County Down


Famous people & Infamous connected with Rathfriland

Australian Bushrangers

ANDREW GEORGE SCOTT (alias "Captain Moonlight")

Andrew George Scott was born in the North of Ireland in 1842. His father, Captain Scott, had formerly lived at Clanverraghan, near Castlewellan, where he had owned part of the town land as well as some rural property. He later moved to Rathfriland, and built a new house on Castle Hill, on the site of the courtyard of the ancient castle of the Magennisses.The house which still stands today, was the birthplace of this notorious bushranger.
Before Andrew came to Australia in 1868, he first went to New Zealand where he served a term in a local militia contingent. Shortly after his arrival to Victoria he was appointed lay Preacher for the Church of England and sent to Bacchus Marsh to assist the Rev H.W. Cooper. The following year he was transferred to the gold mining settlement of Mt Egerton.

While there Scott became close friends with the local schoolmaster, James Simpson and Julius Wilhelm Ludwig Bruun, who was the manager of the Mt Egerton branch of the London Chartered Bank.

At the end of the first week in May, Bruun was not able to transfer the gold to the larger branch at nearby Gordon, and as a consequence was holding over a thousand pounds in the safe. On the Saturday night when Bruun was returning from dinner to the bank, where he slept, a man wearing a disguise on his face, placed a revolver against his head and forced him inside. The assailant demanded money and Bruun immediately recognised the voice of Andrew Scott. The bushranger put the contents of the safe into two bags and then lead the blindfolded manager over to the church where he told Bruun that he was waiting for his mate. They waited 10-15 minutes and as no-one arrived, they then went on to the schoolhouse. After going inside Bruun was forced to face the wall while the bushranger wrote a short note, and signed it 'Captain Moonlight'.

Bruun was then tied up and left in the classroom while the robber made his escape. The young bank manager freed himself and raised the alarm accusing the Reverend Andrew Scott as the man who had committed the crime.

Andrew Scott acted dumbfounded and categorically refuted the claims, explaining that he had just arrived from Melbourne, and produced a train ticket to prove his innocence. The Reverend even went as far as visiting Bruun's father, demanding that he advise his son to apologise. He was so convincing that the police believed he was innocent and therefore diverted their attention to Bruun, who was duly arrested. They also took into custody the School Master, James Simpson, who was accused of being an accomplice and author of the "Moonlite" letter.

On July 23rd, 1869, Bruun and Simpson were tried at Ballarat by Mr Justice Redmond Barry. Included in the witnesses for the prosecution was the Reverend Scott who testified against his former friends. Both men were acquitted on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence.
Less than two months after the trial, Scott paid for his passage aboard a ship from Melbourne to Fiji.

Shortly after arriving in Fiji, Andrew Scott ran up a debt of £260 to a Mr George Winters over the acquisition of some land. The loan was never paid as Scott left for Sydney via New Caledonia.

After his arrival in Sydney, Scott sold a cake of gold and with the money he purchased a yacht called the 'Why Not', with intentions of moving on once again. But before he could leave, he was arrested for passing bad cheques. On December 20, 1870, he was brought before the Sydney Quarter Sessions charged with obtaining goods by means of false pretences. On being found guilty, he was sentenced to twelve months in Maitland Gaol. During this time the former bank manager at Mt Egerton, Julius Bruun, became obsessed with tracking down the good Reverend, and hired a private investigator by the name of George Sly.

Sly was a very competent investigator and soon discovered him in Parramatta Gaol. He also discovered that the cake of gold Scott sold to the bank in Sydney was of almost the identical weight to one stolen from Mt Egerton. Thanks to Sly, the Victorian police built up quite a case against Scott, and on his release in March 1872, he was promptly arrested and extradited to Victoria to face a re-opening of the Mt Egerton Bank Robbery.

But Scott did not plan to hang around for the trial, and as soon as he was placed in the Ballarat Gaol, he made plans for his escape. He teamed up with another inmate named Plunkett, and together with four others named James Dermoody, James Stapleton, William Taylor and William Marshall, escaped over the south wall. All were back behind bars within several days except Stapleton, who was finally run down a month later at Mt Bolton.
On July 24th, Andrew Scott was brought before the bench of Redmond Barry to face the charge of Bank Robbery at Mt Egerton. The trial lasted eight days with Scott upstaging his counsel, Mr McDonald, and was given permission to cross-examine the witnesses himself. However, in the end the jury did not sympathise with Scott and found him guilty. Judge Barry sentenced him to ten years imprisonment for the robbery, and an additional twelve months for his escape from Ballarat Gaol.

Following his release on March 18th, 1879, Andrew Scott was kept under close surveillance by the police. At the time he had an accomplice named James Nesbitt alias Lyons, who he had met in prison.

During this period Scott was very heavily involved in lecturing about prison reform, and following one of these given at Ballarat, he met a Thomas Williams, alias "Frank Johns", alias "Charlie Davidson". Tom had never been in trouble with the law, and told his parents he was going to Horsham to work.

On August 15th the Lancefield bank was robbed and the trail led to Scott and Nesbitt, who were found living in Fitzroy with young Tom Williams. Although both men were strongly suspected, not enough evidence could be found to have them charged.

While living on the outskirts of Melbourne, two others were also to join them. They included 22 year old Thomas Rogan alias "Baker", who had formerly been convicted on larceny and horse-stealing charges, and Augustus Warneckie, the 19 year old son of Ernest Warneckie who had owned both the Royal Oak Hotel and the County Court Hotel in Melbourne.

In October 1879, Andrew Scott decided to leave Melbourne and head north into New South Wales, supposedly to find work somewhere around Wagga Wagga for him and his mates.

The Victoria Police watched the progress of the party, as it moved northward on what Scott professed to be was 'a possum-hunting picnic'. Supt. Sadleir made the claim that 'Scott sent word to Ned Kelly that he wished to join forces with him. Kelly sent back word threatening that if Scott or his band approached him he would shoot them down.'

Finally Scott and his party reached the Murray River and crossed by punt at a place six miles from Albury, called Benquille. From there they continued in the direction of Wagga Wagga but were forced to keep travelling, as jobs were very scarce. During this time another man also joined the group, his name was Graham Bennett.

Graham, who was born in England in 1859, took up sailing as a career, and eventually arrived in Australia in 1877. It is believed that he came to try his luck on the goldfields, but having failed, sought work firstly in north-east Victoria and then into New South Wales.

Scott and his party were heading east towards Wantabadgery, when they stopped at the home of the McGlede family to ask for work. Although there was no job there for them, they were given bread and milk. From there they rode to Clarendon and stopped in at David Weir's store. Once again they asked for work but he could only offer them 8 lbs of flour. Feeling tired, hungry and dejected, they turned south and headed for Wantabadgery Station.

On arrival, Scott and his party went to the homestead and enquired as to the possibility of employment. They were informed that the owners and overseer were away, but they could try again next day.

After camping in the hills for the night, the men walked up to the homestead next morning and once again asked for work. A servant girl told William Baynes, the Station manager, that the men were outside, but he kept them waiting for 2½ hours before informing them that there wasn't any and they better clear out.

The men were now very dejected, and without having had anything to eat since early the previous day, were suffering the pangs of hunger. That night it rained, and by next morning Scott chose that if the station would not give them what they wanted, they would go back and take it from them.

It was 3.30 in the afternoon of November 15th, when Scott and his companions walked up to the back gate of Wantabadgery Homestead. They bailed up the servants, and then Falconer MacDonald and William Baynes and their families, and after taking possession of all the firearms, they helped themselves to the storeroom to get something to eat. Messrs MacDonald and Baynes were kept prisoners away from the rest, and Scott told Baynes that his life would be forfeited. Towards evening several more people were bailed up and the bushrangers prepared to stay for the night.

At 10.30 next morning, a 16 year old boy named James Stearman was taken hostage after delivering the mail between Wagga Wagga and Clarendon. Shortly after this, Scott, accompanied by some of the prisoners, rode over to the old station and captured Mr Reid, the Station overseer and his wife.
On the way back to Wantabadgery, Scott stopped at the Australian Arms Hotel. There he bailed up the patrons, and after taking several weapons escorted them back to the homestead.

Not long after Scott returned, several horsemen approached the house. One of them was John Beveridge, a descendant of one of the oldest families in the district. These men where taken hostage and their horses put in the horse-yard. Scott took a liking to Beveridge's horse, and after unsuccessfully trying to ride it, shot it dead.

The number of hostages now being held was over thirty, and for a small community such an occurrence could not go unnoticed. About mid-afternoon, Alexander McDonald at Paterson's Hotel heard that something was going on, and rode into Wagga Wagga to alert the police. Another man named Fred Williams was informed by Mrs McDonald after her husband left, and he rode to Gundagai to inform the authorities there.

Four Constables from Wagga Wagga arrived at Wantabadgery Station at 4 o'clock on Monday morning. Leaving their horses with Alex McDonald, about 400 yards at the back of the house, the troopers took up position closer to the house and waited till daylight.

When it was light enough to see, the police started to approach the back door, but when within about 20 yards, their presence was given away by a dog barking. As Scott went to the door to check out the cause of the disturbance, Constable Headley called on the bushrangers to surrender. Scott opened fire and was quickly joined by the rest of his friends. The troopers drew back and positioned themselves amongst some trees.

During a lull in the fighting, Scott forced Falconer MacDonald, his son and Mr Baynes onto the roof to keep the police under surveillance. The bushrangers then planned to surround the police, and while Scott and Nesbitt resumed firing, their companions now on horseback attempted to outflank them. Cut off from their horses, the troopers were forced to retreat, and walked to Tenundra Park. After acquiring fresh mounts, they waited for the arrival of reinforcements from Gundagai.

With the police now gone, the bushrangers decided it was time to leave, and after commandeering the police horses and several others belonging to the station, the gang left.

Riding on past Pattersons Hotel, the gang headed towards Eurongilly, but after having gone about two miles, they decided to call back to McGlede's farm, where they had visited a few days before.

As the district was alerted, men started to come from every direction. On being notified, Senior Sergeant Carroll left Gundagai with four Constables, while Constable Wyles came from Bethungra. Civilians also came to help and included a dozen armed men organised by the contractors Fishburn and Morton, who were constructing the Junee to Narrandera railway. John Beveridge, who had been one of the hostages, rode straight home to 'Dollar Vale', and after securing firearms, returned with two other men.

As the bushrangers travelled along Eurongilly Road, they met up with Beveridge's party. Scott, on seeing they were armed, immediately guessed what their intentions were, and bailing them up, took their weapons. At that moment six of the squatter's shearers arrived on the scene and were also searched for guns, but they found none.

All the hostages were then stood in a line on the side of the road, and Scott announced that he intended to put Beveridge and his two accomplices on trial for bearing arms against them. A jury was formed and Scott appointed himself as judge. When the jury found them 'not guilty', Scott was obviously upset as he clearly wanted the squatter dead, and as an alternative he shot his horse instead.

The prisoners where made to kneel down, while Scott walked past and kicked each of them. When Beveridge tried to avoid the kick, the bushranger threatened to cut off a piece of his nose. The gang collected the captured guns and burnt them before leaving.

As the party continued down the road, they met Constable Wyles, who was immediately disarmed and forced to accompany them to the farmhouse of Edmund McGlede.

On arrival at the house, Scott found only Mrs McGlede, and assuring her that they meant no harm, they partook of milk and brandy and prepared to leave.

Meanwhile, at Tenundra Park the two police parties met up and after acquiring fresh horses, rode on to Wantabadagery homestead. On finding the bushrangers had left, they took up their trail. Shortly after the party was joined by John Patterson and Daniel Egan, and on their arrival at the Australia Arms Hotel, they were given directions as to which way the gang had gone.

As the police rode on towards McGledes hut, the bushrangers were in the process of just leaving. However, on seeing the patrol, Scott and his men returned to the house and prepared to make a stand.

When the bushrangers' backs were turned, trooper Wyles seized the opportunity and ran to the approaching police party. There he was given a revolver and joined their advance.

The bushrangers had taken cover behind a fence and trees near the house, and when the police called on them to surrender, Scott gave a defiant refusal. At that point both sides started shooting.

In the first volley Constable Barry's horse was shot from beneath him before he could dismount. The police, now on foot, spread out in a half circle and approached the hut.
Two of the police, Sergeant Cassin and Constable Barry, managed to make their way up to where the bushrangers had tied their horses, and after freeing them, scared them off. The Sergeant was now joined by Carroll and leaving Barry, they tried to get closer to the house. Barry, who was hiding behind a log fence, watched Warneckie fire two shots which landed dangerously close to the officer. The Constable took aim, and as the bushranger stood up to take another shot at him, Barry fired with deadly accuracy. The Sergeant, on seeing Warneckie fall close by, thought he was only faking it, and rushed up and struck him with his rifle. Graham Bennett, who witnessed the incident from a window, was also shot a few seconds later when a bullet passed through his arm.

The police, now feeling more confident, converged on the house, and the bushrangers retreated to the detached kitchen, taking Mrs McGlede with them.

As Constables Webb-Bowen and Headley took cover behind a spring cart only about eight yards from the house, Scott stepped out from the kitchen door and firing, hit Webb-Bowen in the neck. Headley, now joined by Gorman, ran to the house, and as they went, were fired at by Nesbitt. Gorman took aim and on firing at Nesbitt struck the bushranger in the neck.

Things were now hotting up for Scott with three Constables concentrating their fire on his position. He decided that the odds were against him and called out that he wished to surrender.

Carroll at this point ran around and entered the back door of the kitchen. He first saw Nesbitt lying on the floor and then noticed Williams, who was curled up crying inside the chimney. He called on him to surrender, and after agreeing ran outside into the arms of Constable Wyles. Scott threw his guns outside and was taken prisoner by Cassin, who handcuffed him. Bennett also came out and was surrounded by three Constables. Rogan at this stage could not be found, and fearing he had escaped, Sergeant Carroll took two Constables with him to search for him in the direction of Junee. Constable Johns was also dispatched to take the news of the outlaws capture to Wagga Wagga.

Around three o'clock that afternoon Warneckie died, and his compatriot, James Nesbitt, followed two hours later.

That night, the remaining bushrangers spent the night at McGlede's house under guard. The following morning, as the police were making preparation to take their prisoners to Gundagai, Thomas Rogan was found hiding under a mattress in McGlede's bedroom.

Senior Constable Edward Mostyn Webb-Bowen was transported to Gundagai by wagon, but despite all efforts to save him, he eventually died on Sunday, November 23rd.

The four remaining bushrangers were brought before the Gundagai Court on November 20th, charged with 'Robbery-Under-Arms' and 'Wounding with Intent to Murder Constable Webb-Bowen'. The trial lasted two days, but when the Constable died the following day, the four men were remanded to appear at Sydney Court on a charge of murder.

They were again tried in Sydney on December 8th, and after deliberation for two hours, the jury found them all guilty, but recommended mercy for Rogan, Williams and Bennett. Justice William Windeyer was not feeling merciful that day and sentenced them all to death.

Following two appeals against their sentences, the Executive Council eventually commuted the sentences of Bennett and Williams to life imprisonment.
Scott and Rogan were hanged on January 20th, 1880. Their companion, Thomas Williams, would only live five more years, being hanged for the stabbing of a fellow inmate inside Berrima Goal. Graham Bennett, remains a mystery. It is either assumed that he served his time, or may have died in prison. Hopefully, one day it will be discovered what happened to him, and another chapter in the annals of bushranging history will be complete

Other famous people Born in Rathfriland

  • Patrick Bronte, the father of the Bronte sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) was born in 1777 in a cottage close to Loughbrickland, where he lived until a local vicar paid his way to Cambridge University in 1802 While studying at Cambridge, he changed his name to Brontë. He preached and taught at Drumballyroney Church and School House, between Rathfriland and Moneyslane. The Brontë Homeland Interpretative Centre is at Drumballyroney
  • Donal Og Magennis, Lord of Iveagh, founder of the Rathfriland Branch of the Magennis family. Surrendered his lands to King Henry VIII, who granted Donal Og Magennis a charter to retain his lands; given a knighthood 1542.
  • George, W. Bush, the 43rd President of The United States of America. One of president's five times great-grandfathers, William Holliday, was born in Rathfriland, Co Down, about 1755, and died in Kentucky about 1811–12.
  • Catherine O'Hare, mother of the first European child born west of the Rockies, was herself born in Rathfriland in 1835. She and her husband, Augustus Schubert, joined 200 Overlanders who went west across Canada in search of gold, and blazed the trail for the Canadian Pacific Railways.
  • Margaret Byers née Morrow was born in Rathfriland in 1832. Margaret Byers was a teacher, a businesswoman, a pioneer of higher education for girls, a philanthropist and a Suffragist. She said: 'My aim was to provide for girls an education...as thorough as that which is afforded to boys in the schools of the highest order.' In 1905 she was given an honorary degree by Trinity College Dublin and in 1908 Queens University Belfast, appointed her to its Senate.
  • Francis Brooke was born in Rathfriland 1924. He is the Roman Catholic Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Dromore
  • William Huston Dodd (1844-1930) was born in Rathfriland, and was educated at the Royal Academical Institution and Queen's College, Belfast. In 1873 he was called to the Bar, and in 1896 he was appointed President of the Statistical and Social Enquiry Society. He served as a High Court judge from 1907 to 1924.
  • James McKnight (1801-1876) was born near Rathfriland and was educated in Belfast. In 1826, in the absence of the librarian, McKnight was appointed deputy librarian of the Linen Hall Library. He became editor of the Belfast News Letterin 1827 and when he went to Derry he worked on the Londonderry Standard though for a brief period he returned to Belfast to edit Banner of Ulster. He was an opponent of Repeal, but a strong supporter of the Tenant Right movement, and in 1852 he joined the Tenant League. Among his work is The Ulster Tenants' Claim of Right, published in 1848.
  • Charles Read (1841-1878) was born in Sligo. He had a business in Rathfriland, County Down, but went to London as a journalist when it failed. He wrote two much-acclaimed novels Savourneen Dheelish and Aileen Aroon. Only three of the four projected volumes of The Cabinet of Irish Literature were completed before his death. The final volume was edited by T. P. O'Connor. He died in Surrey.
  • Patrick Shea, O.B.E. (1908–1986) was born in County Westmeath and since his father was a policeman, he spent his childhood in Athlone, Clones, County Monaghan, Rathfriland and Newry, County Down. His father served in the Royal Irish Constabulary and had various postings until the RIC was disbanded on the Partition of Ireland in 1922. He later joined the , Royal Irish Constabulary achieving the rank of Head Constable and later Clerk of Petty Sessions in Newry. Patrick was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers, The Abbey, Newry. He joined the Northern Ireland civil service and attained the rank of permanent secretary in the Department of Education. He wrote Voices and the Sound of Drums. He was made an honorary member of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects in 1971 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1977.