Crime: highway robbery
Date Of Execution: 1 May 1691
Execution Place: unknown
Who stole the Lord Chancellor's Mace and delighted in robbing Army Officers on the Highway. Executed at Tyburn, 1st of May, 1691
THIS notorious offender was the bastard son of an Irish priest, and born at Athenrea, in the county of Galway and province of Connaught in Ireland. Coming young to England and not readily falling into any business was the occasion of his first taking to ill courses, he being exposed, as most idle fellows are, to bad company, which is the most common introduction to thieving, and as it were the first step towards Tyburn.
The first of William Macqueer's offences was a burglary committed at Brentwood, in Essex, in company with three more. They entered a gentleman's house there, stole four diamond rings, a very large quantity of plate, and six hundred pounds in money. Not long after this he and one more broke open the Lord Chancellor Jeffreys' house, in Duke Street, Westminster, whence they carried off the purse and mace belonging to his office. Macqueer has been often heard to boast how he made his companion carry the two prizes before him through the park in the same manner as they were carried before the Chancellor, while he walked in state behind them, and swelled as much as any country cobbler could do when he arises to the dignity of mayor of his borough. The next morning early there was a terrible hue and cry after these ensigns of dignity, which Macqueer had secured in his closet at his lodgings, going out all day to hear what would be the event of the inquiry. The maid going up that day to clean his chamber found a small jewel on the floor, which had been dropped from the purse. This she instantly carried down to her master, who having heard the news that day, and not liking his lodger very well before, began to suspect what afterwards appeared to be the truth. For, sending for a constable and breaking open the door, they found both the mace and the purse, which were the same day restored to the Chancellor. Macqueer informed himself abroad of all that had happened, and never came near his landlord and house again till he broke it open about a quarter of a year after and stole away as many goods as were valued at eighty pounds, by way of revenge for what was done.
Nothing would serve him now but the highway, and he was resolved to be furnished with accoutrements at the expense of the public. He stole a good horse and saddle out of the stable of one Councillor Thursby, in Burleigh Street, in the Strand; and a pair of pistols he got from Mr Robert Williams, a gunsmith in George Yard, Westminster. Thus equipped he set out.
There was at that time a poet, whose name was Alexander Oldys, a man as deformed as AEsop, and so small that there was hardly such another to be seen. It was the fate of our bard to meet Macqueer between Hammersmith and Brentford, when he was accosted with the customary salutation. He now found he was got into other company than that of the Muses, and began to apprehend that his sword would do him small service against a pistol, upon which he gave Teague all the money he had, amounting in whole, as it is reported, to no more than threepence-farthing. We are certain the sum did not satisfy Macqueer, who deprived him of his sword also, in a most ungentlemanly manner; which loss was the cause of greater grief to our bard than any other affliction he could have suffered, except that of being obliged never to write any more verses.
Not long after, Macqueer met the Lady Auverquerque coming from the bath in a coach-and-six, stopped her, and desired her to lend him what money she had about her, because he had at that time great occasion; promising her to pay the whole again very honestly at their next encounter, and offering to give his bond if she demanded it. "I believe," says the lady, "you had as good tell me at once you are come to rob me, for this is an odd way of borrowing. I am a stranger in this country," the Irishman said, "and so if I don't know the difference between robbing and borrowing, you must excuse me; for all I mean is, give me your money." The lady told him it was well he had explained himself at last, and so gave him her gold watch, two diamond rings and what money she had. He then shot two of the coach horses and the horses of two footmen that attended, and so rode off with his booty as fast as he could. Macqueer took a particular delight in robbing the officers of the army, because he imagined that in so doing he gave a greater proof of his valour than he could by any other means.
The first he robbed was one Mr Adams, a lieutenant of the Second Regiment of Foot Guards, whom he met between Uxbridge and Beaconsfield. The lieutenant, being stopped before he was aware, gave our highwayman very good words; but perceiving that Macqueer was not to be talked out of his booty delivered six pounds to him, out of which Macqueer gave him back ten shillings to bear his charges.
Another officer whom he robbed was Captain Shooter, a man of bravery and resolution, who would not tamely part with what he had, and had like to have made our highwayman pay dearly for his affected courage. Their meeting was on Hampstead Heath, where they fired several pistols at each other without doing any damage on either side. They then rode up together, with their swords drawn, and made a great many pushes. Macqueer had certainly been worsted at this exercise if he had not bethought himself of another pistol in his breeches' pocket, which he pulled out and discharged suddenly through the captain's head, when he apprehended nothing but the sword. He got at least fifty guineas and a silver watch by this murder. The last robbery he was concerned in was in company with William Selwood, alias Jenkins, another old offender. They took two hundred and fifty guineas from one Mr Benjamin Watts on Hounslow Heath. For this fact they were both taken, condemned, and on Friday, the 1st of May, 1691, executed together at Tyburn, Macqueer being in the twenty-eighth year of his age.