Spotlight: The Executed Wantabadgery Bushrangers (1880)

South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), Friday 23 January 1880, page 6


Andrew George Scott, alias Captain Moonlite, who expiated his last crime in Darlinghurst Gaol on Tuesday, January 20, was born in the north of Ireland in or about the year 1843, and was consequently 37 years of age. He had the usual “highly respectable parentage,” his father being a clergyman of the Church of England, who now holds a tenure in the District of Coromandel, in the north of New Zealand. The family came to Auckland some years ago, when Andrew George was quite young. Though we are not, as we expected to be, in possession of an autobiography of the executed criminal, written for one of our contributors, and withheld from him by the prison authorities of New South Wales, we are able from information supplied us by that gentleman to give the salient points in Scott’s career. He early evinced a desire for a free and roaming life. He found his way to Sydney soon after the immigration of his family, and for some time knocked about the port, doing odd jobs and shipping for short voyages. Upon one of these, while in New Caledonia, something happened to the master of a vessel called the Sarah Pile — a difficulty occurred with the authorities we believe — and Scott induced the crew to lift the anchor and sail for Sydney. He had been brought up as a civil engineer, and displayed much ingenuity and ability. Upon this occasion, he navigated the vessel safely and expeditiously to Sydney, and was complimented and paid by her owners. He also served in the war with the Maoris in New Zealand, and distinguished himself. During an encounter with the enemy he received a wound from a bullet in the leg, which caused him to limp slightly ever afterwards. It is difficult, in the absence of the narrative to which we have alluded, to place these events in his life in proper sequence but it is probable that, after both the maritime and battle experiences, Scott found himself located at Bacchus Marsh — it was erroneously reported — a lay reader. He applied for the requisite credentials, but was refused by the then Metropolitan upon grounds not specified. It is evident, however, that Scott hung upon the skirts of the church, and was admitted into society on the strength of his piety. It was here that he formed the acquaintance of a young bank manager named Brunn, who, with the local schoolmaster was very intimate with the future felon, to their cost. The trio struck up a romantic friendship, such as young men form, and spent all their time in one another’s society. One of the darkest spots in the history of Scott in his allowing Brunn, the victim of the Egerton bank affair, to lie under the stigma of having outraged the trust reposed in him. The details of the Egerton bank affair are pretty well known.

One night the bank was stuck up by an armed man wearing a mask upon his face, the manager being first ordered to bail up, then secured, and finally gagged. The features of the robber were effectually hidden by the mask; but his voice the manager recognised as that of his friend Scott. This recognition, however, had no particular effect upon his friend, and Scott, having effectually gagged the manager, took him to the school, which was not far away, and caused him to write upon a piece of paper, and to pin the paper to a desk, “Captain Moonlite has stuck me up and robbed the bank.” Then he tied the manager to a tree, and returning to the bank he stole over £2,000 in notes, coin, and gold. His ingenuity in devising means to escape detection at once came into play, and having a horse ready, he got upon its back and galloped to a neighboring township, seven miles distant from Egerton, doing the journey in the remarkably short space of half an hour. This was done with the intention of afterwards showing that it could scarcely be possible for him to have robbed the bank at Egerton and to have been seven miles off within half an hour after the robbery. He did, in fact, afterwards establish an ‘alibi’ in this manner, and so successful was he in removing suspicion from himself, that the bank manager and the schoolmaster were accused of the robbery, and Scott was brought by the police as a witness against them. Both the accused were committed for trial, and at the trial the manager was discharged because the jury could not in his case agree, and the schoolmaster was admitted to bail and bound over to surrender when called upon.

Scott said he thought of the name Moonlite through having acquired it when running cargoes at Cuba and on the Spanish Main. If so, it is difficult to determine at what period of his history he was there. He said that he meant Moonlight but dictated the short spelling in the heat of the moment. Some time after the robbery he went to Sydney, assumed fine clothes, sported money, and got into some of the best circles in Balmain and the North Shore. He gave himself out as a gentleman in search of a maritime venture — a vessel fitted for a yacht, and yet capable of carrying any light remunerative cargo which he might pick up about the South Seas. He was in treaty for the Barque Celestia, and gave a series of dinners on board of her as she lay in Neutral or one of the bays on this side of Port Jackson Harbour. This was in the year 1872. Thinking the Celestia too large for his purpose, he forfeited his deposit upon the purchase, and bought a smaller craft. He then organised a crew, and judging from the selection he made and the mysterious hints he dropped — hints which find easy interpretation by the light of his subsequent career — his mission was not intended as that of a peaceful trader, and it is fortunate the cheque he gave in part payment was found to be valueless, which led to his arrest; for there is little doubt that such an unscrupulous, bold, determined man as Scott has shown himself, if in possession of a smart craft and a crew who would obey his orders, would have been, at least for a time, a scourge as a pirate. His proposals to the other desperadoes to seize the mail steamer — a scheme which only the lack of capital prevented him from attempting — prove that there were no lengths to which he would not have gone. While serving the 18 months’ imprisonment for the offence of obtaining goods — to wit, the vessel — under false pretences, something leaked out about the Egerton affair, and on making enquiries Scott was identified as being at any rate suspected of complicity in the robbery. The police ferreted out the fact, too, that the gold which Scott had sold to the bank in Sydney for means wherewith to keep up the state in which he lived was identical in quality and fineness with that stolen from Egerton, and he was remanded to Ballarat to answer the charge of robbery. It was while awaiting his trial that Scott made one of the most determined gaol breakings ever known in this colony. He got out of Ballarat gaol by first cutting a hole through the wall of his cell into another occupied by a prisoner named Dermoodie, and then with Dermoodie’s assistance, taking off the lock of the cell door and securing the warder outside. Relieving the warder of his keys, they liberated four other prisoners, and all six managed, by using a rope made from a blanket, to scale the gaol wall without being seen and to escape. A reward of £50 each was offered for the recapture of the men, and all but Scott and Dermoodie were speedily taken. These two remained together, and for a long time successfully eluded the vigilance of the police; but the two were not well mated, for while Scott was rash and determined, Dermoodie was weak and timid of doing anything that would make their case worse in the eyes of the law than it was already. During the time they were together an incident occurred which appears very similar to some that took place at Wantabadgery. Scott wanted to stick up a bank, but Dermoodie was afraid of doing anything that might lead them to take life, and Scott, turning upon him in a raging passion, denounced him as a mean coward, and gave him five minutes to live. Dermoodie fell on his knees and begged for mercy, and Scott relenting kicked him away contemptuously. Not long after this the police received information that Scott had been seen lurking about some diggings near Sandhurst, and efforts being at once made to arrest him he was caught by a clever stratagem.

At his trial, as at that of last month, Scott conducted his own defence, and made out a very plausible case, displaying remarkable ability in speech and cross-examination. His chief desire was to prove that the gold which he sold in Sydney was not identical with that stolen from Egerton. He knew that he had a portion of it in his belt once when wrecked on a reef, and calculated upon the sea-water altering the quality, which is assayed to very minute fineness. The “expert” however, was not to be swayed, for though Scott kept him in the box a whole day he maintained that the bars tallied in assay with that recorded of the missing Egerton gold. His cleverness, however, did not avail him, for he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Scott claims to have acted with all fairness to his quondam friend Brunn, and gets furious if accused of having behaved badly in the matter. He says that he was committed for contempt of court because he would not give evidence that would damage him. Scott proved himself one of the most troublesome prisoners ever seen within the walls of Pentridge. He was at first given the post of schoolmaster’s assistant, but repeated acts of insubordination lost him the billet. He formed a ring in the place, and led a band of malcontents. It is said that he inspired most of the outrages, for the last of which Weechurch forfeited his life. Nothing could quell or subdue him, neither kindness nor harshness. He was just as defiant in the animals’ cage of a cell, in which uncontrollable criminals are confined, as in the wards, and he was not only insubordinate himself, but the cause of insubordination in others. His sticking up of Chief Warder Kelly, whom he robbed under arms, ‘videlicet’ a blunt dinner-knife, and his subsequent defiance of the whole resources of the institution, are well known. His object was to be brought before the Supreme Court, and it is palpable that his love for theatrical display led him into the commission of a capital offence. So long as he lived he would talk and display that oratorical ability for which he deemed himself famous. The authorities seem glad to have been rid of him, for despite all his bad conduct, he was discharged after serving some seven years and four months of his ten years’ sentence. He would interview the governor of the gaol, petition the Government and authorities, appeal by letter to the chaplain, and bother everybody with his grievances. One of his greatest grievances he mentioned at the lectures he delivered after his release, to the great delight and astonishment of his audiences — “He had once asked to be supplied with a work on the differential calculus, and the brutal authorities actually had the audacity and fiendish cruelty to get him a common work on mathematics!” After leaving Pentridge, at the commencement of the present year, Scott commenced a lecturing tour, opening at Ballarat, where he was refused the use of the Academy of Music, by order of the owner, Mr. W. J. Clarke. He however got the Alfred Hall, and attracted good audiences. After doing some of the towns in the vicinity of Egerton he came to Melbourne, and induced a well-known theatrical agent to take up his cause, assuring him that his intention was to get an honest living. He lectured in the Temperance Hall to some 500 people, speaking with great fluency, and giving an interesting account of his life in Pentridge, where, to use his own hackneyed phrase, “Tyranny and injustice are practised at the country’s cost and to its shame.” His subsequent lectures at Williamstown, Emerald Hill and Collingwood were financially failures, and he announced his intention to go home to his father. The Lancefield bank robbery brought him into notoriety again, though he was acquitted of any share in the affair, and was loud in his complaints against the police, and especially the detectives, for endeavoring to connect him with it. He was also suspected — without reason, too, it is fair to assume — of being concerned in the robbery and murder of the late Mr. Frank Bates, the actor. It is known that he went to the Williamstown Stockade and endeavored to effect the release of an old gaol chum — one Johnstone or Johnson — and it is said that he then formed and promulgated the idea to some friends to attempt the sticking-up of the outward bound mail steamer. After the events above recorded Scott cleared out, and was not heard of until the news came that the Wantabadgery station had been stuck up, and that he was in command of the desperadoes. This was on the 5th of November. The party, consisting of Scott, Rogan, Nesbitt, Wernicke, Williams, and Bennett, stuck up the station, committed a series of outrages upon the owner and his servants, and Mr. Weir, the local post-master, and after carousing there until early on the morning of Monday, retired to a place called McGlede’s farm, a few miles away, where they were attacked by the police. Wernicke, a young lad, the son of a Melbourne publican, was shot, with Nesbitt, Scott’s particular friend, and the gallant Sergeant Bowen. Nesbitt’s death seemed to completely unman Scott, who surrendered, and was taken with the rest to Gundagai, where a preliminary investigation took place. Scott’s behavior and defence at that trial, and the one in Sydney, to which city he was remanded, have been the theme of numberless comments and reports, filling pages of the daily papers of the dates of their occurrence, and it is unnecessary to dilate upon them now. The wretched being, who has paid the penalty justly demanded by a country whose laws he outraged, would, under happier auspices, have been a useful member of any community. He possessed considerable ability, even with regard to matters concerning which he had not had any special or technical education. In spite of what has been said of his personal courage, it is indisputable that he continually showed a disregard for his own safety. When his party wished to surrender he turned on them, and threatened them with death at his own hands if they did; and he performed many deeds — some of them decidedly unlawful — demanding the exercise of nerve, decision, and courage — as witness his escape from Ballarat Gaol. A record in a Bible left at the house of a friend in Sydney showed that at one time he was a Cadet in the Britannia British man-of-war. His love of licence, which many persons of his kind confound with liberty, led him to the commission of deeds, the last of which has landed him in a dishonored grave, and must have caused his relatives incalculable misery. His life and fate should be a warning to those of our youth who are too prone to regard lightly, or with aversion, the necessary restraints which society is bound in its own defence to place upon the lawlessly disposed. A contempt for constituted authority leads by almost insensible gradation to the commission of offences, and consequent punishment.

Rogan, the other prisoner hanged on Tuesday for participation in the Wantabadgery outrage, appears to be in reality a member of a family in Victoria named Baker. There has been great secrecy observed with regard to his identity, and his namesake, the Melbourne detective, failed to recognise him as being known to the police. It is, however, now ascertained that he had been convicted of larceny at St. Kilda, of burglary at Beechworth, and had served one sentence of two years’ imprisonment, which fact weighed doubtless with the New South Wales Executive. He was about twenty or twenty-one years of age, of somewhat forbidding countenance, his features being of a negro cast. It was said that he was a brother of Nesbitt, the bushranger shot at McGlede’s, but this is denied, and though he somewhat resembled Nesbitt at first sight in appearance, there was in reality no similarity of features. When the encounter took place, Rogan sought shelter under the bed, and does not appear to have taken any part in the shooting, which makes the decision of the New South Wales Government inexplicable, unless, as we have surmised, his previous career influenced the members of the Cabinet. He not only was concealed during the fight, but when he might have committed murder, and had the weapons at hand, he refrained from doing so.

Spotlight: Execution of Sam Poo (1866)

Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918, 1935), Saturday 6 January 1866, page 19


EXECUTION AT BATHURST. – The convict Sam Poo, who at the last assizes was convicted of the murder of Constable Ward; suffered the extreme penalty of the law within the precincts of the gaol; In the absence of any of his countrymen outside the prison walls three Chinese prisoners, who are at present confined in Bathurst gaol, were brought out to see the end of Sam Poo; there were also about a dozen other persons present, besides the police and the officers of the gaol. The wretched man, who, ever since his apprehension has been quite weak in intellect, appeared perfectly unconscious of his fate, and, until his arms were pinioned by the executioners, stood at the door of his cell clapping his hands. The ceremony of pinioning over, he was led to the gallows without speaking a word, or even once lifting up his head. The rope was fixed, the bolt drawn and Sam Poo ceased to exist. The body was, after the lapse of little more than half an hour, cut down and taken away for burial. — Free Press.

Spotlight: The Execution Of The Clarke Brothers As It Was Reported

Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917), Wednesday 26 June 1867, page 3




Sydney, June 25.

The convicted bushrangers, Thomas and John Clarke were executed at 9 o’clock this morning. The scaffold was erected in the yard of Darlinghurst Gaol. There were only about the usual number of officials and spectators present, and nothing special marked the ceremony.

The men bad been most assiduously attended by their spiritual advisers, and a subdued and quiet manner, with expressions of penitence for their crimes, marked their last moments. In both instances death was almost instantaneous on the fall of the drop. Their relatives and friends were in attendance, and (having previously obtained permission from the authorities) their bodies have since been removed for interment.

Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), Saturday 6 July 1867, page 9


THOMAS and JOHN CLARKE were executed together within the precincts of Darlinghurst Gaol, on Tuesday, June 25, a few minutes past 9 o’clock, in the presence of about one hundred and seventy spectators, and a large detachment of city police. The execution was conducted in a very prompt and brief manner. The procession was formed exactly at 9 o’clock. Thomas Clarke was accompanied by the Rev. Father John Dwyer, and John Clarke by the Rev. Father O’Farrell. The prayers said by the clergymen were in a low tone. Both prisoners walked with their heads bowed down, and with their eyes partially closed. They looked very careworn and much dejected. They paid no attention to the presence of so many spectators, upon whom they did not so much as cast one look. Their minds seemed to be fully absorbed in meditation and prayer. On arriving at the foot of the gallows they both knelt briefly in prayer. The Rev. Father Dwyer then proceeded up the ladder to the scaffold, followed by Thomas and John Clarke, and the Rev. Father O’Farrell. The prisoners, especially John, manifested slight trepidation. John was placed to the left of his brother. When the rope was adjusted on John’s neck he looked momentarily at his brother, whose eyes remained closed. The rope was then adjusted round Thomas’ neck. A few more prayers — very brief, were said, when the Rev. Father Dwyer took Thomas’ left and John’s right hand, bid them farewell, and left them. The Rev. Father O’Farrell held the cross to each of their lips, and both kissed it—their eyes being closed. Both clergymen having departed, the hangman placed a white cap over each of the culprits’ faces, and drew the bolt. Both fell suddenly to a depth of nine feet — their necks were dislocated — and they died instantly without a struggle, and without any perceptible muscular spasm.

Drs. Aaron and Evans, and a surgeon from one of Her Majesty’s vessels, after the bodies had been suspended for about twenty minutes, pronounced life to be extinct; they were taken down, placed in shells, and given over to their sisters for interment.

Since their conviction they had been attended upon unremittingly by the Sisters of Mercy, by the Rev. Father Dwyer and Father O’Farrell; very early yesterday morning by the Rev. Prior Sheridan; and their demeanor throughout was apparently most penitent.

On Monday afternoon they were visited for the last time by their two sisters. Tears on both sides flowed thick and fast. The parting scene was affectionate and distressing. The prisoners, however, soon regained their composure. The authorities also allowed them to be visited by their uncle, Michael Nowlan O’Con-nell, who is now awaiting trial for being accessory to the murder of Carroll and party at Jinden, and also for harboring tho outlaw Thomas Clarke — now no more. The parting scene was here also of a very sad description.

There are some facts in connection with these two executed criminals deserving of notice. It is well known that their solicitor, Mr. Joseph Leary, spared no personal effort in defending them, and in endeavoring to procure a mitigation of their sentence. He procured two very eminent counsel at their trial; and when sentence was passed, moved the full Court in arrest of judgment. Failing in this he went personally on Thursday and had an interview with the Governor, in the presence of His Excellency’s private secretary, and pleaded ably for mercy, especially for John Clarke. Feeling that it would be necessary to submit his case in writing he drew up an elaborate statement, which His Excellency placed specially before the Executive Council on Monday. There was a full meeting of the Council — the further report of the Chief Justice, and the opinion of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General being considered with Mr. Leary’s statement. The result of a most anxious deliberation, however, was that the two criminals should be left to their fate.

When this decision had been arrived at and communicated to the prisoners, on Monday evening, they were visited for the last time by Mr. Leary. After some conversation, Thomas Clarke said, ” We should like to make a statement to you.” Mr. Leary replied, “It is useless now for you to make any statement to me; I have done all I can; you have but a few hours to live ; direct your thoughts to One who is just, and before whom you have soon to appear ; that is now my advice.” Thomas Clarke said, ” We have given up all hope, and are prepared to die ; but, for myself, I wish to declare solemnly that I am innocent of murdering either Carroll or his party.” Mr. Leary said, “Don’t tell me anything more about it.” John Clarke said, ” I can solemnly assure you that I am also innocent of murdering either one or the other of those detectives.” Thomas Clarke said, “You know, sir, we have written to the Colonial Secretary, and told him we were innocent of murdering Carroll’s party, and we told him we could prove that at the time they were murdered we were forty miles away from the place; we told him that Mrs. St. Germains, her daughter, her son-in-law (who had been a member of the police force some time since), and another person whom we named, could prove that at the time the detectives were murdered we were at her place. Mrs. St. Germains said to me, a few days after the report of the murder, ‘Well, Tom, they accuse you of a great many crimes, but they cannot say you murdered the detectives.’ These four people are in a position to prove that they saw us during the day, and at the hour, forty miles from the scene of the murder.” They then, in bidding adieu to Mr. Leary, warmly thanked him for the pains he had taken, and requested that he would be so good as to convey certain words to their mother, and that he would strongly advise their sisters and other relatives in the Braidwood district to lead an honest and a good life.

It will be difficult for the public to disbelieve that the Clarkes murdered Carroll and his party; but as they both, almost at the last moment, when there was no chance of a reprieve, voluntarily and persistently protested their innocence of these foul murders, it is but right that it should be recorded. They made no public confession of other crimes. — Empire.

Spotlight: Historic Old Gaol – Darlinghurst Closed – 1914

Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 – 1931), Saturday 8 August 1914, page 37

Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney, ca. 1918 [Source]



“‘Gallows Hill’. we called it.”
“There were many executions in those ‘good’ (?) old days.”
“Early in the morning there sounded the clanking of irons as as the chain gang wended its weary way from Hyde Park Barracks to work on Flagstaff Hill or Fort Phillip. In the evening the tired convicts clanked wearily back through Jamieson and Hunter streets to the park. But ‘Gallows’ Hill is no more. Hyde Park and Carter’s Barracks are but memories. Now Darlinghurst is gone. For the first time the City of Sydney has no gaol within its borders.”
So speak the few old citizens who, during four-score years, have watched the little settlement in Sydney Cove develop (says The Sydney Morning Herald). And while there may be several who remember the genesis of Darlinghurst, there be but few whose memories go back to Gallows Hill.

— George Street Gaol. —

In these enlightened days, when “humanity” is the watchword of the prison system, when public executions are unthinkable, when the lash is almost obsolete, and when every criminal has a comfortable cell to himself, it is hard to imagine the horrors of the early days. But the old gaol bounded by lower George street, Essex street, ‘Little” Essex street; and Cambridge street, was a hell upon earth. It was only 85 ft. long, and built to accommodate 200 prisoners, yet 345 men and women had at one time been packed into it. Eventually a Legislative Council committee decided that it was miserably inadequate, ridiculously insecure, and in a ruinous condition. In a room 32ft. by 22 no fewer than 112 prisoners were herded together, some sleeping between the legs of others, for there was not even floor space enough. Attempts to escape were numerous, and the brutal treatment debased the unfortunate criminals. Executions were frequent. No wonder the spot; was called Gallows Hill. For 42 years it had done duty, but in Governor Brisbane’s time it was recognised that a new gaol was imperatively necessary. So an area of 3½ acres was secured just outside the city. Solid walls 20 ft. high were erected round the area, and the currency lads called the: place “Woolloomooloo Stockade.” Two of those original walls still stand, on the southern and eastern boundaries. And the initials of some of the hapless prisoners still catch the eye of the passer-by. It was not all built by the convicts. One hundred free labourers added their quota. A chain gang quarried the stone, from the Woolloomooloo quarry in William street, where St. Peter’s Church now stands. But the work progressed too slowly. There was too much “Government stroke.” The Sydney Gazette opined that it would be far more expeditious to call tenders and have the work pushed ahead by contractors. However, in 1835 Parliament voted £35,000 for the completion of the gaol. It was planned after the Eastern Penitentiary of Philadelphia, and took five years to build. Then on June 2, 1841, Darlinghurst was proclaimed a Government prison.

— Old Darlinghurst. —

Seventy-three years ago the first inmates were incarcerated. Sydney citizens have at different times seen many processions, grave and gay. But never since has there been such a mournful procession as took place on tbe bleak winters morning of June 7, 1841. Convicts, shivering and miserable, in clanking chains, guarded by armed police and warders, shambled along from the old prison to the new. There were old and young; hardened criminals and petty thieves. They seemed to crawl along George street and Bridge street, creep through the Domain, then stagger up the hill to the “Woolloomooloo Stockade.” There were 407 men and boys, with the murderer Curran in the van, heavily ironed, and destined soon to end his days in Berrima. Then, later on, a slower, sadder spectacle, came the 39 women prisoners, and Darlinghurst was populated. The year 1841 is memorable in other respects. In a faded and dilapidated old volume, issued in 1847 by Francis Low, and printed by Kern and Mader, at 7 Hunter street, we find that gas was first used in Sydney in 1841, and the company gave a brilliant illumination on Church Hill; that the census was taken, showing the population of the colony to be 130,856; that the High Sheriff, in a temporary fit of insanity, shot himself at Darlinghurst; and that two new weekly papers saw the light. The Observer, under, the auspices of Dr. Lang, and The Omnibus, edited by Col. Wilson. Also it is noted that six of the bushrangers belonging to “The Jew Boys’ Mob,” who had for 12 months kept the Hunter River Valley in a state of terror by numerous acts of daring, outrage, and murder, were executed. A few months later came the first executions. George Stroud murdered his wife, and Robert Hudson killed a fellow prisoner. They were hanged together, and many people assembled. But three years later, when the villainous Knatchbull was executed, about 10,000 citizens congregated, kept back from the scaffold by mounted troopers. But the crowd was a silent crowd and not a holiday crowd like some of those that graced public executions in the old countries. Public execution was abolished in 1853, 15 years before England thought fit to follow suit.

— The Scaffold. —

But many well-known criminals paid the penalty of their crimes at Darlinghurist— 76 in all —bushrangers and murderers. Capt. Moonlight was hanged in 1880, the Mount Bennie criminals in 1887, Louisa Collins in 1887. George Archer in 1893, and Montgomery and Williams in 1894. Others of note were O’Farrell, who shot the Duke of Edinburgh; Butler, and Jimmy Governor. The last to be executed at Darlinghurst. was Baxter, in 1907. And, though the public sense of propriety no longer sanctions public executions, there is a morbid interest attached to the gallows; and when the gaol was thrown open to visitors this week hundreds of curious citizens flocked to the condemned cell, and stood on the gallows where many noted criminals had stood before them. At odd times daring Jack Sheppards have broken out of the gaols at Berrima, Goulburn, Bathurst, Parramatta, and Biloela; but Darlinghurst has proved a tougher proposition. In the last 35 years only two prisoners have escaped; but there have been many bold bids for freedom; “Thunderbolt” was in Cockatoo Island Gaol for cattle thieving. He escaped, swam with his irons on to the shore, and took to bushranging. Once a number of prisoners found a likely “header” in the wall, and right under the eye of the warder cut the mortar away. Removing the stone when the warder had turned away, no fewer than 17 men scrambled through. They were lean, wiry customers, for the hole was small. Then a fat prisoner essayed the task, and stuck. He kicked in vain. When the warder returned he found the fat man half-way through, and a prisoner on each side of the wall playing tug-of-war.

— Past and Future. —

Back in the sixties a lot of rebellious prisoners from Cockatoo Island, were sent to Darlinghurst, and they revolted, dashed to the painters’ shed, seized a ladder, and scaled the walls. But on the other side they found armed warders ready to receive them; so they retreated to the cells, and barricaded themselves in. The guard attacked, and when one of the prisoners was shot the rest surrendered. Sometimes the dreary monotony of prison life became unbearable, and prisoners, finding escape hopeless, committed suicide. One man tried 14 times to shuffle off this mortal coil, but always failed; others were most determined, and succeeded. The old hands at Darlinghurst tell many tales of the prisoners and prisons of the past. But nowadays the prisoner’s lot is not altogether an unhappy one. He works, and reads, and empires; mostly he reforms. So now Darlinghurst passes from the list of gaols, like Berrima and Biloela, and Trial Bay. The prisoners have gone out to Long Bay to the penitentiary. Even as Gallows Hill has been forgotten, so will the tragic record of Darlinghurst pass into the seldom-opened pages of history. It will become a centre of light and learning, rather than the abode of criminals, Instead of the monotonous march of sentries will sound the music of children’s voices. The drab prison walls and railings will be superseded by graceful columns of an educational edifice that shall be a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

Spotlight: Execution of Dunn the Bushranger

Kilmore Free Press and Counties of Bourke and Dalhousie Advertiser (Kilmore, Vic. : 1865 – 1868), Thursday 29 March 1866, page 4



A sadder scene was never enacted in that when John Dunn, the last of the notorious trio who, setting religion and law at defiance, excited feelings of indignation, insecurity, and terror throughout the colony — died an ignominious death upon the scaffold. Sad was it indeed to see a young man cut off in the flower of his youth, before twenty summers had passed over his head, and steeped to the eyes in crimes at which humanity may well shudder; and yet it was evident from the calm fortitude displayed by the young outlaw when the awful hour of execution came, that with proper training he would have proved himself worthy of a better fate.

More fortunate than his two quondem friends, Hall and Gilbert, who fell by the avenging bullet. Dunn had the advantage of a trial, with all the solemn forms of law ; and with a levity which he accorded not to his victims he was allowed time to prepare for his appearance before the Great Judge; he was permitted, moreover, to avail himelf of the services of a clergyman of the faith which he professed, to instruct and direct him in his appeals for mercy to an ever merciful God. It is satisfactory to know that these services were not rendered in vain, but that the guilty man, whose short life had been stained with outrages and blood, gave proofs of the sincerity of his repentance, and a desire to atone for his past sins. We understand that from the time of his conviction he was most attentive to the admonitions of his religious instructor, giving no trouble to his keepers and questioning not for a moment the justice of his sentence, and was perfectly resigned to his fate. Judging from the improved physical condition which he exhibited as he left the condemned cell yesterday, morning, his mind could not have been much disturbed by the thought of his impending doom for he was much more robust than when he first arrived in Sydney. He gained in weight upwards of a stone during his incarceration in the gaol. We are informed that the Roman Catholic chaplain of the gaol, the Rev. J. Dwyer, and the Rev T. McCarthy of St Benedict’s (to whom the bushranger Vane surrendered) were with the con-demned culprit until half-past 11 o’clock on Sunday night, and that soon after they left he fell into a deep slumber and remained asleep until half-past six o’clock yesterday morning when he awoke and perforned his ablutions. He ate a hearty breakfast and having smoked a pipe of tobacco, and to all appearance enjoyed it, he was prepared to receive two of the sisters of charity, who now, paid him a visit. Between 7 and 8 o’clock the two clergymen who were with him over night again presented themselves and the two sisters bade him a final adieu. The clergymen now endeavoured by the usual religious exercises to prepare the mind of the wretched man for his approaching end, and at a few minuted to 9 o’clock the Sheriff proceeded to the cell, and with the customary formality demanded Dunns body. The two executioners then pinnioned the culprit, and the mournful cortege moved slowly from the wing of the gaol towards the gallows erected at the eastern side of the yard. Dunn who limped slightly from the effect of the wound in his leg, walked between the two clergymen and repeated after them the solemn words of prayer which they uttered. Arrived at the foot of the grim instrument of death, the condemned man proceeded without assistance to mount the steps, followed by the Rev. Dwyer, in his clerical robes, and the executioners. Upon the platform the rev gentleman read a short prayer, shook hands with the poor misguided youth who was about to pay the penalty of his crimes with his life and left the scaffold. The fatal rope was speedily adjusted, the white cap was drawn over the condemned man’s face the bolt was withdrawn, and, with the heavy thud which immediately followed, the young outlaw ceased to live.

The neck was evidently broken by the fall, for there was not the slightest movement of the muscles to indicate any life remained. After hanging about twenty minutes the body was cut down, and subsequently given to a Mrs. Picard, (who, when the dead man was an innocent infant, stood as his godmother), for private interment. Thus perished in the scaffold, by the hands of the common hangman, the last at large, and the most bloodthirsty of Gardiner’s gang. Of this once formidable band of highwaymen, which for so many years kept the colony in awe, it may not be out of place to mention, that four still survive, viz., Gardiner, the chief, who is undergoing a sentence of thirty two years’ penal servitude ; Vane, who surrendered through the instrumentality of Father McCarthy, and was sentenced to fifteen years in the roads ; Bow and Fordyce, sentenced to death, which afterwards commuted to fifteen years’ penal servitude. Peisley and Manns were hung ; the other five, namely Lowrie, Burke, O’Meally, Ben Hall and Gilbert were shot dead – Burke and O’Meally by private hands, and the remainder by the police. The last who joined the gang was the “Old Man,” who gave himself up to the police and is now in penal servitude. We understand that a short time before his execution, Dunn write a letter to the governor of the gaol, thanking him and the warders also for his and their kindness. The were between sixty and seventy persons present to witness the execution.


Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 11 July 1915, page 11



The sixties were stirring times in New South Wales and Victoria. The voice of the old fossicker, now an almost extinct species, was heard in the land, and bewhiskered, rrd-shirted bushrangers laid in wait for him in lonely gullies, past which the coach track wound on its way to the nearest town. In those days a policeman often had a life that was by no means all beer and cold pie. He was at times called upon to take a ride through the bush on the box seat of a coach, which, besides two or three shivering passengers, also carried a few boxes of gold. His chance of getting a couple of ounces of lead from an old-fashioned, long-barrelled revolver was a trifle better than the present-day constable’s likelihood of drawing a prize in Tattersall’s sweep.

“I thought we were in for a little potting practice the day I saw Thunderbolt riding along the mountain-side, about 160 yards from the coach,” declared ex-Gaol Governor John Cotter when recalling the other day some incidents of bygone times. Mr. Cotter was a constable at the time he referred to, and was acting as mail guard on the Glen Innes coach. “We had two passengers,” he said, “and one of them was a magistrate. Just as we were going up the Devil’s Pinch I saw a horseman riding along the side of the ranges, and it didn’t need a second glance to assure me it was the notorious Thunderbolt. We had such excellent descriptions of him that there could be no mistake. He had his eye on the coach, too, and seemed to be debating with himself whether to gallop over to us or not. I settled the question for him by drawing my revolver. He saw the action, realised that I had the drop on him, and rode away. The magistrate was greatly perturbed when he saw my revolver come out. He was still more upset when he learned how close he had been to Thunderbolt without the railing of a dock to separate them. The horseman I saw was Thunderbolt all right, because he was present at the Uralla races on the following day, and was on his way there when he passed our coach. Forty-eight hours afterwards he was shot by Senior-Constable Walker.”


While on the subject of bushrangers, Mr. Cotter called to mind the capture of Captain Moonlight, whose real name was Scott, and his subsequent execution. It Is a generally-accepted belief that Moonlight was a well-educated man, and claimed descent from a good old English family. Mr. Cotter, who, in the capacity of gaol official, spent a lot of time In the bushranger’s society, regards Scott as having been a man who had received an ordinary education, but had missed no opportunity of improving himself. Owing to Moonlight’s excitable temperament and daring nature great difficulty was experienced by the gaol authorities in getting warders to guard him while he was awaiting execution. Mr. Cotter was brought down from Maltland for the job, and he, with another warder, afterwards took it in turns to watch the desperado while he was in the condemned cell.

“One morning,” said Mr. Cotter, “Moonlight became outrageous. He was shouting and bawling at the top of his voice, and he had the wits scared out of the warders. Seven of them had to be relieved on the first evening. At last the deputy-governor came along, and he said, ‘What the hell’s the matter with that fellow Moonlight? This is the seventh man I have sent to him. Do you think you can manage him,’

“I said I’d have a try. ‘What’s up, Scott?’ I asked, as I looked through the grating of the cell door. ‘Do you call those men warders?’ he said, angrily. ‘I call them Johnny Warders. They don’t know how to manage a man. All I did was to call out to my mate Rogan, and they started to make a fuss about it.’ He promised me he would be quiet, and he was. For a week before he was executed, I and another man stood guard over him. He asked me as a favor to remain with him on the night before his execution, as he said strangers irritated him. The governor asked me If I would take it on, and I told him I was not afraid. ‘There’s only one thing,’ I said. ‘That woman Black going to see him so often. She might drop some poison in the matting.’ The governor replied that he could not interfere with the visits of this woman. ‘You must just keep your weather eye on her,’ he said.”


Moonlight got no poison, and he gave no trouble. He spent his last night on earth dictating to a clerk a long account, covering 21 pages in foolscap, of the Egerton bank robbery in Victoria, for which he had been sentenced to five years, and of which he said he was innocent.

“It was a terrible night,” proceeded the ex-governor, “but I carried him through. About 2 o’clock in the morning he had a sleep, and covered his head with the bed-clothes. I was In a regular fidget, for I didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. Rogan, who was in the other condemned cell, asked to be called at 3 am. to say some prayers. He was fast asleep at that hour, so we didn’t waken him. As a matter of fact, he was always praying.

“Moonlight and Rogan were executed together at 9 o’clock. Addressing Rogan, Moonlight remarked, ‘Well, Rogan, we made one great mistake. Good-bye, old man.’ Moonlight wanted to make a speech, but Rogan stopped him.

During his long career as a police constable, warder, and gaol governor, Mr. Cotter had many exciting experiences with refractory prisoners. On one occasion he frustrated a well-planned attempt to escape by the two desperadoes, Horn and Baxter, who were undergoing sentences of 16 years and 10 years respectively. That was during the late Sir John Cecil Read’s term as governor of Darlinghurst Gaol. On another occasion he was nearly knifed by a vicious prisoner named McDonald. It seemed a fateful coincidence that the warder who pacified this man and took him away was afterwards killed by another prisoner. Quinlan, a rare desperado, was searched when handed over to the gaol authorities, but a concealed weapon was overlooked. With this he murdered Warder Elliott, and was sentenced to death. He was reprieved, and after doing the best part of 14 years, he went to Bega, and murdered a farmer. For this second murder he was executed at Goulburn.

Mr. Cotter was born at Kingston, County Clare, Ireland, and last month celebrated the 73rd anniversary of his birthday. He joined the New South Wales police in 1868. and in 1876 changed over into the Prisons Department, in which branch he served for over 30 years at Bathurst, Berrima, Maitland, Darlinghurst, Biloela. Mudgee, and Tamworth gaols. He is now living at Bondi in the enjoyment of a pension.

The Execution of Scott and Rogan

“I, Maurice J. O’Connor, being the medical officer of the gaol at Darlinghurst, do hereby declare and certify that I have this day witnessed the execution of Andrew George Scott, alias Moonlight, lately convicted and duly sentenced to death at the Supreme Criminal Court, Sydney; and I further certify that the said Andrew George Scott, alias Moonlight, was, in pursuance of his sentence, ‘hanged by the neck until his body was dead,’ Given under my hand this 20th day of January, in the year 1880.

(Signed) Maurice J. O’Connor, visiting surgeon.

1880 was set to be a big year as bushranging was concerned. With the Kelly Gang still at large after the humiliation of the Jerilderie raid, the New South Wales authorities had been desperate to make an example of lawbreakers and found the perfect targets in Captain Moonlite and his gang.

The previous few months had been incredibly turbulent in the lives of Andrew George Scott and Thomas Baker, known popularly as Captain Moonlite and Rogan respectively. The bailing up of Wantabadgery Station in November of the previous year had attracted much attention, but it was the subsequent siege at McGlede’s farm that sealed the fate of the bushrangers. The death of Constable Webb-Bowen from a wound he received in battle had seen the pair sentenced to death with fellow surviving gang members Frank Johns, alias Thomas Williams, and Graham Bennett. The latter two had clean records and youth on their side and after much agitation had their sentences commuted to long prison terms to be served in Berrima. There were still motions by the public, and even some parliamentarians, to have Rogan’s sentence commuted because he had hidden under a bed throughout the pitched battle that took place. Cowardly or not, the action was enough to suggest that he should not have been considered to have the same level of involvement in the crime as the others, but he had a history of crime going against him, having previously done time for larceny and horse theft in Victoria. His sentence was upheld. When Scott learned that the executive council had upheld the death penalty for himself and Rogan, he expressed dismay at the injustice of hanging his young companion, though he did not express any disagreement with his own punishment.

Of the gang, Rogan had struggled the most with his conviction. He had become irritable and morose as time went on. Rogan’s mother and sister had travelled from Melbourne to Sydney with a petition for reprieve that they hoped would gather enough signatures to cause the executive council to change their position on the case. When they visited their condemned kin in Darlinghurst Gaol the meeting descended into a screaming match and the women left in tears. The press made much of this behaviour and took it to be a sign of weak moral character on Rogan’s part. It was not typical behaviour for him, as he had always been seen as quiet and otherwise subdued. It is likely that he was merely struggling with the injustice of his imminent death. In light of this, Rev. Father Ryan doubled his efforts in bringing spiritual comfort to the young man. On 17 January, Rogan’s mother and sister left Sydney for Melbourne. Rogan was in a strange place with no kin nearby to grieve his passing. Strangely, their absence seemed to allow Rogan some peace of mind.

Source: Truth (Sydney) 14 November 1897: 7.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scott had spent much time with Canon Rich – a minister of the Church of England. They spoke at length about the scriptures and Scott described his relationship with Bishop Selwyn and Bishop Patterson; a portrait of the latter he would present to Canon Rich as a gift mere moments before his execution. Scott occupied himself mostly with writing during the remainder of his time on earth. He knew his time was short and was desperate to set the record straight regarding the latter events of his life. He also took the opportunity to record many of his thoughts and feelings. In one letter he stated:

In the silent hours of the night, when I believe myself unobserved by the gaoler, I go down on my knees and try to pray, but all my efforts have failed. I have tried several times, but find that I cannot pray with that earnestness and fervour with which I used to pray when I was a boy.

The notion of a former preacher confessing a loss of faith was certainly juicy gossip for the press who had been harassing the gaol for any morsels of information regarding the condemned men. The countdown to the execution seemed to be a very exciting event to cover for the press. One of the things that was gobbled up by the media was the frequent appearance of a mysterious woman in black. This austere woman was spotted visiting Scott several times in the gaol and the journalists wasted no time speculating on her identity. She had been instrumental in pushing for a commuting of the sentences for Scott’s accomplices and had been running around procuring Bibles and prayer books that Scott signed and dedicated to his family and friends as gifts.

Scott never seemed to indicate a fear of death, however he did express indignation at the shame of execution. In one of his letters he invoked the torturous botching of the execution of the Eugowra escort robber, Henry Manns, in expressing his misgivings in such a method of execution.

I could now go into that yard and command a company of soldiers to fire at me, but I cannot bear having to die an ignominious death on the gallows. Besides, the hangman, might not do his work well, as in the case of Mann. Why should they pinion me, and why place over my head that abominable garment, the whitecap? I should like to see how I am dying, for I am not afraid of death.

The night before their execution, Scott was visited by Canon Rich for spiritual consultation. He also received a telegram from a man named William Powell from Mannum Station in Victoria stating, “May God have mercy on your soul! Would like a reply.” As Scott had no idea who this person was he declined the request. No doubt it was some morbid souvenir hunter looking for something to add to his collection. Later he was visited by the “woman in black”, whose real name proved to be Mrs. Amess, who was permitted to stay with Scott far longer than was usual for visitors. The assumption was made that she had been affianced to Scott, an engagement publicly stated by Canon Rich, and there remained the distinct possibility that this was indeed the woman Scott claimed to be seeing when the bank at Mount Egerton was robbed – a crime he continued to deny any part in. All that could be confirmed about the woman was that she had a nine year old son and was a school teacher by profession. After his guest departed, Scott furiously scribbled out his last few letters, desperate to record his thoughts, feelings, and autobiography until 4.00am. Most of these missives would be locked up rather than reaching their intended targets. Amongst the various letters was one addressed to the mother of James Nesbitt, Scott’s partner, attempting to apologise for what happened in Wantabadgery. He also wrote to Nesbitt’s brother, requesting to be buried with his beloved Jim after his execution. Scott expressed a sense of relief at the notion that he might spend eternity with Nesbitt upon his passing. He also wrote a final goodbye to his parents in New Zealand. Canon Rich consulted with Scott and passed on a request from Rogan that Scott not make any grand speeches on the gallows the following day, which Scott agreed to do. When Scott went to his hammock he was unable to sleep and fidgeted throughout the night. Rogan had spent the evening writing and praying and slept peacefully, which must have been a welcome change from his see-sawing between anxiety and fury that had defined the previous few days.

On the morning of 20 January, there was a surprising calm that had settled over the prisoners. They ate their breakfast heartily and at 8.30am they were informed that they had only a half hour left to go until their appointment. Scott would have taken a moment to spare a thought for his parents in New Zealand; the events that were unfolding were not a great gift for his father who should have been spending the day celebrating his birthday instead of mourning the loss of a son. The six pound leg irons that had been applied to Scott’s already crippled ankles were removed. Scott merely exclaimed “Ah, that’s a relief,” then proceeded to neaten himself up. Rogan said nothing as his irons were removed, merely keeping his eyes fixed on the ground. The men were attended by their spiritual advisers – Canon Rich for Scott, and Father Ryan for Rogan. Their hangman was to be Robert Rice Howard, better known as “Nosey Bob”, an infamous executioner whose most defining physical trait was that his nose had been completely demolished from being kicked by a horse during his time running a cab business. Such a traumatic event would have killed most people at the time but not Howard; but while he survived, his cab business was dead so he was left unemployed and turned to booze. He saw a way out of his struggle when he learned that the New South Wales government was looking for a new hangman and signed up. It was a thankless job and he attempted to keep it quiet but gossip is gossip and before long the identity of the new executioner was common knowledge and Howard was ostracised for his choice of employment.

The gallows of Darlinghurst Gaol [Source: The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954) 27 April 1913: 11.]

The gallows of Darlinghurst Gaol were situated in an external corner of E Wing. Inside the cell block, on the middle tier, were the six condemned cells. From condemned cell number one it was only around a half dozen paces to the scaffold. In previous years the gallows had been a removable structure that would be set up when needed. On this model, John Dunn and the Clarke brothers, among others, had expiated their crimes. Had Scott and Rogan been condemned in the time of public executions, they would have been forced to climb a long ladder to the gallows that would be set up by the prison gate on Forbes Street. Such an inelegant design owed much to the style of hanging in the previous century, wherein condemned prisoners were forced to climb a ladder then jump from the top, rather than be dropped through a trapdoor. To the baying crowds it was more entertaining that way, but to the authorities the new method was more efficient. Since then, hanging had become a precise science — performed mostly by illiterate and uneducated convicts. Scott and Rogan had the nervous wait to see if their hangman had done the calculations properly. An extra inch or more longer or shorter than required in the length of the rope could be the difference between strangling to death for fifteen minutes or having your head ripped off. Neither prospect was pretty but both had precedent.

Source: Truth (Sydney) 14 November 1897: 7.

Outside the gaol, crowds began to gather, comprising men, women and children of a mostly lower class background. It is unsure what they expected to see, but some of the local larrikins climbed trees that neighboured the gates in a vain attempt to see into the gaol, hoping to snatch even a fleeting glimpse of proceedings. People up to a quarter of a mile away climbed onto the highest roofs in an effort to see into the prison, but were also disappointed. Police had their work cut out trying to keep people at ground level. The gaol governor had stipulated that members of the press were not to be admitted to the execution and security was on high alert after rumours of a potential attempt to break in to the gaol to rescue Rogan had begun circulating.

“Nosey Bob” Howard [Source: Truth (Brisbane) 26 April 1903: 3.]

At 9.00am, Charles Cowper, the sheriff, officially requested the bodies of the condemned men, as per regulation. “Nosey Bob” entered the condemned cells and pinioned the arms of the men. They were walked the short distance to the scaffold at 9.05am where they looked out over the railing to see the rising sun over a manicured lawn. Below was the collective of officials who were there to act as witnesses. Among those attending the execution were Maurice O’Connor, the Darlinghurst Gaol medical officer; Charles Cowper, Sheriff; J.G. Thurlow, Under Sheriff; J.C. Read, principal gaoler; W. Chatfield, visiting magistrate; Miehl Burke, Chief Warder; Edmund Fosberry, Inspector General of Police; Constable John Maguire; Constable John Simmons; Constable Edward Keatinge; Senior Constable Henry Shiel; Louis C. Nickel, Coroner; Edward Smart, J.P.; Peter Miller, J.P.; Ernest Carter, J.P.; Dr. Halkett; John Stewart; Daniel O’Connor; Angus Cameron; Alexander Pinn; Alexander Tate; Rev. Macready; and T. Kingsmill Abbott.

Andrew Scott was already haggard from a night without sleep but now felt indignant that such a personal moment as one’s departure from the mortal realm was to be viewed by a horde of strangers. He glared at them, his crystal blue eyes flashing with passion one final time as he turned to his attendants.

“What does this mean? What do all these people want? I think I ought to speak.”

Scott was about to make one final farewell address, a suitably grandiose statement to tell the world of the injustices that had led to that moment, but one look across at Rogan reminded him of his promise to stay quiet. The fire in his belly smouldered and he allowed himself to feel empathy for the young man whose life had been wasted, due in no small measure from Scott’s own actions. Father Ryan administered the last rights to the Roman Catholic Rogan, while Canon Rich and Rev. Macready attended Scott in the fashion of the Anglican and Presbyterian churches respectively. The nooses were placed around their necks by “Nosey Bob” and his assistant. The hemp rope was heavy on their shoulders and draped in such a way that the sudden stop when the rope ran out would jerk the slipknot up behind the left ear and snap the neck. Scott suddenly felt his own resolve washing away like sand on a beach at high tide.

“Goodbye, Tom. We have made a sad mistake.”

Rogan did not speak. He was using his last moments to concentrate on maintaining his composure. Scott put out his hand and grasped Rogan’s fingers in one last gesture of solidarity in an effort to comfort his friend as much as himself. The customary white hoods were pulled over their heads and the hangman stood clear of the trapdoor and pushed the lever, releasing the pin that kept the trapdoor shut. There was an incredible crash as the door swung open and locked into place via the appropriate mechanisms. Scott and Rogan plummeted in freefall only a few feet. When the crash of the trapdoor stopped reverberating around the courtyard, all that could be heard was the creak of hemp. Scott’s death had been instant and all life signs were snuffed out cleanly. Rogan was not afforded the same. The rope was too slack and had not cleanly broken his neck, resulting in the young man squirming like a worm on a hook as he was strangled to death by his own body weight. After ten minutes the thrashing and convulsing stopped. Dr. O’Connor tried to alleviate the ill-feeling in the crowd by telling them that the convulsions were merely involuntary postmortem muscle spasms.

The corpses were allowed to dangle until 9.25am to ensure death had set in. After this, the ropes were cut and the bodies loaded onto hand carts. They were taken to the dead house and prepared for burial and the ropes were burned. No inquest was held as the 49 witnesses all signed a document attesting to the pair’s death by hanging. The heads and faces were shaved completely and molded by a sculptor named McGee for death masks. The casts taken from the moulds would be used for phrenological study, but also remained as trophies – mementos of the triumph of the law over the lawless.

The certificate of execution

The bodies were put in coffins by J. and G. Shying and co., undertakers. Rogan’s coffin was government issued, but Mrs. Amess had paid for a handsome black coffin to be used for the preacher-cum-outlaw. In the afternoon the coffins were loaded into a hearse and a procession headed to Redfern mortuary, which included Mrs. Gregory, the gaol missionary; Rev. Dowie; Mrs. Amess; and two warders. Both men were buried in Rookwood cemetery, Haslam’s Creek, in unmarked graves.

The authorities hoped that in time people would forget the names Scott and Rogan, but would remember the message that their execution was to convey – break the law and suffer the consequences. Despite Scott’s initial request to be buried with James Nesbitt being denied, in 1995 his remains were exhumed and reinterned at Gundagai cemetery near the unmarked graves of Nesbitt and Gus Wernicke. Thomas Rogan remains in his unmarked grave in the Roman Catholic section of the Rookwood cemetery.

As to a monument stone, a rough unhewn rock would be most fit, one that skilled hands could have made into something better. It will be like those it marks as kindness and charity could have shaped us to better ends.

Spotlight: Captain Moonlite, the condemned bushranger. By Silverpen.

Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1869 – 1883; 1914 – 1918), Tuesday 6 January 1880, page 4



As every item of news anent the Wantabagery bushranger is just now read with painful interest by newspaper readers, I think I can supply a few jottings, as yet unpublished, that may give, in some slight degree, an inkling as to the inner man of this foolhardy, conceited irritable fool. It will be remembered that A. G. Scott, before the bank robbery at Egerton, occasionally officiated as lay reader in the Church of England there. I am credibly informed, by one who was present in the church the Sunday after the robbery, that Scott offered up the following impromptu prayer during the service conducted by him:—”Oh Lord, we pray Thee, in Thy great goodness, and in accord with Thine unerring standard of dealing out even-handed justice to all men, so order and direct that the efforts made by the constituted authorities in seeking after the bank robbers may be entirely successful, and that they may be speedily brought to justice; and that the wicked and evil done by these lawless forgetters of Thee may result in good here-after.” Not a bad prayer, says my informant, to be reverently offered up by the sole perpetrator of the robbery.

Scott at one time went in a trading schooner to Fiji. The passengers rather liked the man; he was a favorite with all on board talkative and very agreeable. A spiritual seance was held one evening during the voyage. Scott was quite eloquent on the subject, and in explaining to the circle the mysteries of the phenomena, he requested the members to ask questions and the table would rap out the answers. One of the passengers enquired how many pistols Scott had about him, and the answer came “four.” Moonlite at once confessed the reply was correct, and forthwith pulled out of each pocket a miniature revolver. During the passage his great enjoyment was shooting at the sea birds. “A more pleasant and polite travelling companion,” says a fellow passenger, “could not be met with anywhere.”

I heard Scott lecture at Ballarat, and I must say I was inclined to give him credit for sincerity in the statements he made anent Pentridge. After leaving Ballarat, he lectured at Maryborough the day following. I was on my way to Sandhurst, and noticed him at the Maryborough station. I occupied a seat in the same carriage with Scott and Nesbitt, and found them both very chatty and agreeable. After this I heard Moonlite lecture at Sandhurst, and felt convinced from the remarks he there made, that a never-to-be-satisfied hankering after notoriety was the cankerworm of his life. His piercing eye noticed me at the lecture, and had I not been in company with the D——’s I doubt not I would have been honored (?) with a shake of the hand. Taking into consideration all I know of Scott, and what I have gleaned from outside sources, I am inclined to believe he (Scott) is not the hardened ruffian he is represented to be, but a foolishly-vain fellow, that would run any risk in order to be talked freely about. When Scott was leaving Pentridge, there was a letter lying awaiting him in the hands of the Inspector-General, from his father. The contents, I was assured, were of the most touching kind. The aged father implored his erring son to begin a new life on his release from prison, and acquainted him that he could be supplied with money for his immediate wants by applying to a gentleman in Melbourne, whose name was given. Scott read the letter in presence of Mr. Duncan; and, I suppose, out of a spirit of vain bravado, smiled at the contents and carelessly put it in his pocket. Captain Moonlite will soon be beyond the reach of mercy so far as this world is concerned; but those who know the man intimately are of opinion that there was not the interest taken in his case—as a released convict, when free from Pentridge—that there should have been, and that had some philanthropic kind-hearted man stepped to the front and offered a helping hand, Captain Moonlite would, instead of ending his life on the scaffold, have become a reformed man, and eventually made a good citizen. The fist has gone forth. Moonlite is to die, and so long as capital punishment is the law of the land I do not quibble with the decree; but the sooner this taking of life by the hands of the executioner is abolished, the sooner will the law-givers find out that a life-long imprisonment is a greater deterrent to crime than the hangman’s rope. I am not alone in the opinion that hanging men by the neck till dead does not act as a deterrent to crime; and from a recent leader in The Courier, I find the writer is against the death penalty.

The “British Friend” has, in connection with the Howard Association, an article on the subject, and from it I gather that the different nations of the world are gradually being educated up to the subject, and we who are abolitionists with regard to the death penalty may yet live to see it effaced from the criminal statutes of the British nation. The following from the “British Friend” will be read with interest by all those who thus believe:—”The abolition of capital punishment is both a process and a goal. In the latter aspect it is still distant, but in the former aspect it is making great progress and extension every year. For the upholders of the sacredness of human life are now sufficiently strong and numerous, in most countries, to reduce the number of executions to at least a small proportion of those sentenced to death. Even some of the victories claimed by the supporters of the gallows are of very dubious result. And it is a special objection to this extreme penalty that, beyond all others, it tends to impede or destroy its own operation. Not only does murder, by killing its victim, also remove, in general, the only witness of the act, but the peculiar difficulties connected with circumstantial evidence (where specially certain evidence is needful on account of the irrevocability of this penalty), still further impede the infliction of this, more than of any other punishment. For example, in Austria in 1876, out of 124 sentences of death, all for murder, only three were executed! Even in England, where it is claimed that capital punishment is most certain (and where it is rendered as certain as law and home secretaries can make it), it is yet the most uncertain of all penalties. For example, during the last November assizes of 1878, it was most striking to read in the Times, day after day, the results of the murder trials of that series. We find as follows:—1. Stafford Assizes, trial for wilful murder; verdict, not guilty, on ground of insanity. 2. Bristol, trial for wilful murder; verdict, manslaughter. 3. Bristol, for wilful murder of two children; verdict, not guilty, on ground of insanity. 4. Leeds, wilful murder; verdict, not guilty. 5. Leeds, another wilful murder; verdict, not guilty. 6. Liverpool, wilful murder; verdict, not guilty. 7. Liverpool, wilful murder; verdict, manslaughter. 8. Winchester, wilful murder; verdict, not guilty. 9. Cambridge, wilful murder; verdict, guilty—death. 10. Cambridge (again), wilful murder; verdict, guilty—death, but recommended to mercy. 11. Leeds, wilful murder; verdict, manslaughter. 12. Warwick, wilful murder; verdict, manslaughter. 13. Swansea, wilful murder; verdict, manslaughter. 14. Taunton, wilful murder; verdict, not guilty. 15. Warwick, wilful murder; verdict, manslaughter. 16. Nottingham, wilful murder; verdict, manslaughter. Thus it is evident that the deterrent power of the capital penalty, as it actually is in practice, is very limited, by reason of its extremely uncertain infliction. The upholders of the gallows argue for the deterrence of the penalty, as they would wish it to be—that is, as if it were certain. But in practice, and in inevitable practice too, it never is, nor can be, what they assume it to be theoretically.” After describing in detail the recent action of Switzerland as to capital punishment, and the misconceptions in reference to it current in this country, the report continues:— “On 14th January, 1879, two men were hanged in Pennsylvania. The Governor at the last moment sent a reprieve; but it was delivered too late at the gaol—both men had just been executed, and had protested their innocence in dying. In January, also, another man was hanged in the same State. An eye-witness writes that he was brought drunk to the gallows, and ‘literally dumped down’ at its foot, the superintending sheriff ‘smoking a cigar and shaking hands and cracking jokes with his friends,’ whilst about 200 spectators were also smoking, laughing, joking, and at times cursing.’ “

William Westwood: An Overview

*** Revised and updated (2021) ***

William Westwood’s tale is one of a misguided youth who finds himself whisked away from all he held dear to endure a lifetime of punishment and lawlessness in Australia. He took to the bush as a teenager and soon became one of the most renowned highwaymen in Australian history under the pseudonym Jacky Jacky (alternatively written in the press as Jackey Jackey), but met a grisly end on Norfolk Island ten years after first arriving in New South Wales. What follows is a concise, summarised account of his life and bushranging career.

William Westwood was born on 7 August, 1820 and was raised in Manuden, Essex; he was the eldest of five siblings. As a youth he fell in with bad company and began acting up. At fourteen he had his first conviction: twelve months hard labour for bailing up a woman on the road and stealing clothes from her. Westwood’s accomplice Ben Jackson got off lightly with a flogging.

When he got out of gaol, Westwood went straight for a time, but was soon in court again as a result of stealing a coat, which he then pawned off. As this was his second conviction he found himself, at the age of sixteen, being transported with 310 other convicts on the convict ship Mangles on 18 March, 1837, for a term of fourteen years. Westwood was a surprisingly refined young man, with a decent education for the time and a strong grasp of language; he conversed freely with anyone he came across. He was described as standing at 5’5″, ruddy complexion, brown hair and grey eyes; a scar on the right side of his upper lip, another on the back of his right hand, a blister mark between the breasts and several tattoos — left arm: illegible blue mark, 7 Aug 1820, 3 Jan 1837; back of left hand: figure of the sun. The tattoos were likely either made while serving time in gaol or while waiting to be transported. Indeed, one of the tattoos was the date he expected to end his sentence and return to England.

When he arrived in New South Wales he was sent to Hyde Park Barracks. He was kept here until given his assignment. He was eventually assigned as a servant to Phillip King at Gidleigh Station, Bungendore. Westwood, now seventeen, endured a harsh journey from Rooty Hill to the place he was to work off his sentence. Days were hard and nights were spent sleeping on bare ground, chained to the axle of the supply wagon. Eventually he arrived at the station to start work, and it was here that he would spent the next three years under overbearing and tyrannical masters. He was always testing the boundaries, and after being spotted in town one night, having sneaked out of his quarters, was dragged back to Gidleigh and given fifty lashes. This only strengthened his resolve to rebel.

After suffering at the hands of his master, who saw fit to have him beaten and whipped at even the slightest offence, as well as being short changed on his already inadequate supplies and rations by the overseer, in 1840 Westwood absconded again. When he was inevitably caught, he was given another fifty lashes and sent to work in an iron gang near Goulburn. Conditions here were even worse than at his first assignment, but he knew it would be fleeting and expected to be sent to a new assignment when he was done.

Gidleigh, the station in Bungendore that Westwood absconded from, depicted by Phillip King [Source]

After his stint in the iron gang was done he was sent back to Gidleigh, much to his dismay. The routine played out again: Westwood absconded, was caught and given fifty lashes. The next time, Westwood wanted to make sure he stayed at large. He and two other convicts gathered enough supplies to last them until they got clear away, then, on 14 December 1840, they bolted.

It wasn’t long before Westwood fell in with the notorious bushranger Paddy Curran. The pair were associated from their time as convicts, and Westwood was eager to have a crack at bushranging. Unbeknownst to Westwood, Curran was extremely violent and his morals were diametrically opposed to Westwood’s in just about every way, but none so conspicuous as his attitude to women. As the story goes, during a house raid, Westwood walked in on Curran in the process of raping the lady of the house. Westwood struck Curran, preventing him from proceeding, and threatened to shoot him. Westwood decided he would rather work alone than associate with such a despicable person.

As Westwood got the hang of highway robbery, news of his daring began to spread through the region, though much of it was pure fiction. On one occasion it was said that he bailed up a commissary and upon discovering the commissary’s wife was in the coach, opened the door, swept the ground with his cabbage tree hat in a gentlemanly manner and invited her to dance with him – a request that she obliged. This and many other anecdotes have no tangible evidence to back them up however. Some accounts attested to his masterful horsemanship, likely honed while he worked as a groom at Gidleigh as part of his assignment. In one story he reputedly bailed up a man in Goulburn and implored him to note the time, then a few hours later he bailed up another gentleman near Braidwood, almost 100 kilometers away, and implored him to do the same in order to set a personal record. Again, this is not likely to be anything other than a flight of fancy. His taste for race horses was nigh on insatiable, with him stealing such creatures from Terrence Murray and several others in the region, either on the roads or from farms. He attributed his success in evading capture to his choice of fine horse flesh over the run down nags the police rode. Among his crimes, he robbed the Queanbeayan mail, and robbed Mr. Edinburgh among several others on the Sydney road. In fact, he took a particular liking to robbing mailmen as the takings were often rather good.

By his own account, there were several close shaves with police, including one where a supposed friend had taken money from him to purchase a Christmas dinner, but had instead procured the constabulary. On another occasion he narrowly avoided capture by hiding in a tree. Westwood had become a fly in the ointment to law enforcement, but it would only escalate.

William Westwood (illustration by Aidan Phelan)

On the afternoon of Monday 11 January, 1841, Jacky Jacky stole a black mare from Mr. McArthur before attempting to rob a mailman that night at Bungonie, whereupon shots were fired. The next day he raided a store at Boro Creek where he procured fine garments and dressed himself in haute couture so that he may cut a fine figure while about his nefarious deeds, including a rather fetching top hat. Such was the extent of his outrages that the entirety of the mounted police in the region, trackers included, were led by Lieutenant Christie and a Mr. Stewart in hot pursuit.

On 13 January 1841, things came to a head when a man arrived in Bungendore, shouting that he was being chased by a bushranger who meant to shoot him. Sure enough, Jacky Jacky soon arrived on a stolen horse, riding through Bungendore for fully an hour and a half, stopping only to have a chat with a man named Eccleston. Soon word reached the local magistrate, Powell, who went with his brother Frank and a local man named Richard Rutledge to capture the infamous bushranger, despite a distinct lack of weapons with which to defend themselves against the armed bandit. Alas after the posse hesitated in approaching the rogue, he caught wind of them and mounted his steed, riding off at full gallop. The men gave chase. A man named William Balcombe was riding ahead with Revered McGrath in a gig. Stopping the gig in the road, McGrath and Balcombe got out and Balcombe confronted the bushranger, McGrath also pulling a revolver on him. Westwood surrendered, complaining that he could have gotten away if his musket were not in such poor shape.

The desperado was escorted back to the local inn where he was detained. However, Jacky Jacky was not ready to go down without a fight and during the night he overpowered one of his guards and stole his weapons. He bolted out of the inn and across the plains. This did not go unnoticed and Frank Powell saw the fugitive legging it through the open space. Powell fired a pistol at Westwood without effect and gathered more firearms from inside before heading off in hot pursuit with a postman, who had become embroiled in the affair by accident. Soon Jacky Jacky was once more apprehended. But the next day while being escorted to Bargo Brush, Westwood escaped custody on foot. He made it a mile away before being recaptured. Not in the mood for any nonsense, the police tied Westwood to his horse for the remainder of the trip. That night, Westwood broke out of the lock up and stole the guard’s weapon and ammunition before taking a horse and riding to freedom.

The beginning of the end came when he called into the Black Horse Inn on the Berrima Road. Westwood casually walked in and ordered refreshments. He then proceeded to bail the place up. Folklore tells that he was served by Miss Gray, the publican’s daughter, who recognised that this man with pistol braces and fine clothes must be the infamous Jacky Jacky. She screamed and pounced on the bushranger, who fought to throw the girl off as she called for her mother and father. All three tried to restrain Westwood who shook them off time and again until a man named Waters, a carpenter that had been repairing shingles on the inn’s roof, entered and knocked Westwood out cold by striking him on the head with a shingling hammer. In truth it was Grey, the publican, and two assigned servants, Waters and McCrohan, who subdued the bushranger, who took two fierce blows to the head with the shingling hammer to go down. With Westwood captured, the Grays earned themselves a cool £30 reward and Westwood was quickly locked up in Wooloomooloo Gaol.

Westwood was put on trial for robbing the store at Boro and was sentenced to penal servitude for life. He was sent to Darlinghurst Gaol but was shortly caught trying to escape. He was then imprisoned on Cockatoo Island where he organised a party of twenty five other convicts to join him in an escape attempt. Escape from Cockatoo Island was considered impossible, but the impossible was no deterrent for William Westwood. The gang subdued a guard and tied him up. Breaching the boundaries they made it to the water and were about to risk sharks and drowning to swim to Balmain but were deftly captured by the water police. The New South Wales government had had enough of the troublesome Englishman and sent him to fulfill his sentence in Van Diemen’s Land with his co-conspirators. Perhaps Port Arthur could take them down a peg or four.

As the story goes, while being sent to Tasmania, the convict men were put in the brig of the prison ship, naked and shackled in an attempt to prevent any attempts to escape. This of course failed and the men broke free from their cages and tried to reach the deck. Soldiers battened down the hatches and kept things thus until arrival at Port Arthur. When the hatches were opened the prisoners were unconscious in the brig, having been denied food and adequate oxygen due to the captain’s decision not to risk opening the hatches to take food to the men during the several day trip.

Despite Port Arthur’s reputation as an inescapable prison, William Westwood managed to escape from Port Arthur multiple times. Most occasions resulted in a few days of freedom at most. In one attempt at freedom with two other convicts, the trio waded naked into the waters at Eaglehawk Neck. Westwood’s companions were taken by sharks and, in his panic, Westwood managed to lose his clothes after his bundled gear was swept away in the waters as he crossed. He was found days later wandering naked and starving.

Such repeated misbehaving saw him put in solitary confinement for almost three months. When he emerged he was assigned to the commissariat. At this time he helped rescue a boatload of soldiers after their vessel had capsized. His reward was to be sent to Glenorchy Probation Station. Here, as could be anticipated, he once more escaped on 31 July, 1845. This time he successfully took to bushranging with two others. They travelled up through the Tasmanian Midlands in an attempt to reach Launceston, where they planned to steal a boat and sail to Sydney. They became hopelessly lost and were unable to find a boat, resulting in one of the men leaving their company after getting lost, while the other remained until they reached Green Ponds, whereupon he left for fear that Westwood would shoot him as he was the designated guide through the bush and had only succeeded in getting them stranded in unfamiliar territory. When Westwood found himself alone again, he continued on foot towards Launceston, hoping to find a way off the island, but was recaptured before reaching his destination. By this time he was suffering a bout of deep depression and posed no resistance.
Source: The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859) 6 August 1845: 2.

Now having exasperated the Van Diemen’s Land government too, he was sentenced to death. The penalty was altered to penal servitude for life on Norfolk Island and Westwood found himself once more sailing to exile, this time headed to what was referred to as the Isle of Despair.

In February of 1844, there was a change of administration at Norfolk Island. Alexander Maconochie, the previous man in charge, had firmly believed in the benefits of rehabilitating offenders rather than simply punishing them, and to this end he reduced work hours, including a work-free Sunday, and created a “marks” system that meant that good behaviour would be rewarded. Flogging incidents were decreased but still strictly enforced in cases of sodomy, which were rampant throughout the prison. Perhaps the most significant measure Maconochie had brought in was vegetable patches. Inmates were given small gardens within which they could grow their own sweet potatoes and other vegetables, and were also given cooking pots and utensils so that they could cook their own meals, allowing them to eat in their cells in privacy. Only able to enact these reforms with the 600 newest inmates, the reforms were still considerably effective, with morale high and major incidents in the prison reduced. Despite Governor Gipps’ recommendations to the government to continue Maconochie’s residency at Norfolk Island, the decision had already been made and Major Joseph Childs became the new Commandant. As a military man with wide campaign experience, and a strict disciplinarian, he decided to institute a few changes to bring the convicts under his thumb. To this end incidents of flogging were increased, hours of labour were also increased, rations were reduced and the small gardens the prisoners were allowed, and the produce they had been growing therein, were banned. In a half-hearted attempt to respond to complaints the administration allowed convicts a cup of peas and a cup of flour every day. Unsurprisingly this was not met with the gratitude that was expected by the administration and Childs set in place a proclamation whereby food was to be served in bulk and individual cooking was prohibited. When the inmates were at work their utensils were confiscated on 1 July, 1846.

Front View of Gaol – Norfolk Island [Source]

This was the final straw and Westwood incited a work party to take up arms against the guards and administration of the island. Approximately 1,600 inmates joined in. Armed with a cudgel, Westwood claimed first blood when he clubbed a particularly despised guard to death. He then took up an axe and headed to the barracks, followed by a seething horde of convicts. Here he entered the kitchen and murdered the cook and upon spying two sleeping soldiers in an adjoining room, used the axe to stave in the skull of one soldier, which alerted the other. The soldier, seeing Westwood before him with the bloodied axe, begged, “Please, think of my wife and children!” to which the unrepentant bushranger replied, “Wife and children be damned.” Westwood then killed the soldier as brutally as the others. Still not satiated, but needing a moment of respite from the mayhem he had caused, Westwood filled a pipe with tobacco and had a smoke while the convicts rampaged around him. Westwood, having had his respite, took up his axe and headed for the commandant’s building. Bursting into the building with an escort, Westwood sought out the commandant. The commandant had secreted himself in a small storeroom adjacent to his office. Westwood tracked him down and took a swing at him, narrowly missing the commandant’s head as he ducked to avoid the blow. Managing to escape, the commandant roused a force of troops that descended upon the marauders and subdued them.

Westwood and thirteen other key figures in the riot, including bushranger Lawrence Kavanagh, formerly of Cash and company, were tried in September and charged with the murders. The evidence was irresistible and twelve of the men were sentenced to execution by hanging.

The morning of his execution, Westwood wrote a letter to the reverend of Port Arthur and also wrote a declaration that he was the only party guilty of the offence that all twelve sentenced men were condemned for. On 13 October, 1846, William Westwood was hanged for his crimes. He was twenty-six years old.

This is claimed to be William Westwood’s death mask. Some doubt has been thrown on the identity of the face in recent times and some now consider it doubtful that it is him.

A cast was supposedly made of his face and is the only visual record we have of the dashing young outlaw, despite its contended authenticity. Westwood was buried with the other hanged men in a mass grave called Murderer’s Mound on the boundaries of the prison. Such was the impact of the riots that the commandant was fired from his post and calls were made for the Norfolk Island penal colony to be shut down and the inmates transferred to Port Arthur. In a sense, Westwood has succeeded in bringing about a change in how convicts were treated, though he would not live to see the closure of one of the most brutal and dehumanising prisons in the British Empire.

Murder’s Mound – Norfolk Island [Source]

Spotlight: Portrait of John Thompson

john thompson.jpg

John Thompson was a member of Captain Thunderbolt’s first gang in 1865. During this time he was working as a bushranger in the gang alongside Mary Ann Bugg, Thomas “The Bull” Hogan and a lad called McIntosh. The gang had been operating since January in the region around the Culgoa and Bokhara rivers when Thompson joined them in February of 1865.

Thompson was involved in raids on Mogil Mogil station, Wilby Wilby station, Lloyd’s station, and Boggy Creek Inn as well as various other robberies. On 5 April Thompson joined the gang in delivering a heavily pregnant Mary Ann Bugg and her children to Tamworth where Thunderbolt procured a young Aboriginal girl to assist her. From here they robbed the Manilla mail. On 24 April Thompson was seriously wounded and captured after a gunfight by Constable Dalton at Millie Inn near Wee Waa. During the skirmish around 40 shots were fired, with Thompson recieving wounds in the left side of his jaw and neck, right side of his torso, rump and legs. The other bushrangers escaped unharmed.

Thompson was tried on two accounts of robbery under arms and managed to briefly escape from Tamworth Gaol on 10 June. After his conviction his mother applied for mitigation of his sentence while he was bounced around between Cockatoo Island, Darlignhurst Gaol, Parramatta Gaol and Berrima Gaol. After his release he returned to crime adopting the moniker Thunderbolt and would spend the majority of the remaining decades in prison before disappearing into obscurity.