Highwayman, who held up Gipsies, robbed a Vice-Admiral, and was executed on 17th of July, 1691
THOMAS WATERS was born of very reputable parents at Henley-on-Thames, in Oxfordshire. His father and mother both died when he was very young, and left him to the care of an uncle, who put him apprentice to a Notary-Public behind the Royal Exchange. But business was what his mind was not turned for, and the servitude of seven years appeared to him a grievous thing; whereupon he gave himself a discharge without the leave of his master before he had served half the term. What little money he had was soon expended, and he was exposed to the wide world, without any visible way of getting a living in it. These circumstances soon inclined him to apply himself to the highway, as the only method he could see of supporting himself.
His first exploit was on about twenty or thirty gipsies, whom he saw near Bromley, in Kent, as they were coming one morning early out of a barn, where they had lain all night. He rode up to them and commanded them to stand, threatening to shoot half-a-score of them through the head if they did not obey his command instantly. These strollers were pretty patient thus far; but when he ordered them to draw their purse-strings they set up an outcry as terrible as the "Hololoo" of the wild Irish when they lose a cock or a hen. The being robbed on the highway was something new to them, who had all their lives long been used to defraud everyone they met with. Some of them entreated his pity and compassion in a miserable tone. Others began to tell his fortune, promising him abundance of riches, and everything else they could think of that was desirable, and bestowing on him more blessings than the Pope would have sold for all the wealth they had to lose. Tom was not so superstitious at this time as to take notice either of their predictions or their blessings; he wanted the ready money, for the old proverb that "One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" was one of his darling maxims.
When our tribe of jugglers found he was resolutely bent upon taking what they had, they began to empty their pockets of a large quantity of silver spoons, tasters, gold rings, etc., which they either stole or persuaded some of the silly country people to give them for having their fortunes told. These movables, together with what money they produced, amounted in all to sixty pounds.
One time he met with an ostler on the road from Yorkshire to London, who was once like to have betrayed him at an inn in Doncaster. This fellow had saved together forty pounds and was coming to town in order to improve it, either by jockeying or keeping an ale-house —- the two ways his countrymen commonly apply themselves to. Tom knew him again, and the remembrance of such a gross affront was enough to make him a little rough; however, he promised to spare his life, though he did not deserve such a favour, if he delivered what he had without words. The ostler was conscious of what he had done and so he surrendered.
Another of Waters's adventures was with Sir Ralph Delaval, at that time Vice-Admiral of the English Fleet, whom he knew very well. The meeting was on the road between Portsmouth and Petersfield. "Well overtaken, Brother Tar," quoth Tom; "pray what religion are you of?" Sir Ralph stared at him, and seemed astonished at his impudence." What business have you," says he, "to inquire about my religion?" "Nay, Sir Ralph," Waters replied, "I had only a mind to ask a civil question, because I have been informed that you sailors have no religion at all. But since you are so crusty upon this head, give me leave to ask you another thing. Pray do you apprehend you shall be robbed before you come to the end of your journey?" "Not at all," quoth the Admiral," I have my footman behind me." "Now there you and I are of two opinions," says Tom, "for I believe you will be robbed very quickly." While he was speaking his pistols were out, and master and man were threatened with death if they offered to stir hand or foot. In this condition the Knight thought it his best way to save his life by delivering his money; which he did, to the tune of ninety guineas, besides a gold watch. For the space of five years and upwards Tom continued his robberies, during which time he committed an almost incredible number. His last robbery was on Hounslow Heath, a place where almost all of them at one time or another try their fortunes. He took from one John Hosey, a Bristol carrier, above fourteen hundred pounds in money and plate, some of which latter was found on him when he was apprehended. For this fact he received sentence of death; and being conveyed to Tyburn in a coach, on Friday, the 17th day of July, in the year 1691, he was there executed, in the twenty-sixth year of his age, going off the stage in a very resolute manner.