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Cameron, William [nicknamed Hawkie] (c. 1787–1851), pedlar and beggar, was probably born at St Ninians, Stirlingshire, the son of Dugald Cameron of Braemar, a mashman, and his wife, Janet Paterson. As members of the Burgher Secession church the family barely feature in parochial registers, so details of ...

Article

Harman, Thomas (fl. 1547–1567), writer on vagabonds, was grandson of Henry Harman, clerk of the crown under Henry VII, who obtained about 1480 the estates of Ellam and Maystreet in Kent. Thomas's father, William Harman, added to these estates the manor of Mayton...

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Joseph Johnson (b. 1796/7), by John Thomas Smith, 1817

Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo

Article

Johnson, Joseph (b. 1796/7), beggar and street performer, also known as ‘Black Joe’, is of unknown parentage and origin. He had served as a seaman until he was forced to retire because of ‘wounds rendering him incapable of doing further duty on the ocean’. Not being entitled to relief payments ‘having been employed in the merchants’ service only’ (...

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Alfred Hyman Louis (1829–1915) by Histed © National Portrait Gallery, London

Article

Louis, Alfred Hyman (1829–1915), scholar and visionary vagrant, was born in 1829 in Birmingham, the eldest son of Hyman Tobias (or Tobar) Louis, a well-to-do merchant, and his wife, Maria. At fifteen he entered King Edward's School, Birmingham, where he began long friendships with ...

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Peter the Wild Boy (c. 1712–1785) by Valentine Green (after Pierre Étienne Falconet, exh. Society of Artists 1767) © National Portrait Gallery, London

Article

Thomas Seccombe

revised by David Turner

Peter the Wild Boy (c. 1712–1785), curiosity, was found in 1725 in the woods near Hamelin, about 25 miles from Hanover. In the words of contemporary pamphleteers, he was observed 'walking on his hands and feet, climbing trees like a squirrel, and feeding on grass and moss...

Article

Saxby [née Howell], Mary (1738–1801), vagrant and memoirist, was born in London, the daughter of John Howell, a silk weaver, and his wife, Susanna, who died soon afterwards during childbirth. Mary's father remarried and had two further sons, one of whom—together with ...

Article

Waters, Billy (1778?–1823), street performer, beggar, and sailor, is generally believed to have been born in North America c. 1778. There are conflicting accounts of his origins, but it is likely that he had been enslaved for much of his early life. He is understood to have joined the ...

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Billy Waters (1778?–1823), by David Wilkie, c. 1815

Private collection. © Michael Graham-Stewart/Bridgeman Images