A PREACHER and a polished gentleman — they’re hardly the first words that come into your head to describe a bushranger.
But in the case of Captain Moonlite they’re just as applicable as thief and troublemaker.
They attracted Paul Terry who has written In Search of Captain Moonlite, a biography of the 19th century bushranger who was hanged in 1880 after a shootout with police at Wantabadgery Station near Wagga.
“I’ve said he’s an accidental bushranger,” Terry said of Moonlite, whose real name was Andrew George Scott.
“He never really set out to plunder and steal, he just really couldn’t control his emotions basically and ended up getting himself into all sorts of trouble and pretty much lost control.
“He was very erratic and very volatile, hugely intelligent and well read from a really well-to-do upper class family from Northern Ireland.
“He really should have gone on to be a fine Victorian gentleman but partly due to his own mistakes he sort of had this downward spiral where everything he did went wrong.”
Terry, who authored The True Story of Ned Kelly’s Stand, published last year, and oversees Albury’s Prime7 News, was taken with Moonlite’s life when he read a media release about documents being auctioned in May 2012.
“I knew, coming from Wagga, that he had a shootout at Wantabadgery Station but I didn’t know much else about him and I got on to the auction house in Melbourne and said ‘could I come and see the documents’, so I took a punt to see if they were any good and they were,” Terry said.
The papers included letters describing how Moonlite travelled the South Pacific, details of unpaid bills and a grease-stained map.
“He was a lay preacher, he was a man of God, he was also a crook,” Terry said.
“He was a man of great contrasts.
“He was supposedly a lunatic but he was never mad, he was a warrior for a short time in New Zealand who never killed anyone, his great love in life was a man, a young member of his gang, but he was also loved by women.”
Terry believes based on messages he uncovered that Moonlite was homosexual and “in love” with his gang member James Nesbitt.
Moonlite had a dying wish to be buried alongside Nesbitt at Gundagai cemetery.
“A convicted criminal and suspected homosexual was never going to get that granted to him at that time, but these two ladies in Gundagai, who incidentally don’t believe that he was gay, they heard about it years later and they arranged for him to be exhumed from Sydney and brought down to Gundagai to be reburied,” Terry said.
“His story is up there with some of the best in our history and not many people know much about him, so hopefully people will read the book and understand him and learn a bit about him because as historical figures go, he’s more fascinating than most.”
In Search of Captain Moonlite is on sale from Thursday, with a launch to be held as part of the Write Around the Murray literary festival in Albury in September.
Click play below for an excerpt of "Captain Moonlite", read by Paul Terry
Click play below for a bonus Q&A session with author Paul Terry
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