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Captain Starlight

On the morning of October 6th 1868 bushrangers Charles Rutherford and Frank Pearson burst into Shearer's Inn at Enngonia, and found themselves face to face with two pursuing Police Troopers in a room scarcely big enough for the four of them. A desperate gun fight exploded in the confined space and when the smoke cleared Constable John McCabe was on the floor bleeding profusely from a shoulder wound and Pearson was staggering to his horse outside, wounded by return fire form the police.

Constable McMannus then began a desperate pursuit which lasted another three weeks, covering over 500kms of rough, waterless terrain before they lost the bushrangers' tracks near Tilpa. The Queensland trooper arrived back in Enngonia on November 1st, the day John McCabe's agonising struggle with his gangrenous wound ended.

Pearson and Rutherford were now wanted for murder. They parted company as the search for them started in earnest, and began a series of independent hold-ups; Pearson north-east along the Darling River and Rutherford further east towards the Macquarie River. Person, now flaunting the title 'Captain Starlight', had a number of twists and turns to negotiate before meeting his end.

Curiously the arresting officer, Sgt. Andrew Cleary of the Bourke Police, became something of a friend to Starlight. the personalities of the hunter and the hunted emerge from his reminiscence.

Whatever his remorse in goal, Starlight soon returned to a life of forgery and impersonation. He lived out his final chapter of his odyssey posing as a 'Major Pelly', working as a clerk in the West Australia Geological Survey Office. the final irony of his life was that, on the 22nd of December 1899, almost exactly 30 years to the ay after Cleary arrested him on Mt Gundabooka, 'Captain Starlight', arriving home drunk, mistakenly swallowed potassium cyanide, finally carrying out the delayed death sentence by his own hand.

For more information please contact the Back O' Bourke Information and Exhibition Centre

Kidman Way, Bourke NSW 2840

02 6872 1321