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Andrew George Scott (1842–1880)

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Andrew George Scott (1842-1880), bushranger, self-styled 'Captain Moonlite', was born at Rathfriland, County Down, Ireland, and baptized on 5 July 1842, son of Thomas Scott, Anglican clergyman, and his wife Bessie, née Jeffares. Young Scott was described as 'dark, handsome, active and full of high spirits', but was known for impulsive acts of mischievous violence. He may have studied engineering in London, and legend has it that he served with Garibaldi in Italy in 1860.

On 22 November 1861 Scott, his parents and brother Thomas arrived at Auckland, New Zealand, in the Black Eagle. A fellow-passenger remembered him as 'very gentlemanly and high-spirited'. His father took charge of Christ Church, Coromandel, and his brother was ordained priest; Andrew taught school for a while but in February 1864 was commissioned in the Waikato Militia; later he transferred to the Auckland Volunteer Engineers Corps. On 6 November 1867 he was refused a post of inspector or sub-inspector in the armed constabulary, although he had been endorsed by prominent members of the Auckland community as 'a gentleman well suited for an office of command'.

Within a few months Scott had arrived in Australia, possibly first in Sydney. About April 1868 he went to Melbourne, met Bishop Perry and in July was appointed stipendiary lay reader of the Church of Holy Trinity, Bacchus Marsh. In November he advertised that he intended to set up as a consultant surveyor and engineer in addition to his clerical duties. However in March 1869 he was sent as lay reader to Egerton near Ballarat, where he made friends with James Simpson, the local schoolmaster, and L. J. Bruun, agent for the town's branch of the London Chartered Bank. As Bruun was returning to the bank late on 8 May, Scott, disguised in mask and cloak, attacked him and forced him to hand over the contents of the safe. He made Bruun write a note certifying his resistance to the robbery; Scott signed it himself with the deliberately mis-spelt 'Captain Moonlite'. Both Bruun and Simpson were charged with robbery but were acquitted; Scott soon left for Sydney.

For some months he lived off the proceeds of the crime, but towards the end of 1870 he began passing valueless cheques. In November he fraudulently bought the yacht, Why-Not, arranged for a skipper and a 'young lady' to accompany him, but was arrested by water police as he tried to leave for Fiji. On 20 December he was given twelve months in Maitland gaol, some of which he spent in Parramatta Lunatic Asylum, feigning madness. While he was in prison Bruun and his friends had detectives set on his trail, and when he was released in April 1872 he was charged with the Egerton gold robbery. While on remand he escaped from Ballarat gaol but was soon recaptured, and on 24 July he appeared before Judge Barry. Scott conducted most of his own defence, cross-examined Bruun for seven hours with 'shrewd and pertinacious questions' and amused the crowd with his facetious remarks. He received ten years hard labour and one year for escaping.

Scott was a recalcitrant and violent prisoner in Pentridge gaol. Released in March 1879, for a while he was a speaker at open-air meetings on prison reform and kindred subjects, but on 18 November with a small band he held up Wantabadgery sheep station near Wagga Wagga for two days. He used the two children of the nearby hotelkeeper as hostages, separating them by force from their parents. Two of the gang (one a boy of 15) and one trooper were killed when the police attacked the homestead. Scott and three others were found guilty of murder and he and one of his accomplices were hanged on 20 January 1880.

Select Bibliography

  • Julian Thomas (J. S. James), The Vagabond Papers, vol 3 (Melb, 1877)
  • G. Calderwood, Captain Moonlite (Adel, 1971)
  • W. A. Osborne, ‘Andrew George Scott — Captain Moonlite’, Victorian Historical Magazine, 27 (1955-57)
  • New Zealander, 20 Nov 1861
  • Australasian, 3 Dec 1870, 6, 13 Apr 1872
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Dec 1870
  • Ballarat Courier, 26 July 1872
  • Argus (Melbourne), 18, 19, 24 Nov 1879
  • Australian and New Zealand Gazette, 2 Sept 1882
  • G. Finn scrapbook no 118 (Auckland Museum, New Zealand)
  • J. M. Forde newspaper cuttings (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Army Dept files, letter CD64/318 and A. G. Scott application CD67/3955 (Archives New Zealand).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Scott, Andrew George (1842–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Andrew Scott, 1879

Andrew Scott, 1879

State Library of Victoria, IAN28/11/79/180

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Captain Moonlite
  • Moonlite, Captain

Rathfryland, Down, Ireland


20 January, 1880 (aged ~ 38)
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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