Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the newest member of the Gray Day Collective: Captain Thunderbolt!
(Wait - what?)
Ah, I can hear you scratching your heads all the way through my computer screen (correction: phone screen). This name may be counter-intuitive, but it actually comes fully loaded with intention and pith.
Firstly, I like the verbal irony. I found myself remembering an episode of “To the Manor Born”* where Audrey fforbes-Hamilton takes Richard DeVere horse shopping. He’s very keen on the horses with grandiose titles, but when Goliath turns out to be a Shetland pony, he’s open to Audrey’s prodding for the most tucked away and dismissed horses. Eventually, they are successful and Audrey provides this sage advice If anyone ever tries to sell you a horse named ‘Utter Rubbish’ - buy him on the spot!” So there is definitely a bit of tongue-in-cheek with my darling Captain Thunderbolt, but that’s not the end of his story.
This fish is a pink convict cichlid. Found in warm waters around Central and South America, but they have also made their way to Australia. Most people know a few general facts about Australia:
1) Home of deadly and cute animals
2) They love to cook on the barbie
3) Boomerangs! Opera House! Great Barrier Reef!
4) Convict past
I wanted the fishie friend for my coral reef tea cozy to link together the tropical and exotic beauty that is the Great Barrier Reef and the fairly well known, but little understood, Australian convict past. A pink convict cichlid was just what I needed, but the actual relationships between convicts and the water isn’t very strong. We imagine the escapees traveling through red dust and scrubby bush ala Ned Kelly. Most convicts couldn’t swim. Enter Captain Thunderbolt!
Fred Ward was one of the convicts imprisoned at Cockatoo Island. A stunning location in Sydney Harbour these days, but in the 1800s it was the equivalent of Alcatraz. Aside from not being able to swim, sharks were a real threat. Real AND effective. There were very few attempted escapes from Cockatoo Island, let alone successful ones. Fred was imprisoned at Cockatoo Island for bush ranging (stealing cattle and horses) and given early release before having to return for violating terms of his release (he was late for a quarterly check-in.)
The fears that kept other prisoners on the island were no match for Fred. He planned a bold escape swam to Woolwich. It is believed that his fellow escapee, Frederick Britten, drowned en route.
This escape transformed Fred Ward to Captain Thunderbolt. He went on to become the “Gentleman Bushranger” in the Hunter and New England regions of New South Wales.
Now, my little fish, Captain Thunderbolt, is no bush ranger or hardened criminal. He may be a convict cichlid, but he’s full of equal parts heart and grit. His story has a happy ending with full rehabilitation and a new start in his happy home, the anemone in his coral reef tea cozy. More than anything he wants to feel secure and at-ease and he welcomes your company at his next tea party.
*Bonus points to anyone who can name the other BBC comedy with the nearly identical theme song.