Who is Captain Moonlite?

The installation - Captain Moonlite Rides Again has used bushranger Andrew George Scott – aka Captain Moonlite – as a catalyst. The bushranger spent time in the Ballarat region in the 1870s and was arguably one of the first members of the local LGBTIQ+ community.

 

Image credit: Victorian Collections, Access 3 February 2021


Andrew Scott, aka Captain Moonlight, was a complex character with diverging opinions on his personality – on the one hand, he was praised for his gentlemanly and courteous manner and on the other, loathed and hunted as a criminal. He was a man who was discharged from the British Army for malingering, yet argued the reason for this was because he refused to participate in attacks on Maori women and children.

Captain Moonlite's early life 

Much of his early life is difficult to establish given his larrikin sense of humour, boasting and penchant for tall tales, which delighted many but infuriated others. As one of his parishioners in his time as a lay preacher in Bacchus Marsh wrote: “He was a great favourite with some, though some considered him a scamp and a hypocrite, and others insisted he was mad and that all the marvellous tales he was perpetually narrating of his adventures were pure invention.” He was handsome, dashing and athletic, a combat veteran and a skilled rider and crack shot. His penchant for the theatrical and his title of Captain Moonlite, drawn from the Irish Resistance, with its implication of midnight romance, took on a life of its own and became a legend.

After his conviction for the Mt Egerton Bank Robbery, which is to this day still contested, his experience in prison was marked by a daring escape from the Ballarat Gaol and a period in Pentridge. His time in Pentridge was marked by significant marginalisation (at one time he was severely punished for “improperly receiving tea”) and a deep abiding friendship, and perhaps romance, with his self-described soul mate James Nesbitt.

Life after gaol 

Upon leaving gaol he dedicated himself to improving the lot of prisoners in speaking tours across the country with Nesbitt, yet he faced constant harassment from police for crimes he could not possibly have committed. One claim was that he had left a speaking engagement to travel to Williamstown to inexplicably give a firearm to a criminal in gaol through a window before returning to Ballarat, and sensationalist reportage from journalists eager to cash in on his notoriety.

Under continual police harassment, public notoriety and unable to find legitimate work, Moonlite was forced interstate and finally ended up in deep rural New South Wales at Wantabadgery Station near Wagga Wagga. Starving, cold and desperate for work he asked for employment for him and his companions only to be turned away. This, as the final straw, led to a series of catastrophes ending in a shoot-out at Wantabadgery Station and becoming an Australian bushranging legend.

 

Image Credit: Fatal Encounter with Bushrangers. (1879, November 29). Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier (NSW : 1872 - 1881), p. 1. Retrieved February 3, 2021

Relationships

His companion, Nesbitt, was shot in the affray and Moonlite was captured and hung and Darlinghurst after a short trial. Even to the end his life was shaped by his deep and abiding love for James, writing: “Nesbitt and I were united by every tie which could bind human friendship” and that “we were one in hopes, one in heart and soul and this unity lasted until he died in my arms.” Awaiting execution, Scott wore a ring made from Nesbitt’s hair and pleaded with his gaolers to bury him with the younger man in the graveyard at Gundagai.

“I long to join him where there shall be no more parting.”

Keen to learn more?

Register your interest for this event by following the links on https://www.cafs.org.au/Event/captain-moonlite-rides-again

Thank you to David Waldron, Historian for his references and material to provide context to the story of Captain Moonlite. 

Cafs does not endorse violence or criminal behaviour in any form; this includes the crimes of Andrew George Scott (‘Captain Moonlite’).