Ned Kelly, Ben Hall and Fred Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt, ‘the Gentleman Bushranger’) are a few legendary Australian bushrangers who have been romanticised throughout history. In our colonial past, they were revered as daring men – often escaped convicts – who were rebelling against authority or escaping from a harsh life.
For young Will Monckton, running away at age 13 and joining Thunderbolt’s gang for a life of crime, seemed like a better prospect than being abused by a cruel stepfather. For almost a year, he rode with the outlaw until he was eventually captured and sentenced to six years imprisonment with one-year hard labour at Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney. He was only 14 years old.
‘Too Young to Hold a Gun’ by Peter Spencer is based on William Monckton, who would later become his great-grandfather. A fictionalised account told from William’s perspective, it reveals firsthand, the hardships of a life on the run and the challenges of returning to community life after serving time as a convicted felon. It is also a tribute to the man who learned a hard lesson and who spent the rest of his life as an exemplary member of society.