Cannibals at Sea & the Real Richard Parker

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For my local Halloween story I would like to tell you about the real story of Richard Parker. An unfortunate cabin boy who sailed from Southampton at the tender age of 16 only to be eaten by his crew.

In Southampton’s Peartree Churchyard lies an unusual gravestone…

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The newer stone in Peartree Southampton which combines the grave of Sarah Parker and the memorial to her son Richard Parker – the victim of cannibalism at sea

It is the combined stone which marks the grave of Sarah Parker and the memorial of her beloved son Richard Parker, who had reached the age of 17 by the time he became the victim of cannibalism at sea.

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Richard Parker was killed and eaten by Tom Dudley and Edwin Stephens to prevent starvation Regina versus Dudley and Stephens (1884) established the precedent that necessity is no defence against a charge of murder Concerning survival cannibalism following a shipwreck the case overturned the folklore of the Custom of the Sea

Richard Parker served on the English yacht Mignonette, which set sail for Sydney, Australia from Southampton, England in 1884. While in the South Atlantic, the Mignonette sank, leaving Parker and his three shipmates in a lifeboat. Dying of thirst Richard fell into a coma after drinking sea water. As the crew thought he was going to die anyway, they killed the boy to drink his blood, then ate him so that they could survive. There had been many similar cases like this up until that time, which were given over to sympathy from seafarers, even those in Richard Parker’s own family in Southampton. It had been regarded legally as “A Custom of the Sea”.

The surviving three were rescued after 24 days by the German sailing barque Montezuma, named fittingly enough  after the Aztec king who practiced ritual cannibalism.

But this case caused a great uproar in Victorian Britain. The men were charged with murder and were found guilty. Although not much was done about the prisoners even when their sentences were later reduced to six months hard labour. Most importantly, their trial, R v Dudley and Stephens established a legal precedent in common law around the world, that: ‘Necessity is no defence to a charge of murder’. It is one of the first cases that law students read about.

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The original memorial to Richard Parker which reads: Sacred to the memory of Richard Parker, aged 17, who died at sea July 25th 1884 after nineteen days dreadful suffering in an open boat in the tropics having been wrecked in the yacht Mignonette.’ Though he slay me yet will I trust in Him. Job 15 v 15 Lay not this sin to their charge. Acts vii6

If you haven’t read Yann Martel’s Booker Prize novel about the Life of Pi then you may have seen the ®Oscar-winning movie of the same name directed by Ang Lee.

The narrator is a novelist who has been recommended to interview an Indian man named Piscine Molitor Patel, as his life-story will make him “believe in God”.

Pi’s story is how at 16 he survives a shipwreck in which his family and the zoo of animals they are transporting to Canada, all die, apart from him and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker who he ends up sharing a lifeboat with.

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Booker Prize novel ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel

In the novel the tiger who arrived at their zoo was called Thirsty but got mixed up on the list with the hunter’s name – Richard Parker. The novel is an allegorical one about man’s battle between his animal instincts and his religious ones. Pi has been brought up a vegetarian and does not even eat fish.

By a great nautical coincidence, the name of Martel’s tiger, Richard Parker, was also inspired by a character in Edgar Allan Poe’s nautical adventure novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). In Poe’s book, Richard Parker is a cabin boy who is stranded and eventually the victim of cannibalism on a lifeboat. There is a dog aboard who is named Tiger.

A third Richard Parker drowned in the sinking of the Francis Speight in 1846, described by author Jack London, and later a cabin boy was cannibalized.

Yann Martel said: “So many victimized Richard Parkers had to mean something. My tiger found his name. He’s a victim, too – or is he?”

The Mignonette yacht sketched by Dudley
The Mignonette yacht sketched by Dudley

For most who have never had starvation forced upon us it must be difficult to imagine how this could happen. One can only receive clues from behaviours in the animal kingdom.

There have also been three plays written about Richard Parker  –   ‘Richard Parker’ by Owen Thomas, ‘Mr Parker’s Bones, or The Strange, Lamentable, Bloody, and mostly true History of Parker of Pear Tree Green and of his Captain, the Dastardly Cannibal Tom’ written by Russ Tunney and more recently The Sad Tale of Richard Parker by Cheryl Butler who also works on historical walking tours of Southampton.

Although there are still many shipwrecks, technology is developing all the time and we are now able to convert sea water into drinking water in minutes. Although still expensive, new materials will soon make it available for common use.

To visit Pear Tree Church and cemetery on Peartree Green by satellite navigation, use the postcode SO19 7GY

Jack London - When God Laughs and other short stories
Jack London – When God Laughs and other short stories

For further interesting links on this story:

Court case: R v Dudley and Stephens 

You Tube video of descendant of Richard Parker

Edgar Allan Poe: Horrific Prediction Haunts my family –  by descendant/psychic Craig Hamilton-Parker

‘The Sad Tale of Richard Parker’ a play by Cheryl Butler

‘Life of Pi’ – Creating ‘Richard Parker’ (Behind the scenes making of the movie)

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Unto Cowes and Come Home

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From Shamrock Quay along the River Itchen and under its bridge into Southampton Water

Regular readers will know that I am going to live on a sailing boat  with my husband as we have to move soon. We are selling or giving away worldly goods and doing up an old Maxi 95 sloop.

As it has been 15 years or so since I did any sailing, and pre-cancer/chemo, I thought it best to go on a refresher sailing course with a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) instructor.

Last weekend I got on a run as a team of five of like-minded individuals also honing their skills. We sailed from Shamrock Quay in Southampton to the Isle of Wight, where Cowes Week brought sailing boats from all over the world.

 

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Plain sailing on the Solent

The severe treatment for my Hodgkin Lymphoma left my body and brain somewhat disorientated. I describe my brain as living in a town where a bomb has hit and roads have been blocked off. I have had to find detours and rebuild. I had been having terrible balance problems since the treatment, but following a number of NHS exercises I have not had any accidents for about a year now.

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We anchored just off Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. This was Queen Victoria’s favourite residence and this her own private beach. It opened to the public 2 years ago.

Although I was used to sailing I had been extremely nervous about going out, especially onto the Solent, which requires strength, skill and alertness due to its tides, geographical structure and the many number of different vessels using its channel.

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The marina on the Isle of Wight was busy for Cowes Week and took great skill to moor four abreast

This weekend course really helped me to regain my confidence and sort out what I could remember and what I needed to practice.

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Ready with a slip-line returning to port

I feel brilliant!

Security Heightened on South Coast of England

Portsmouth Harbour Heightens level of response against terrorist threats August 2016 © Southampton Old Lady
Portsmouth Harbour Heightens level of response against terrorist threats

While visiting various ports in the South of England this weekend, it was clear that recent events have lead to increased security of our coastline and of all events that take place on them.

A random attack of a crowd in London by a mentally ill ‘lone wolf’ –  has reinforced that Britain is not exempt from what is happening in other parts of the world.

This together with recent cases of drug-smuggling fishermen and people-smuggling yachts that arrived at “less busy” ports and marinas, has led to increased vigilance.

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Helicopter checks on boats that arrive at Gosport Marinas without the obligatory radio call
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Prosecutors of the three men jailed in two cases of smuggling Albanians here, said Chichester Marina had no border controls

 

All photos © Southampton Old LadyThis post may be re-blogged, but please seek my permission to use photos not pertaining to this article.

Itchen Ferry Village Details

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Click on image for details
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Sea Otter emerging from Supermarine Factory before it was bombed

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L.S Lowry painting of the Itchen Ferry, Southampton
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Woolston shore, where we used to wait for the ferry before the Itchen Bridge was built.

Further reading on my post The Woolston Ferry

In response to the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge: Details

Sotonians & Fish Fingers

Cover of Goodwood Revival Meeting 2015, sponsored by Birds Eye - logo used with kind permission.
Cover of Goodwood Revival Meeting 2015, sponsored by Birds Eye – logo used with kind permission.

American inventor, Clarence Birdseye, developed industrial fast-freezing in 1925. After making his fortune in the USA he launched fish fingers in Britain in 1955. Of all the places to trial his ‘cod sticks’ he chose my home of Southampton. They became a sensation here.

Cap'n Birdseye
Cap’n Birdseye

For a small group of islands surrounded by sea, the British do not eat that much fresh fish, most of it is exported. We rely on battered white fish with chips, tinned fish – and those Birds Eye fish fingers which are a real hit with children – I grew up on them!

Southampton – a paradise for students

One of many new blocks of student apartments in Southampton's Centre, with gym, Co-op supermarket. Near all amenities. 4 mins walk to Central train station.
One of many new blocks of student apartments in Southampton’s Centre, with gym, Co-op supermarket. Near all amenities. 4 mins walk to Central train station.

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Shopping Centre will pulled down to make a large student accommodation complex of flats and maisonettes.
Shopping Centre will pulled down to make a large student accommodation complex of flats and maisonettes.

For any student thinking of taking a course at any of the universities or colleges here in Southampton, let me assure you, that this city is your oyster. It’s not just the friendliness or great night-life either.

At one time ‘digs’ were a choice of a few halls of residence or slum landlords. In an effort to improve the situation for students, council policy was implemented to register all student accommodation. Once a building block or house in multiple occupation (HMO) has been designated for students use, no-one else can live there unless declared otherwise. Tax-free building incentives were implemented and student houses are free of having to pay council tax. So now there is such a glut of apartments and shared housing for students that those from neighbouring colleges in towns such as Winchester, Bournemouth and Portsmouth, have come to live here and commute.

And yet more and more blocks of students apartments, even maisonettes, are being built on every available empty space in the centre and in desirable areas of my city.

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Listed building in town with plaque to birthplace of  John Everett Millais, is to become student flats
Listed building in town with plaque to birthplace of John Everett Millais, is to become student flats

The initial thinking was that the slum landlords, some of whom own over 100 houses with rooms for rent, will be forced to sell their empty properties and families will be able to buy them. Though, sadly, this is not proving to be the case. The high taxes second home owners would have to pay if they sold-up, has meant that they are now filling them up with young immigrant workers, who are earning as much as they can to send back home, whilst living in cheap, substandard conditions.

In Southampton this has increased, rather than eased off a shortage of rented accommodation for couples or families, and a shortage of housing generally for any working people who want to get on the housing ladder. Homelessness has increased steadily over the last 10 years and by 30 percent over the previous year, according to local reports. This is not party political – it is a sweet dose of reality.student sign 2

P1150544_2We ourselves live in a part-rented house which the owner wants to sell and we need to move, again. It is a problem. HMOs are not an option for us oldies, that value our privacy, and no-one wants to lend us a mortgage at our ages.

It is assumed that most retired people have settled into their comfortably off houses and expect to downsize eventually to a retirement home. Unfortunately we fall outside this net, due in part to having lived abroad (at one time in a 6-bed villa with a pool and yacht in the harbour, before we moved back to England). We have gone through a series of unfortunate events. Briefly: Cancer, stolen identity theft and an announcement from the DWP that £12,000 in overpaid pensions to my husband (needs to be repaid as they had made a mistake in 2007). It looked as though we might have to leave our beloved Southampton and head elsewhere.P1150981

Then, we realised that there were lots of cheap old boats, rotting in marinas along the Solent coastline. The Southampton Boat Show last year proved that people are after large new luxury yachts and the bottom has fallen out of the second-hand boat market. Marina fees are a hell of a lot cheaper than rent. We could live on a boat and even go on holiday by taking our ‘home’ with us.

Make yourselves at home
Make yourselves at home

So that optimistic thought is now our aim. We are dejunking, giving away or selling all our accumulated belongings (proving slow) and going to live on a boat!

We will be very busy for a while – my husband will be 80 years of age this year and we are both slower than we used to be, so please excuse me if I don’t read and comment on as many of my regular bloggers’ posts, as I normally do for a few months. I will let every one how I get on and keep up some photo challenges. I will be back

Sol

Colour Your World: Red

Today’s colour challenge: RED

The Calshot Spit at Southampton Docks © 2015 Southampton Old Lady

… in response to the Colour Your World Photo Challenge whereby there is a different Crayola crayon colour prompt for each day. To see more or take part yourself visit: http://jennifernicholewells.com/2016/03/24/color-your-world-red/
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