Following Sunday’s (2/10) epidsode of Wild Boys it seems like there is one Bushranger that deserves a greater mention. Captain Moonlite is not just a fictional TV character, he was a real person and one of the most infamous characters of the Ballarat goldfields region.
The producers of Wild Boys clearly based their Captain Moonlite on the real man and they have included a number of acurate details. We thought we would take the oppotunity to share some more about his life and some ideas for exploring this goldfields character and related topics in your classrooms.
Andrew George Scott – Moonlite’s real name – was born in Ireland immigrated to Melbourne in 1868. He arrived after the peak gold rush years and settled in Bacchus Marsh, in between Melbourne and Ballarat, as a cleric at the Anglican Church of Holy Trinity. In 1869 moved to Mt Edgerton, closer to Ballarat, and continued to preach. Then in the same town and same year he held up the Union Bank and signed a note saying the robbery was done by Captain Moonlite – apparently deliberately misspelling Moonlight.
Fleeing Victoria with more than 1000 pounds from the robbery, having implicated his friends, he headed to Sydney and spent the money on various excesses. The rest of his story reads like a melodrama and includes: fraudulent cheques, an attempt to flee the country by yacht, an arrest, a prison break from Ballarat jail, another arrest, another bail up and finally a sentence by Judge Barry and his hanging in 1880 – the same judge and year as Ned Kelly.
You can read Moonlite’s biography on the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Moonlite was not known for holding up coaches or stealing a precious diamond, but he was certainly around during the period shown in Wild Boys.
Studying Moonlite with your students could cover both the topic of Bushrangers and the later gold rush period. Perhaps it might be worth comparing his motives and exploits to that of Ned Kelly?
There were also many other relevant concepts mentioned in this episode. The following topics and links would be great to discuss with students:
Lynch Law – did miners take the law into their own hands?
Licence Hunts – were the police known for aggressive licence inspections? (You can also see one live when you visit Sovereign Hill – although licences were replaced by Miners Rights in Victoria in 1855 following the Eureka Rebellion).