Captain Moonlite

Captain Moonlite

Born 8 Jan 1845 in a small town in Northern Ireland, the son of an Anglican clergyman. He had one older brother.

Scott came to Australia in 1868 age 23 from New Zealand. His family had travelled from Ireland to NZ when he was 16.

In NZ, by his own recollection, he was said to have completed studies as an engineer/surveyor. He also fought in the Maori Wars and says he was wounded in the Battle of Orakau. Both of these statements have been called into question by many historians – e.g. the UK Institute of Civil Engineers advised, that in 1868, the minimum age to be qualified was 25.

Scott’s father had high status as a magistrate and lay preacher. After Scott left NZ he never saw his parents or brother again.

Moonlite has been described as an enigma, far removed from the traditional image of a bushranger. Educated and articulate, Moonlite was a poet, a preacher, skilled horseman, civil engineer, skilled with and knowledgeable about firearms, a fluent public speaker, gentlemanly, a soldier, sailor, prison reformer, adventurer, rebel. Magnetic personality. Moonlite was staunchly loyal to his comrades.

The Reverend Canon Rich, who spent time with Moonlite when he was on death row, described him as follows:

“Scott was indeed a peculiar man and one whose abilities no one could doubt after being in his company several minutes. His quickness of perception, rapidity and exactness of reasoning is a constant subject of wonder to those about him… and his knowledge of Scripture history is exceedingly good.”

In 1879 Scott asked the writer Marcus Clarke (For The Term Of His Natural Life) to support his lecture tour. Clarke later wrote his impressions of Scott – who had struck him as a respectably dressed man ‘who looked like the sub-overseer of a station.’  Moonlite did not appear to be a villain and there was nothing peculiar about him except for his…

‘Light steel-blue eyes, which appeared without any depth in the iris, and shifted a good deal, like the eyes of all men accustomed to be observed and accustomed to shun observation.’

At the end of the trial of Moonlite, Justice William Charles Windeyer criticised Scott for luring young men into crime, saying…

“You have that veneer of education, that facility of speech, and capacity for theatrical exhibition which deceive those who are ignorant of the ways of the world, but they do not deceive me or any sensible man.”

Moonlite was characterised in the press around the time of the gunfight as a notorious scoundrel.

In his own defence, Moonlite stated that:

“We had no intention of being bushrangers…. misery and hunger produced despair and in one wild hour we proved how much the wretched dare. It must be seen that Wantabadgery was the place where the voice of hunger drowned the voice of reason and we became criminals.”

After the shoot-out he repeatedly expressed his deep love and high regard for Nesbitt. He wept openly over Nesbitt’s body and expressed his wish to be buried next to him at Gundagai cemetery. Many historians have wondered if their relationship was romantic..

Captain Moonlite died on 20th Jan 1880 on the gallows at Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney.