This summer holiday has seen us on a road trip to the historic sites of Captain Moonlight’s last days. We have driven over 1,000 kilometres south-west to the town of Junee where this Australian bushranger (outlaw) spent his last days of freedom in 1879.
Captain Moonlight is of particular interest to me as recently uncovered letters written on death-row have revealed his undying love for a fellow member of his bushranger-gang. This member, James Nesbitt, was killed in a shoot-out with police next to the stand of trees shown in the photo above. Moonlight was described by police as weeping while kissing Nesbitt’s dead body passionately. Moonlight later wore a lock of Nesbitt’s hair on his wedding finger when he was executed. Moonlight’s final request was to be buried next to Nesbitt:
My dying wish is to be buried beside my beloved James Nesbitt, the man with whom I was united by every tie which could bind human friendship, we were one in hopes, in heart and soul and this unity lasted until he died in my arms.
Despite the misdeeds of Moonlight there is beauty in his declaration of love for Nesbitt. I admire Moonlight’s unapologetic stance which challenged the heteronormative culture that was fostered during this conservative colonial period.
On the morning that we visited the site of Moonlight’s last stand a storm was approaching. As dark clouds closed in thunder rumbled in the distance. From the trees at the site of Nesbitt’s death a colony of cicadas dominated the soundscape. I wondered if this same sound was heard by Moonlight and Nesbitt in 1879, I hoped that this auditory experience provided a tangible link to the past.