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Bill Waters (c.1778–1823) was born in America during the War of Independence. He was a sailor and lost his right leg as a result of falling from the topsail yard of the 'Ganymede'. Unable to serve at sea, he became a famous London street entertainer and was often to be seen busking with his fiddle to support his family. Waters featured in Pierce Egan’s 'Life in London' (1820–1821) and was one of the characters illustrated by George Cruikshank. Indeed, Waters appeared in several Cruikshank cartoons, including The New Union Club. When Egan’s book was adapted into a play and performed at the Adelphi Theatre, Waters – who had been busking outside – was invited on stage to play himself. He repeated the performance at the Caledonian Theatre in Edinburgh.
Billy Waters (c.1778–1823)
oil on panel
H 27.4 x W 21.2 cm