Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: James Drummond


a Footpad

Folly and wickedness, as it were, naturally lead men to poverty, shame and misfortunes, but when such miseries overtake persons who lived soberly and in all outward appearance honestly, it is apt to create wonder at first, and afterwards to excite compassion.

The unhappy man of whom we are now speaking was the son of a sailor, who brought him when but a boy of three years of age up to London, and then dying, left him to the care of his mother, who was too poor to give him any education. However, he went to sea, and being a young man ingenious enough in himself, and very tractable in his temper, he soon became a tolerable proficient in the practical part of navigation. This recommended him to pretty constant business, whereby he got enough to maintain himself and his family handsomely enough, if he had thought fit to have employed it that way; which for a considerable space of time he did, keeping up a very good reputation in the neighbourhood where he lived, and serving with a fair character on board several men-of-war, going up the Baltic with squadrons sent thither to preserve the Swedish coast from being insulted by the Moscovites.

After his return, he served on board the fleet which destroyed that of the Spaniards in Sicily. He was afterwards coxswain in the Admiral, when they served in the Mediterranean, and on the coast of Spain, but coming home at last and being weary of going to sea, he took up the trade of selling china and some small goods about the country; in which he got so established a character that the gentlemen with whom he chiefly dealt would have trusted him a hundred pounds on his word, and never anything gave a greater shock to his neighbours and acquaintances than the news of his being apprehended for a highwayman. However, it seems he had been engaged to that course by his brother, notwithstanding that till then he had lived not only honestly, but with tolerable sentiments of religion.

The method in which he was drawn to turn robber on a sudden was thus. On the 19th of October, 1729, his brother came to him as he was working on the outside of a ship on the other side of the water, and invited him to go out with him to a public house, to which at first he was very unwilling; but at last suffering himself to be prevailed upon, he and his brother went together to a house not far distant, where they drank to a higher pitch than James Drummond had ever done before. His brother all along insinuated how advantageous a trade the highway was, owning he had followed nothing else for some years past, and saying there was not the least hazard run in it, at the same time advising his brother to quit labouring hard, and to take to it, too. James was now grown so drunk that he hardly knew what he did, so that after much persuasion he got up behind his brother upon the same horse, but was afterwards set down, it being judged by both of them to be better to rob on foot, while he who was well armed and well mounted might be able to defend them both. Having come to this fatal agreement, they immediately set about those enterprises which they had consulted together.

The first robbery they committed was upon Mr. William Isgrig, from whom they took sixteen guineas, seven half-guineas, three broad pieces, one moidore, twenty shillings in silver, and a watch value two pounds. Not satisfied with this the same night they attacked one Mr. Wakeling, on the same road, and took from him a silver watch, and three or four shillings in money, though not without much resistance, Mr. Wakeling having drawn his sword and defended himself for a considerable time; but perceiving one of the rogues to be a footpad, he followed him so closely, and made such an outcry to the watch, that after a long pursuit and a sharp struggle with him, they took James Drummond prisoner. His brother after firing a pistol or two, rode off as fast as he could. At the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey he was indicted for both offences and upon very full and dear evidence convicted.

It was impossible to describe the agonies which this unhappy man suffered while under sentence of death, the sense of his own condition, the reflection on his former character, unsullied and untainted amongst his whole neighbourhood, the consideration of leaving a wife and five small children behind him, with small provision for their support, and what was worse exposed to the reflection of the world on the score of an unhappy father, scandalous in the last actions of his life, and ignominious in his death. However, returning to his former principles of piety and religion, he comforted himself under the weight of all his misfortunes, by leaning on the mercy of God, praying fervently to Him to grant him patience and protection under those dreadful evils which he suffered. He acknowledged all to be exactly true which was deposed against him at his trial, confessed the justice of his sentence, and prepared to undergo it with as much submission and resignation as was possible, and indeed perhaps no criminal ever behaved with more penitence than he did. He died on Monday, the 22nd of December, 1729, being then forty years of age.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals