Some of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers and their gangs left their mark on Junee Shire and wrote their way into its history.
From ambushes, robberies and deadly shootouts, to prison cells and courtrooms, Junee Shire’s bushranger story adds another dimension to the region’s past.
Visitors to the region are encouraged to explore the region and learn about its past on our self guided hertiage tours. Choose from two self guided heritage walks (east and west side) or one of two self guided heritage drives/rides (Bushrangers and Rail).
This page will help you discover more about our bushranger past and provide further information for those travelling on the Bushranger Self Guided Trail.
The Bushranger Trail tells the story of one of Australia’s most infamous bushrangers, Andrew George Scott, more commonly known as Captain Moonlite. Moonlite’s visit to Junee would bring about his downfall, after taking Wantabadgery Station hostage and eventually being captured after the deadly shootout at nearby McGlede’s Hut.
Travel along the scenic and famous road to Gundagai, and along Wantabadgery Road to the Wantabadgery Store where opposite, on the corner of Oura Road and Jewnee Street, you will find an interpretative sign detailing Junee’s bushranger history. You can view Moonlight Lookout from the sign location. Take River Road to Wantabadgery Station which is the site of the Captain Moonlite ambush. Follow River Road for 3.7km to find McGlede’s Hut. The deadly shootout took place near the trees in the paddock beside the Goldenfields water tanks. Return to the Wantabadgery Store and take McGledes Hill Road, where you can enjoy 360 degree views of the countryside, including the Bethungra Ranges. While in Wantabadgery, you may like to visit Sandy Beach where you can take a rest, use the public amenities, enjoy a packed lunch or even camp the night on the majestic Murrumbidgee River. Upon return to Junee, visit the historical Junee Cemetery which is a must for heritage tourism buffs.
ANDREW George Scott, who would go down in Australian history as bushranger, Captain Moonlite, was born in County Rathriland, Ireland. He was educated and articulate, a poet, an excellent horseman, a lay preacher, a civil engineer, skillful with and knowledgeable about firearms, a fluent public speaker, gentlemanly mannered, a skilled sailor, a prison reformer and by all accounts possessed of a magnetic personality.
He fought with honour in the Maori War in 1861-65 and was wounded in the leg. Afterwards he found religion and went as a lay preacher to Bacchus Marsh (Victoria). His greatest friend there was the manager of the Union Bank and Scott started his career there by robbing this bank of 1000 pounds.
However it was battlefields, courtrooms, prison cells and the lecturer’s podium which provided most of the scenes of his life. Moonlite was seen to have a mixture of bravado and sensitivity with the former being dominant. In a beautiful piece of understatement, George Seymour starts his recollections of the affair with the words, “I met Captain Moonlite without being introduced.” He goes on to describe Moonlite.
The daring captain was a smallish man, fair complexioned and he would assume a theatrical air when spoken to, posing as a mixture of Dick Turpin and Napoleon.
The Ambush at Wantabadgery Station
Wantabadgery Station was the largest in the neighbourhood and had a longstanding reputation of generosity to travellers and swagmen. It was
the logical destination for Captain Moonlite and his hungry band, but their reception would be the reverse of their expectations.
On Wednesday 12 November or Thursday 13 November 1879, William Baynes, manager of the station, was having dinner when he was told there were some men wanting to see him about work. He said they should wait. After forgetting about them, he later went out and told them there was no work, to clear them out.
Unfortunately for Moonlite and his friends, Wantabadgery was no longer owned by the late Walter Orton Windeyer who had been known for over 25 years for his hospitality. Moonlite called again at the station on Friday, November 14 and this time saw the station owner, Falconer McDonald, but was told there was no work to be had. Because there had been heavy rain for the last several days, he asked permission for himself and his friends to sleep in one of the unoccupied buildings on the station but this was refused.
The next day the gang of young men, aged 15 to 22, led by Moonlite, returned to the station on foot and bailed it up.
We had walked I think about twelve miles, we expected work, at least food and shelter. We were refused all, were insulted and ordered off. We slept that night in the hills (potentially “Moonlite lookout”), it rained heavily, we were hungry and thirsty and had nothing with the exception of too much water. In the morning, we were unable to carry away our bedding. We were all wet, cold and hungry and there we did, in one wild hour, the deed that resulted in our present situation.
We had no intention of being bushrangers. Every fact supports me. Everything speaks to the broad truth that misery and hunger produced despair and in one wild hour we proved how much the wretched dared. It must be seen that Wantabadgery was the place where the voice of hunger drowned the voice of reason and we became criminals.
Andrew George Scott, Captain Moonlite.
The bailing up of Wantabadgery station on Saturday 15 November resulted in prisoners being taken (the women were however, treated with respect). All visitors arriving at the station were also taken prisoners, with Moonlite and the station manager Baynes forging an intense dislike for each other. A filly was shot dead by Moonlite for no apparent reason. Six men arrived at the homestead and were immediately imprisoned. Moonlite collected arms and ammunition from the station overseer’s house and took the overseer, his wife and children hostage.
Although possessed of anger and frustration of the recent days and months, Moonlite did not bring himself to physical revenge.
By Sunday night there were now between 35 and 40 prisoners in the homestead – people whose presence would be missed in such a small community, especially when the local publican was amongst them.
Of Saturday 15th November 1879, Falconer Mcdonald wrote in his diary:
… the day closed as one of the most eventful of my life. Came home about 8 o’clock, thinking we should have a pleasant evening after our busy time. When Claude and I got to the gate we were received with revolvers at our head and hurried into the dining room where we found Baynes and the others guarded by men with loaded guns and for the first time we understood that the station had been “stuck up” by a party of bushrangers. Six in number, armed to the teeth.
Local folklore suggests that Captain Moonlite and his gang used a high hill above the cemetery as their look out. Whilst this can not be confirmed if you glance up to the hill from the site of the interpretative sign, you would agree that it is an ideal lookout over the village.
The Battle at McGlede’s Hut
The McGledes Hut Battle is to believed to have been bigger than Ned Kelly’s last stand.
On Monday 17th November 1879, parties of police arrived at from Wagga Wagga and Gundagai arrived at Wantabadgery Station.
Constable Rowe’s statement:
I was dispatched in charge of three mounted men from Wagga on Sunday night, at 9pm. The troopers with me were named Headley, Williamson, and Johns. We arrived at Wantabadgery homestead at 4 o’clock, daybreak, on Monday morning.
Having tied up our horses to the fence at the back of the homestead we walked on towards the house. As we approached a dog rushed out and barked at us. The noise alarmed the inmates, and Moonlite came rushing out with a gun in his hand. Constable Headley called out, Stand, in the Queens name. Moonlite presented his rifle, and fired a shot, the ball passing between
Williamson and myself. The three constables with me returned the fire.
Moonlite then rushed into the back and through the hall. He then called out fire all.” We then retreated undercover for safety, and Moonlite and six others then came on. One of the party went into the stable and set fire to it, and said if we did not clear out he would burn the building. Moonlite said it would be a mean action to burn the man’s property and himself put the fire out.
The police then rode around to the front of the house and tied their horses up. The bushrangers then tried to surround the police, all the time firing through the thistles. As the police retired two of the bushrangers were sent to execute a flank of movement, and got at the rear of the police. Seeing this, we retreated through a swamp, four feet deep in water. There was a continuous fire all the time; but none were wounded.
I got behind a sapling, and whilst there, three bullets struck the sapling in quick succession. We saw them take our horses. Seeing we could do no more, we retreated to Mr. James Beveridge’s of Tenandra Park. From him we obtained fresh horses.
Captain Moonlite and his gang of bushrangers fled north along Eurongilly road. They were over-taken several miles from the homestead at the inn conducted by McGlede, a selector on Wantabadgery, where a pitched battle occurred.
Lasting nearly four hours, the deadly shootout claimed the life of policeman, Constable Edward Mostyn Webb-Bowen (28) of Gundagai and two of the bushrangers, James Lyons (24) and Gus Werneck (16). Moonlite, Thomas Rogan (22), Graham Bennett (20) and Thomas Williams (19) were captured.
The Trial of the Wantabadgery Bushrangers
The trial of the Wantabadgery bushrangers was held in Sydney in December 1879. At the end of the four-day trial, Moonlite addressed the court for an hour with fluency and force, and exhibited signs of considerable emotion at times. Some thought that Moonlite’s peculiar behaviour at times during his trial indicated insanity – bearing in mind that some few years previously he had spent a period in Parramatta Lunatic Asylum.
Moonlite made one of his plausible speeches, and showed wonderful self-assurance. In truth, it might have been said that he was insolent to the Judge, which led the Judge to say that if any lawyer had used the same language, he would have turned him out of the courtroom. “
“Well, Your Worship,” said Moonlite, amidst great laughter, “I wish you would
turn me out of it too; and if I thought you would, I would use much stronger language.”
Moonlite was found guilty of shooting Constable Webb-Bowen who died of wounds, and was sentenced to death, along with his three surviving gang members. The sentences of Bennett and Williams were later commuted to life imprisonment.
Moonlite was executed on 20 January 1880, in Darlinghurst Gaol, in the presence of 30 to 40 officials. Canon Rich, the gaol chaplain, acted as Moonlite’s spiritual adviser, and prevented him from making a statement at his execution, having advised him to say nothing. He went calmly to his death.
At 37 years, the eventful career of Andrew George Scott had ended. The grave of Captain Moonlite can be found in neighbouring Gundagai Shire.
Moonlite’s my name, bushrangins’ my game, I roamed these hills way back when.
I was bailin’ up folk, for money, food or a joke, ‘twas a lot of us doin’ it then.
Now I won’t take your time, ‘bout my life in this rhyme, you can read all about it at leisure.
I’ll just simply say, that they got me one day and I was hanged at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
I travelled far and wide, and I take some small pride in finding out what’s what, and where,
Though I fear my approach, to a bank or a coach, needed some work, to be fair.
I’ve some travel advice, you’re friendly and nice, you’ll get a much better reaction,
Than if you broach, with a sour approach, or a rifle, which is quite a distraction!
When you bail people up, use a pun not a gun, don’t hold them against their will
Just a friendly g’day, is all you need say, no stealing or ‘causing them ill.
Take a tip from me, I’ve travelled you see, across the lush Riverine.
There’s friendly folk, who’ll share a joke, there’s tastes and sights to be seen.
There’s so much to see, a bright history, there’s colour, there’s life and there’s fun.
With gold and with rail and bushranger’s tales, under a blazing Colonial sun.
Now there’s signs on the track, for you to look back, to tell of this district’s growth.
It’s fascinating I say, so don’t you delay, you’ll be charmed I give you my oath.
So on this fine day, let’s shout loud and say, when crossing the Riverine so wide,
Pause in Junee a while, put a smile on your dial and let the Heritage Trails be your guide.