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date: 29 March 2020

Waters, Billy locked

(d. 1823).
  • David Dabydeen

Extract

Actor, fiddler, and beggar who acted and busked around London in the 1780s. Waters was a common sight outside the Adelphi Theatre in the Strand. Apart from busking, he also acted, appearing as himself in a dramatized version of Pierce Egan'sLife in London (1821) at the Adelphi and at the Caledonian Theatre in Edinburgh in 1822. He would also play his fiddle, becoming a street musician outside the Drury Lane Theatre. His wooden leg as well as his outfit, which resembled that of a military uniform, made him a unique and distinct character. The well‐known cartoonist George Cruikshank caricatured him. Waters ended up penniless on the streets of London in the St Giles area, where the black poor congregated. In 1823 he became ill and died at St Giles s workhouse Just before his death he was elected King of the Beggars by fellow beggars ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Oxford Companion to Black British History.

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