Spotlight: A Sketch of the Life and Career of Captain Moonlite

The following is an account of the life and career of Andrew George Scott that appeared in print shortly after his capture at McGlede’s farm. It is accurate to what was publicly confirmed or at least believed at the time. Despite the many inconsistencies in the case of the Mount Egerton bank robbery, it was generally accepted that he was guilty of the crime. Scott would always protest his innocence, even long after any hope of having his name cleared in the matter had passed.

~AP


 

CAPTAIN MOONLITE.

 

The following sketch of the career of this desperado, taken from the Melbourne Argus, will be read with interest at the present time:—

His real name is Andrew George Scott, and he is now 37 years of age. He was born in the north of Ireland, was of respectable parentage, and was brought up as a civil engineer. When yet a youth he emigrated to New Zealand, and joining the volunteers there he fought against the Maories. In an engagement he received a charge of shot in both legs. The slugs were extracted, but they left their marks. Subsequently he came to Victoria, and having entered the Church of England was stationed as a lay reader at Bacchus Marsh. Whilst administering to the spiritual wants of the district he became acquainted with the manager of the Egerton Bank and also with, the schoolmaster of that township. He used to visit the bank manager very frequently, and was on the most friendly and intimate terms with him. He also associated with the schoolmaster. One night a man with a mask on his face and armed called at the bank and bailed up the manager. The manager recognised the voice to be that of his friend Scott, but this discovery did not have any deterrent effect on the robber. Gagging his friend, Scott marched him into the schoolhouse, which was close at hand, and made him write and pin upon a desk the following line : —

“Captain Moonlite has stuck me up and robbed the bank.”

He then took him out side, tied him up in his gagged state to a tree, and having obtained possession of the bank key, he ransacked the coffers and stole up wards of £2,000 in notes, coin, and cake gold. He had a horse ready close by, and immediately galloped to a neighbouring township, seven miles distant. This journey was accomplished in half an hour, and on his arrival he asked several of his friends what o’clock it was. It was afterwards seen that he did this on purpose to prove an alibi, for he argued that as he was in this township half an hour after the robbery, he could not have been the robber.

[Source: State Library of Victoria]

So successful was he in throwing suspicion off himself, that the bank manager and the school master were arrested as the criminals, and he (Scott) was used by the local police as a witness against them. At the trial the jury could not agree on the manager’s case, and he was discharged. The school master was admitted to bail, but was bound over to surrender when called upon. In the meantime Scott had gone to Sydney, and lived there for a brief period in very grand style. When his funds became about exhausted he purchased a yacht, and engaged a crew with the intention of trying his fortunes in Fiji, or in the South Seas generally. It was, however, discovered that he had passed a valueless cheque for about £150, and before he had got beyond Sydney Heads he was arrested. A charge of false pretences was established, and he was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment. During his incarceration at Sydney it transpired that he had sold the exact amount of cake gold which had been stolen-from the Egerton Bank to the Sydney Mint. When his sentence expired he was therefore brought back in custody to Victoria, and a police court investigation having taken place he was committed to stand his trial for the Egerton Bank robbery. Pending the trial he was lodged in the Ballarat gaol.

[Source: Gold Museum Ballarat]

On the night before the day fixed for his trial he cut a hole through the wall of his cell into another occupied by a prisoner named Dermoodie. He made Dermoodie join him, and together they managed to take off the lock of the cell door. They got out into the corridor just as a warder was approaching. Springing upon the warder they choked and gagged him, and tied him up. They then relieved him of his keys, and liberated four other prisoners. All six of them reached the outer yard without any alarm having been raised. The wall being very high they were at a loss as to how they could scale it. Scott’s genius, however, was equal to the occasion. A blanket was brought from a cell and torn into strips, which were then tied together so as to form, a rope. Scott then placed himself at the wall, a second man climbed up and stood on his shoulders, a third did the same and stood on the shoulders of the second, and so on until Scott bore the weight of all five. They succeeded in doing this by means of their blanket rope, to which they had previously attached a heavy stone, throwing then the weighted end over the wall. The last man easily managed to seat himself on the top, and he then pulled up the one next him. The others scrambled up in turn by means of the rope. The descent on the other side was conducted in the same way, the order of the operation being: simply reversed. The six men thus all escaped.. Three hundred pounds, or £50 each, was offered for their recapture, and all but two were eventually arrested.

[Source: State Library of Victoria]

Scott and Dermoodie stuck together, and the former obtained arms. As they, were travelling together through the bush Scott, intimated that it was his intention to stick up a bank. Dermoodie declined to take part, saying they might have to take life, and their case was bad enough already. Scott thereupon turned upon him in a passion, called him a mean coward, and gave him five minutes to live. So convinced was Dermoodie that his time had come that he fell on his knees and pleaded with tears in his eyes for mercy. Scott relented, but kicked him away contemptuously. Shortly afterwards the police authorities received information that Scott was lurking about some diggings in the vicinity of Sandhurst. Detectives Brown and Alexander and Sergeant (now Sub-Inspector) Drought set out at once to effect his capture. They arrived at the place at about 2 o’clock, in the morning, and soon learned that the desperado was asleep in a hut. The hut was in charge of a boy who was working in the neighborhood. This lad was hunted up and questioned. He frankly told them that there was a man asleep in his hut, and that he was fully armed. The hut was cautiously approached. Going round to the door Detective Brown could see through a chink a man lying on a stretcher, sleeping soundly. By his hand stood a gun, and on a table lay a revolver and bowie-knife. These things were easily recognised through a log being alight in the fireplace. How to enter without disturbing, or alarming the sleeper was, however, a question difficult to be solved. The door was made of heavy timber ; it covered the whole end of the hut, and rested on heavy side-posts. An iron chain was passed through two holes in the centre, and through the loop of this chain in the inside was passed a ponderous bar, which was turned round so that its ends had a firm grasp of the door-posts. Detective Brown endeavored to push the bar aside by inserting a knife through a chink, but failed to more it far enough. He then gave this attempt up, and resolved on using the boy as a snare for the ruffian. The lad, after much persuasion — for be was in mortal fear of being shot— consented to act as desired on Brown saying that he would simply have to speak from behind his back. The two then took up their positions at the door, and in accordance with his instructions the boy called out — ‘Please, Sir, will you give me out my billy-can? ‘ A grunt from within was the only answer, and the request was repeated. Scott then demanded “What do you want it for?’ The lad promptly answered, ‘For tea; it is now our tea time.” “What o’clock is it?” inquired Scott, and the boy still speaking as he had been previously directed, said “Just 12 o’clock — our tea time.” There was a pause for a minute, and the detective feared that the scoundrel had discovered the truth and was preparing to fight. He, however, exercised patience,and by-and-by the bar was removed. The door was then slightly opened, and a hand held out with a billy-can. Brown at once seized the man’s wrist with a firm grasp, whilst with his other hand he thrust a revolver into his face, and said, “If you move, you are a dead man.” The other officers came promptly forward, and the fellow was secured. He denied at first that he was Scott, but Brown settled his identity by pulling up his trousers and showing’ the shot-marks in his legs. For escaping from legal custody the desperado was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment in irons. He was also convicted and sentenced to ten years for the Egerton Bank robbery. His conduct in Pentridge has been already adverted to in previous reports. He was discharged in March last, and has now, we hope, committed his final outrage on humanity.


[Source: South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1868 – 1881), Saturday 29 November 1879, page 22]

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