving his State as Premier on five occasions, spanning eleven and a quarter years.


Captain Thunderbolt was born Frederick Wordsworth Ward at Wilberforce, in the Windsor District of the Colony of New South Wales in about 1836 (the exact date is unknown as no record of his birth exists). He was the son of former convict, Michael Ward, who was transported to that colony in 1815, with wife Sophia following him. Together they had 10 children, Frederick being the youngest.

Thunderbolt was well known throughout the Tenterfield district. There are many caves and hideouts in the New England, but few are as easy to visit as the Tenterfield one. His bushranging career began after escaping the notorious Cockatoo Island Prison in Sydney Harbour, where he was serving a sentence for horse stealing. The tales of his exploits are many and become more controversial with time.

Thunderbolt never shot at anyone, including the police. Thunderbolt's wife, Mary Ann Bugg, by her Aboriginal heritage, had a total hatred of guns due to the way so many of her people had been murdered by the white population of the time. During her time with Thunderbolt she instilled in him this same total hatred of guns and shooting at people - this was an important factor in the subsequent pursuit and death of Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt was arguably the first known Australian male to take paternity leave. A study of his crimes and personal family life shows that, whenever his wife was expecting, he took up to nine months off from his bushranging career to look after his wife and family. Out of his 6 1/2 year career, he took nearly two years off looking after his family. According to some Aborigines, much of this time was spent with one of their communities in the Gunnedah area, where he was protected and regarded as one of them.

His defiance of the troopers eventually caused his downfall at Uralla, where in 1870 Constable Walker called on him to surrender. With Thunderbolt shouting "I'll die first", Constable Walker's next shot found its mark and thinking he was mortally wounded, the police left him on the river bank, intending to return the next morning for the body. When the police finally returned, they found that Thunderbolt had crawled some distance and was under a clump of bushes and still alive. The story goes that he died shortly before the group reached Uralla. Constable Walker received a reward and was promoted.


Born Peter Woolnough on 10 February 1944 at the Prince Albert Memorial Hospital in Tenterfield, Peter Allen became one of Australia's most internationally recognised entertainer and composer. His gift to the town became one of Australia's most recognised songs "Tenterfield Saddler", taking our town to the Interntional stage. After a childhood career of singing, dancing and playing piano, Peter joined entertainer Chris Bell as "The Allen Brothers". They were discovered by Judy Garland when she saw them in Hong Kong in 1964. The duo went on to feature on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show in 1967.

Peter married Judy's daughter, Liza Minelli, and was married for 3 years, remaining close friends after. Like Bette Midler, Peter garnered popularity among the gay audience of Manhattan's cabaret circuit and rolled into the mainstream, filling the huge Radio City Music Hall with brash, camp music and over-flowing with feathers and sequins. While best remembered for "I Still CAll Australia Home", "Tenterfield Saddler" and "I Go to Rio", his 11 albums included standards that will be sung for decades.


Major J.F. Thomas earned world fame at the South African War in 1902 in the defence of Harry "The Breaker" Morant. Respected in his home town as a quiet man of deep and sincere convictions, the whole Morant affair had tormented the Major who defended Harry to the last hour, trying desperately for a stay of execution. Morant and Handcock were executed because of the murder of Boer prisoners, rather than for Hesse's murder, of which they were both acquitted at their Court Martial. This was the last time an Australian soldier was tried by a British Court Martial.

Sir Henry Parkes

Captain Thunderbolt