Archives Outside

For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

Staff Picks [Captain Moonlight]

We went straight to the top for this staff pick and asked our Director, Alan Ventress, to select his favourite archive. Alan has chosen a group of archives relating to the gentleman bushranger, Captain Moonlight.

George Scott alias Captain Moonlight
Outlaw & Bushranger

Gaol photographs collection

The historical gaol photograph description books at State Records were created to assist gaol staff to keep track of each prisoner’s record. The records cover c.1870-1930 and contain a photograph of each prisoner along with information such: as name, place of birth, year of birth, year and ship of arrival, occupation, religion, education, physical description, where and when they committed an offence, sentence, previous convictions and when the portrait was taken.

One of the more famous photographs in the collection is that of A.G. Scott otherwise known as Captain Moonlight (or sometimes Moonlite) who committed various crimes – bank-robbery, passing false cheques, stealing gold – and led a gang of outlaws until he was eventually caught by police, tried in Sydney in 1879 and subsequently executed in Darlinghurst Gaol in 1880.

A celebrity crim

Wikipedia describes Captain Moonlight as a ‘celebrity criminal’

…[1869] accused of disguising himself and forcing bank agent, Ludwig Julius Wilhelm Bruun… to open the safe. Bruun described being robbed by a fantastic black-crepe masked figure who forced him to sign a note absolving him of any role in the crime…It was alleged that for several months, Scott lived off the money stolen from the bank, hobnobbing in Sydney’s high society and entertaining actors at after theatre parties.


…James Nesbitt, a young man whom he had met in prison…While some disagree on the grounds of speculation, he is considered by many to be Scott’s lover and there is a significant primary resource that supports this reading. Scott’s actual handwritten letters, currently held in the Archives Office of NSW, profess this love…

Arrest and execution

You can see in the gaol photograph below that there are two offences on the charge sheet: false pretences (x2) and Bank robbery under Arms.

AG Scott aka Captain Moonlight - Darlinghurst Gaol photo (NRS 2138 3/6043 No 2170 p132) Nov 1879

Gaol Photograph of AG Scott alias Captain Moonlight, November 1879
NRS 2138 [3/6043] No. 2170 p.132

Nesbitt was killed in a police shoot-out near Wagga Wagga where Captain Moonlight was finally captured. He was tried in Sydney and hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 20 January 1880. His certificate of execution is signed by Maurice O’Connor, Visiting Surgeon and was countersigned by twenty others who witnessed the execution.

Certificate of Execution –Andrew George Scott alias Captain Moonlight, 1880
pen and ink on printed paper form, NRS 13240 [X945 p.13a]

Scott went to the gallows

wearing a ring woven from a lock of Nesbitt’s hair on his finger…his final request was to be buried in the same grave as his constant companion.

It was refused by the authorities,

but his remains were exhumed from Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney and reinterred at Gundagai next to Nesbitt’s grave in January 1995…

and another accomplice Augustus Wernicke, one hundred and fifteen years after his death.

Letters from prison

Captain Moonlight wrote a number of rather poignant letters from within Darlinghurst Gaol in the period leading up to his execution. Fortunately from a historical records perspective they are part of the State’s archives purely because the prison authorities did not post them.

A rather sad outcome for Captain Moonlight!

Letter to Reverend Canon Rich

January the 19th 1880

To the Revd# Canon Rich

Revd# and Dear Sir
I have but a few hours to live and
think it right that I should mourn the
cruel and unjust charges that have been
made against me.

Letter to mother of James Nesbitt

Darlinghurst Gaol
19th January 1880

From Prisoner Andrew G. Scott
Alias Moonlight

My dearest Mrs# Nesbitt,
To the mother of Jim no colder
address would be true, My heart to you
is the same as to my own dearest Mother
jim’s sisters are my sisters, his friends
my friends, his hopes were my hopes his
grave will be my resting place and I
trust I may be worthy to be with him
when we shall all meet to part no
more, when an all-seeing God who
can read all hearts will be the judge

be long before I am with him and in his
grave. Mrs Nesbitt Mother of my jim may
the Great God enable you to bear the great
loss you have suffered.

I send you some of his hair
and will try to send you any
thing else of his I can get
Give the love of a brother to dearest
jims Sisters and to his father

Farewell my dearest Mrs Nesbit
I am ever to you a loving son
in spirit

A.G. Scott

  • Sally Lesa Porker says:

    I have been told by my Grandma Doris Grace Porker nee Scott that Cpt Moonlite was her Uncle. Her father was Arthur Thomas Scott. I find this very interresting

    June 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm
  • Fiona Sullivan says:

    Thanks Sally. The correspondence in particular makes for interesting reading. He had a fairly florid style.

    June 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm
  • Jen Lamond says:

    I am curious as to whether the leters written by Andrew George Scott have ever been published? My ggg uncle, Allan Hughan, who was Government photographer in Noumea during the 1870s, was a close friend of Moonlite’s, having owned the schooner ‘Pilot’ that took Moonlite to Fiji in 1869 after the Egerton Bank robbery. Depite Hughan being married with daughters, a letter written by him to Andrew Scott in 1870 suggests a romantic relationship may have existed between the two men.I would love to know if their friendship continued after Scott was sent to Maitland Gaol, and if the latter ever wrote to Allan Hughan during his final prison stint. Cheers, Jen. By the way…this website is fascinating!

    August 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm
  • Fiona Sullivan says:

    @Jen Lamond What a fascinating connection for your family history! As far as we are aware the letters have never been published. They have, however, been microfilmed: NRS906 Special Bundles [Colonial Secretary] – 1880 Letters of Scott “Moonlight” and Rogan written while awaiting execution in Darlinghurst Gaol ([4/825.2]; microfilm copy SR Reel 2868, photocopy (COD291).
    The microfilm can be purchased here:

    August 8, 2012 at 9:51 am
  • Jen Lamond says:

    Thank you so much for that information, Fiona..I have just completed the order form and will send it away this afternoon. It will be fascinating reading, whether or not Allan Hughan is mentioned. Moonlite was certainly a most complex character- I was initially carried away by the romance of the story, but a bit of digging reveals a far darker side to his nature, as displayed by the shooting of a filly that wouldn’t stand still for him to mount her. He seems to have had a charismatic nature, judging by the ease by which he was able to manipulate people around him. All in all, one of the most interesting ruffians of Australia’s history.

    August 8, 2012 at 10:28 am
  • john howard says:

    I found this story very fascinating, even touching, outside of the sanitized inscription on his new marker. Thank you for this page. My paternal grandfather was from South Australia and the archived newspapers there are a great treasure trove of family information. Our American gay heroes have better markers, IMHO.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm
  • Kevin Marks says:

    most of Scott’s letters have been published in the definitive biography by Stephan Williams as ‘The Moonlite Papers’ in 4 volumes in 1988-91: Vol 1: The Wantabadgery Statement February 1988 50 copies Vol 2: The Egerton Statement March 1988 50 copies Vol 3: The Death Cell Letters of A.G. Scott November 1989 100 copies Vol 4: The Wantabadgery Bushrangers November 1991 45 copies

    June 22, 2013 at 9:03 pm
  • Julia Cusack says:

    When I was growing up at Eurongilly, in southern NSW, we heard a lot about Capt. Moonlight. His hideout was said to be at the top of a rocky hill to the west of the Wantabadgery village (behind the public reserve). My grandmother (b. 1903) told us how Moonlight had robbed her grandparents at their property called Rosegreen which is on the Gundagai Road at Eurongilly. Her grandmother or grandfather saw that he was coming so they hid their valuables in the chimney. Not sure how it all ended up, but no one was killed. The story was well known in my family.

    September 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm
  • Anthea Brown says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Julia. The chimney sounds like a good place to stash valuables!

    September 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm
  • Wendy Fuller says:

    Thanks for this information. I also found it very interesting. My 2 or 3 times great aunt, Mrs Sheather, was the owner of the Nangus Hotel on the Gundagai Road and family stories are told about Captain Moonlight visiting the hotel for “refreshments” on more than one occasion. The stories also tell of Mr and Mrs Sheather’s distress at seeing Captain Moonlight arrested and also the bodies of one of his gang and a policeman after the final shootout. I recently searched Trove and found an article that tells that police did indeed stop at the Nangus Hotel when removing the bodies, so I am content that the family stories are true. One other story handed down is that my great great+ grandfather (George Fuller) who worked on Nangus Station for a time, worked with one of Moonlight’s gang. This I haven’t confirmed yet.

    March 23, 2014 at 11:08 am
  • michelle gould says:

    my grandmothers grandfather was one of the police who helped capture captain moonlight at Wantabadgery his name was William Johnston he was stationed at tumut and Gundagai police stations .

    September 13, 2014 at 7:50 pm
  • jim Zeiher says:

    In 1986 I was researching the Nesbitt family history (my mothers maiden name and following a family story, still unproven, that a relative had ridden with Captain Moonlite) and found myself in the Rocks reading the last letters of Scott. Very powerful reading indeed. Around the same time the SMH ran an article about his grave being located in a Sydney cemetery. I contacted the Gundagai shire council to see if they knew where Nesbitt was buried and drew their attention to the SMH article and Scott’s correspondence and last wishes. The local paper contacted me and followed up with an article but no gravesite identified. I note that Scott’s remains were reinterred in Gundagai ten years later but Nesbitt’s actual burial site is still not known.

    March 5, 2015 at 3:18 pm