There are many Jacks in the pantheon of bushranging, but “Scrammy” Jack Moreland is one of the more obscure.
Moreland was nicknamed scrammy because he was missing two fingers on his left hand (“scrammy” being a term for people with busted hands). He was one of the few notable Queensland bushrangers and operated near the Cape River district in the late 1860s, emerging to prominence in 1870.
Moreland, who would be referred to in the press as Three-Fingered Jack, worked with an Irishman named John Sullivan and an unnamed Aboriginal boy, emerging to raid the store at Francis Town in May 1870. The gang came across a boy bathing in the river and bailed him up, keeping him hostage until his absence was noted. When a man came looking for him, he was bailed up as well and tied up and left on a sandbank in the river. The boy escaped and raised the alarm and a bullock driver named Donald Simpson went in pursuit. He didn’t have to go far as the bushrangers were already descending upon the store. Simpson advised them to surrender and Jack responded with a cry of “Shoot the bloody cur!” upon which Simpson drew a revolver and shot Moreland in the thigh. Wounded but still lucid, Jack fired at Simpson and shot him in the lungs. The Aboriginal boy fled and Moreland and Sullivan mounted their horses. The pair took off but as they did, Francis the storekeeper appeared and fired at Scrammy Jack. The shot hit its mark and Jack slumped in the saddle but kept riding.
Two days later Simpson died of his wounds and a search party set out. Inspector Clohesy took a constable and a tracker to find the culprits but instead only found an aggressive black snake which bit the tracker who died hours later. The inspector learned that Moreland and Sullivan had been seen crossing the river. Moreland had removed his trousers to get a better look at the nasty bullet wound in his thigh and had told the witnesses – one of Francis’ staff and an Aboriginal man named Sam – that he had snagged himself in the river. Moreland and Sullivan then ascertained that the men they were speaking to had gold on them and robbed them at gunpoint before escaping.
In May 1870 Jack Moreland and John Sullivan were formally charged with the wilful murder of Donald Simpson. Unfortunately for Scrammy Jack he never got to trial. He was arrested in November 1873 and held in remand in Brisbane Gaol where, after a hunger strike, he had a severe bout of diarrhoea and died.
“SATURDAY, MAY 28, 1870.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 28 May 1870: 5.
“ATTEMPT TO STICK UP A STORE ON THE GILBERT.” South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1868 – 1881) 30 April 1870: 4.
“Current News.” The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939) 13 December 1873: 2.