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Captain Moonlight: The enigmatic bushranger of 19th-century Australia

Aug 1, 2023

In the rugged landscapes of 19th-century Australia, where lawlessness and adventure reigned, one name stood out – Captain Moonlight. A bushranger with a reputation both feared and revered, his story remains an enigma to this day.

Captain Moonlight, whose real name was Andrew George Scott, led a band of outlaws in daring heists and audacious escapes from the clutches of the law. Branded as a villain by the authorities, his exploits sent shivers down the spines of settlers and travellers alike. Moonlight’s gang was notorious for robbing banks, stealing livestock, and ambushing gold-laden carriages. The newspapers painted him as a ruthless criminal, and his name struck terror into the hearts of the Australian public.

However, Captain Moonlight’s tale transcends the traditional black-and-white narrative of good versus evil. Beneath the surface of his criminal escapades, stories began to circulate of a man who showed unexpected compassion to the downtrodden and marginalized. Some accounts depicted Moonlight as a Robin Hood-like figure, robbing from the rich to provide for the poor. Rumours circulated that he once saved a starving family from eviction, leaving behind a portion of his loot to ensure they could stay on their land.

Andrew ‘George’ Scott, “Captain Moonlight.”

Historians now debate whether these stories were mere folklore or a reflection of a deeper complexity to the bushranger’s character. In a time when society was rife with inequality and exploitation, Captain Moonlight seemed to strike a chord with those who felt oppressed. His charisma and charm won over some, while others saw him as an embodiment of resistance against a system that favoured the privileged.

Like many of his kind, he was captured after a violent shootout with authorities. The once elusive bushranger faced the noose and met his end with defiance and dignity, aged 38. As the crowd watched, it was reported that some felt a sense of justice served, while others mourned the passing of a symbol of resistance against a harsh and oppressive society.

Today the legend has been turned into a musical “Captain Moonlite”. Created by Sydney-based composer Jye Bryant, it is set to make its NSW premiere produced by Richmond Players at Richmond School of Arts.

“Captain Moonlite” will make its NSW premiere in Richmond. (image Glenn Watson)

The heart of the musical lies within the death cell of Sydney’s Darlinghurst Gaol (now the National Art School) on the eve of Captain Moonlite’s execution in 1880. Through his unsent and previously suppressed death cell letters, the musical unravels the events that led to his demise, including the birth of the Captain Moonlite legend, the alleged bank robbery, and the tragic siege that resulted in the death of his male lover and fellow outlaw, James Nesbitt.

Directed by Johnathon Brown, the musical boasts the musical direction of Susan Brown and the creative choreography of Anthony Ashdown. The cast lineup features performers including Peter David Allison portraying George, Michael Clewes as James, Grace Lizzio as Charlie, Martyn Carter as Rogan, Lucas Galatidis as Warnecke, and Donald Gardiner as Baynes., accompanied by a live Irish folk band.

The musical will be held on August 5, 12, 19 & 26.

To secure a seat, bookings can be made online at [](

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