One of Tommy Burns’s most ambitious diving exhibitions took place on 1st July 1893 when he dived into the Thames from Waterloo, Hungerford and Westminster bridges in London.

Waterloo Bridge, Hungerford Bridge (Photo courtesy of Lee Jackson), and Westminster Bridge.

A report in the Liverpool Echo on 4th July explained how great care had to be taken ‘to avoid interruption by the police’.

The Waterloo Bridge received the first attention, Burns being conveyed to the centre of the viaduct in a cab, from which he stepped forth disguised as an old woman. Climbing to the parapet, with a shout he plunged gracefully into the water. A boat, waiting in readiness, picked him up amid loud shouts of approval, and, on being conveyed to the steps of Cleopatra’s Needle, a dense crowd assembled, and from the steamboats and pedestrians came cheer after cheer.

He was driven on a roundabout route to Hungerford Bridge where ‘a great crowd awaited his coming’.

Fifteen minutes had expired when the signal was given from land and water, and Burns, neatly attired in tights, mounted the bridge, and with a beautiful dive cleaved the water.

Tommy was then taken to Westminster Bridge where he was given the all‑clear signal at 4pm and leaped head first into the water. The Echo report added:

Every plunge by Burns was exceptionally neat, executed as it was in the most artistic manner. The police took his name and address, but did not otherwise interfere.

 

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