Tommy Burns’s frustration with police emerged in a report about his attempted dive from Hawarden Bridge near Shotton in Flintshire on 19th December 1891. The Cheshire Observer a week later told how Tommy approached from Connah’s Quay and was cheered by spectators near the bridge:
He was dressed in a dark blue suit and carried a small hand bag, in which he had a change of clothes. He mounted the bridge, and had got so far as the central girder, where he intended stripping, when P. C. Andrews, stationed at Queen’s Ferry, came along the other side of the bridge, and met Tommy in the centre.
A conversation ensued between Tommy and the policeman, in which the latter said it was his duty to stop Tommy diving off the bridge. Tommy remarked that he wondered why the police seemed so fond of him, and he should very much like to take Andrews with him into the water.
Eventually Tommy contented himself with giving an exhibition swim in the Dee. In reply to our reporter he said he was sorry he was unable to bring his dive off.
A columnist in the same issue of the Cheshire Observer added:
The day was bitterly cold, but it made no difference to Burns. A man of his powers would do better to make for the North Pole than waste his strength over aimless and dangerous bridge-diving.
The Wrexham Advertiser on 26th December 1891 took the view that Tommy had been ‘accosted’ by the constable:
The contemplated dive by Tommy Burns from Hawarden Bridge, on Saturday afternoon, was frustrated by the police. Tommy arrived on the scene at 2.45, and on reaching the centre girder, where he was about to strip, he was accosted by a constable and ordered to move off.
Tommy appeared annoyed at disappointing the large crowd of spectators, but determined to show his swimming powers and entered the water from the bank and performed a number of feats.