Richard Parker ~ Seaman and Mutineer

Richard Parker – seaman and mutineer – was born at Exeter in 1767. He joined the Royal Navy at a young age and served for many years. Illness forced his early departure from the sea. But, after marriage and financial hardship, Richard Parker was forced back to the navy. At the time he was a debtor held at Perth Prison and in order to secure his release he took the naval bounty of £20. As part of the crew (1,100 men) of the ageing hulk, HMS Sandwich, Parker found himself serving in appalling conditions. At that time, 1797, mutinies broke out across the navy and the crew of HMS Sandwich joined this rebellion on 12 May 1797. Parker soon became Chair of the Committee of rebellion which was attempting to negotiate for improvement in pay and working conditions. HMS Sandwich and several other ships held by their crews were blockading the Thames. The rebellion floundered as individual ships did deals or their crews lost their nerve. A bounty of £600 was placed on Parker’s head on 11 June 1797. Disagreements aboard HMS Sandwich soon brought the mutiny to an end and Parker surrendered to the naval authorities on 14 June 1797. He was tried for mutiny, disobedience and contempt of officer’s authority. Defending himself, Parker proved his worth against a highly biased court. Despite his efforts, Richard Parker was found guilty and sentenced to death. On the day of his execution, it is recorded, that he drank a glass of white wine, walked to the yard arm where a noose was placed around his neck and then after a moments thought jumped to his death. His body was left to hang for several hours before he was buried in Whitechapel.