Spotlight: Prison Record of Thomas Rogan

Born in Victoria, of Thomas Brown (aka Baker) there is surprisingly little information about his early life available. On his Victorian prison record it states that he was a native of Geelong, as well as listing his birth year as 1856, though his New South Wales record lists it as 1857. It seems that at some point in his teens his father William left the family and moved to Carlton after which time he could not be found. This may have informed the path he forged throughout the 1870s as it was deemed important enough to list in his Victorian record.

Brown sought an outlet for his angst as a teenager and found that petty crime was a great way of distracting himself from his sufferings. In the mid-1870s he began horse stealing and did a two and a half year stretch in gaol in 1877 for stealing horses and saddles with a mate. After his release he hung around the Sandhurst/Bendigo area where he met Andrew Scott, Jane’s Nesbitt, Frank Johns (aka Thomas Williams) and August Wernicke.

Rogan’s Victorian prison record

Perhaps it was his delinquent streak that caused him to be drawn to Scott, the charismatic Irish bank robber and prison escapee better known as Captain Moonlite. It would appear that he joined Scott during his exodus from Victoria after a period of police harassment and probably found the kind of father figure that he always craved. Scott was a nurturing, supportive voice to his gang, all of whom were wayward adolescent boys. Such encouragement could have resulted in great things if it was not for Scott’s propensity for criminality derailing the boys further – a fact Scott was to be keenly aware of.

Rogan’s devotion to Scott led to his involvement in the raid on Wantabadgery Station. During the heated gunfight with police from Wagga Wagga and Gundagai Rogan hid under a bed with a rifle and revolvers, terrified out of his wits. He wasn’t found until the next day when the owner of the property had found him by accident.

Rogan was tried with the other survivors of the gang and found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of Constable Webb-Bowen and sentenced to death along with Scott. Thomas Williams and Graham Bennett had their death sentences commuted to long stints in gaol. He was imprisoned in Darlinghurst Gaol while he awaited the inevitable and on one occasion he was visited by his mother and sister. The two women left the prisoner, absolutely beside themselves, as he had torn shreds off them, pointedly asking his mother why it was only as he awaited death that she took an interest in his welfare. Rogan was prone to such volatile behaviour while awaiting execution and on a number of occasions Scott, who was in a nearby cell, had to call out to him to settle him down for the warders. No doubt he felt there was an injustice in his sentencing.

Rogan was hanged alongside Scott and the pair held hands on the gallows. Rogan had no last words.

Leave a Reply