Cannibals at Sea & the Real Richard Parker


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…

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.

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.

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.

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)

Titanic Southampton Remembers

Things are busier than ever with our attempt to move and live on a boat at the moment. I haven’t time to devote to well-researched thought-out posts. Instead I have found a lot of what I want to write about already out there.

Four years ago Southampton had a big commemoration – 100 years since the sinking of The Titanic.

Why is it so important to us? Well, out of over 900 crew members 750 were from Southampton. Unless you were in charge of a lifeboat – most of them drowned.

Repercussions of that event over a Century ago are still felt in Southampton today.

If you are interested here is a BBC Documentary presented by Bernard Hill, the British actor who played Captain Smith in the Cameron film. It’s about 25 minutes long, so unless you are interested in Southampton or The Titanic, you are forgiven if you don’t click:

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!


There is a plaque on a large anchor outside a derelict church in Southampton’s High Street (QE2 Mile) which reads: The Church of Holyrood erected on this site in 1320 was damaged by enemy action on 30 Nov 1940. Known for centuries as the church of the sailors, the ruins have been preserved by the people of Southampton as a memorial and garden of rest, dedicated to those who served in the Merchant Navy and lost their lives at sea.

There are many memorials in this peaceful place to those lost at sea. From mediaeval captains that went down with their ship to those bombed while bringing supplies during WWII.

There is a special corner dedicated to the crew who drowned when the Titanic sank. Of her 1,517 victims, Southampton was home to 538 of the 685 crew members who died on this White Star liner’s fateful crossing to New York on the 15th of April 1912. It was like our 9/11 – our city lost a generation.

gospel choir singing in the Merchant Seamen's Memorial (this was once Holy Rood Church) during Music in the City festival, Southampton. © Southampton Old Lady
Gospel choir singing in the Merchant Seamen’s Memorial (this was once Holyrood Church) during Music in the City festival, Southampton. © Southampton Old Lady
Holyrood bells, Southampton. © Southampton Old Lady
Holyrood bells, Southampton. © Southampton Old Lady

I have been meaning to write about the Holyrood neighbourhood of Southampton for some time.  In the 1960s a new area of council flats were developed on that which was raized to the ground by the Blitz. In the last decade Southampton council has employed mural artists and sculptors to reveal the history of the area. However, Marie Keats, another Southampton blogger I follow, has been able to do this so much better than I on her ‘I Walk Alone” wordpress site – so if you are interested in her lovely mural walk around the area please do visit her blog:

The Woolston Ferry

The Floating Bridge by L.S Lowry. On loan by Carol Ann Lowry to Southampton Art Gallery
The Floating Bridge by L.S Lowry. On loan by Carol Ann Lowry to Southampton Art Gallery
The Woolston Ferry is now a restaurant at Eelphant Wharf, Burseldon, Southampton
The Woolston Ferry is now a restaurant at Elephant Wharf, Burseldon, Southampton

The main link is a reblog from The Reclining Gentleman – a fellow Sotonian that I follow. This song has filled me with so much melancholy.  I just loved the Woolston Ferry (Southampton’s Floating Bridge) and it made a wonderful free day out for me as a child.  The video (if you click on the original blog) show clips at Southampton Art Gallery with paintings of the ferry at by L.S Lowry, who was in love with a Southampton girl at the time. Sadly she married someone else, then so did he. But both couples remained good friends during their lifetimes though. The Woolston Ferry song is by Gutter Percha & The Balladeeros from Southampton. The Ferry itself has made a comeback since this song. It is now a summer restaurant further along the River Itchen at Elephant Wharf, Bursledon, for anyone interested.

The Reclining Gentleman

This tune will mean nothing to 99.99% of readers, but i don’t care. I love it. The tune and the ferry are part of my heritage.

You can see my flat in the map near the beginning. In fact i have never lived outside the area of that map since i came home from Southampton General Hospital at age 2 days. You can also see St Mary’s Stadium where Southampton FC play. Every few years the fans try to get the chorus of this song to become our anthem and sing it at games, but sadly it has never properly caught on. I love singing it in away pubs though and seeing the confused looks of the home fans.

You can keep your Ferry Cross the Mersey, your Skye Boat Song, and anything Bryan Ferry has ever recorded. This song, its ferry, its heart and its history are about the…

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CCTV & Phoenician Eye

Weekly photo challenge: eye-spy

2 for 1:


Firstly: A winking ‘Smiley’ sign to let people know that they are being watched by close circuit television, and not to get up to mischief on Bognor Regis beach in England, UK

Phoenician eye

Secondly: A large sailing dinghy in Southampton, England. Still popular, especially in Europe, a Phoenician Eye on each side of the bow of a boat is believed to ensure safe guidance through the seas. The Phoenicians were the first that we know of to use eye symbols in this way. It was later adapted by the Egyptians who named it the Eye of Horus.

If you would like to take part the link is here: <a href=””>Eye Spy</a>



Good Morrow Old Pompey! 

How the Dickens thee be?

Southampton stops by this fine Summer’s day.

After cash-jab and face-lift, looks young and healthy

I calls on thee ‘Neighbour’,

but ‘Scummer!’ ye names me 

Thee Royal Navy and I Merchant Sea

Yet ye stole my ferry passengers

And should-be-mine bananas fatten your docks

I sings out: “Daylight Come and I Want go home”.

“What Shall We do with a Drunken Sailor?” is your repost


Come jolly Jack Tar

slap my back if I slaps thine

Chants we more o’them shanties

and buy me a bevvy

at Spice Island Tavern

we’ll sup to “fair ladies”

my Queens and Princesses

your grand Ark Royals

and here’s to Lord Admiral Nelson

and his flagged Victory.

Your rum and brandy, my wine and beer

We feast on mackerel – all sprightly silver,

 like 30 pieces, or was that of eight?

Lament our great losses:

My tragic Titanic

Your dear Mary Rose. 

Evoke Dunkirk spirit –

How we did save them

by the thousand

How we did fight them

shoulder to shoulder

against the French, and on D-Day, the Blitz …


Let’s parade to bagpipes along your old battlements

Lungs refresh’d

with Southsea salt-air,

We skiff English pebbles

aim for Spitbank

and against that greasy-grey grave of great sea.


Thee, and thy gulls, have welcomed me 

And now I must bid fare-thee-well and Adieu..

Let’s stay always Mateys

And repay my Southampton a visit

real soon.


Note: I wrote this after visiting friends in Portsmouth, about half an hour’s ride away. Historically Southampton and Portsmouth have always been rival ports. It is only heard in football match chants nowadays. But the two cities have always pulled together hard against common enemies.

Homeless and Hopeless in Southampton

Anyone who comes to visit any country in Europe must notice at first hand the increase in the number of its own citizens sleeping rough on the streets. Depression like this – we haven’t seen since the 1930s. Let me tell you about my City…

Homeless teenager feeling very depressed and trying to keep warm
Homeless teenager feeling very depressed and trying to keep warm in Southampton’s town centre

When I was a child, the only homeless people one would see on the streets in my town were alcoholics. These were normally Merchant Seamen, who had spent their whole 6-months pay on booze and women in one go. Every December 25th, my father, usually a bit of Scrooge all year, would invite someone off the streets in to join us for Christmas Dinner. My brother and I would be quite put out about this and thought it diverted attention away from us. Not least of all because the invited guest would hit the free booze as soon as possible. They would swear and tell tales of sexual exploits that were not suitable for children’s ears. My mother would hide herself away in the kitchen – we kids would hide under the table. Once there was a Canadian novelist, who made money from selling his books all about the sea. He told some very interesting stories – but he still drank heavily.

Homeless couple who met on the streets. He is Eastern European, He lost his 0-hours contract job after an accident and was unaware of  sickness pay. She used to have an antiques business which failed.
Homeless couple who met on the streets. He is Eastern European, He lost his 0-hours contract job after an accident and was unaware of sickness pay. She had an antiques business which failed.
This couple live permanently here and have  made a tent-like structure to gain shelter and some privacy
This couple live permanently here and have made a tent-like structure to gain shelter and some privacy
This ex-serviceman is honoured with medals. He suffers  from Post Traumatic Distress Disorder since he came back from Afghanistan. His family were evicted for non-payment of rent after benefits were stopped after a discrepancy. His two children are staying with friends and he is hoping to raise enough money today so that he can spend an evening in a hostel so that he and his wife can be together.
This ex-serviceman claims he is honoured with medals. He suffers from Post Traumatic Distress Disorder since he came back from Afghanistan. His family were evicted for non-payment of rent after benefits were stopped after a discrepancy. His two children are staying with friends and he is hoping to raise enough money today so that he can spend an evening in a hostel so that he and his wife can be together.
These two women were both evicted onto the streets from a block of flats in Portsmouth. Everyone in the block who owed rent were evicted, some have come to Southampton to try and find work.
These two women were both evicted onto the streets from a block of flats in Portsmouth. Everyone in the block who owed rent were evicted, some have come to Southampton to try and find work.

Today however, many of the homeless are just normal people, who have hit bad times. Many cannot afford to drink or smoke. I have talked to a variety of homeless people in and around Southampton. I do not offer any analysis, but here is my general observations: The youngest I spoke to was 14 years-of-age, the oldest was 82. Other vulnerable people included those with mental illnesses. I have met five couples and two families. Most are single. All of them were white. About half were British (from every country except for Wales) and the other half were from a variety of Eastern European countries. About one-quarter were ex-servicemen. Two years ago, I noticed many with dogs, now however, I notice very few with dogs.

P1130006Before I go out, I try to make up bags of sandwiches using up any leftover ingredients that we would not get through ourselves. I include fruit and unwanted chocolates. If they are sleeping in nearby streets to where I live – I take cups of tea, coffee, soup or hot-chocolate. I have also recently discovered an organisation called Curb that re-distributes food waste via pop-up shops and cafes.

My own husband has debts to pay to the Department of Work and Pensions. Last Christmas he was informed that his Pension had been over-payed for the last eight years and sent a bill for £12,000 !  We are paying this back in instalments somehow. This Government is clawing back as much money as possible from the “welfare” budget (we had no idea that pension was welfare).

A New Help The Homeless in Southampton Crowdfunder:
A New Help The Homeless in Southampton Crowdfunder:

We are certainly not alone, we were told that thousands were in the same situation.  The “trickle down theory’ is obviously not working here. When billionaires walk past the homeless to buy a new yacht at the marina, it is obvious to me that the rich are getting rich and the poor are getting poorer. It doesn’t seem too long ago that we thought of ourselves as comfortably off.

However, I am truly thankful that I am alive, with a roof over my head, I am not at war, I eat well and have a wonderful happy family.

So though I cannot hand out money, left-overs cost me next-to-nothing – and after all – “There but for the Grace of God go I”.

homeless man with his dogs in Salisbury
Homeless man with his dogs in Salisbury

So how is it where you are?

Reunion 2015

Sue Man and George David hand out samosas.
Sue Man (organiser) and George David (Ebony Rocker) hand out samosas.
Some of the young ones who I did not know but now do.
Some of the young ones who I did not know but now do.

I went to my school’s reunion. It was open to any pupil or teacher from any year and held at the Juniper Berry, an historical pub in the centre of Southampton.  The Deanery School was the first multi-culltural school in the South outside London.  There are no Sotonians that I know living in my neighbourhood. In fact, I rarely hear people even speak in English during the long summers until some 42,000 students arrive for their autumn term.  So it was wonderful to meet up with so many diverse races of people not only speaking my language but with Southampton accents and local slang. Ages ranged from 40 to 80 years of age. We conversed all evening about our school traditions what people are doing now and those that have passed away.


Jenny and Mr Muggridge (Technical Drawing & Careers)
Jenny and Mr Muggridge (Technical Drawing & Careers)

Whole families came to the reunion. Each had attend the school throughout their generation. Because it was small and because we all joined in out-of-school activities we were familiar with each other. Many married their childhood sweet-hearts.

The Deanery concentrated on the Individual, it honed in on our abilities and seemed to bring out the best of each one us, regardless of intelligence or ability to pass exams. The invisible curriculum was just as important to us as the main one. Many ex-pupils run their own businesses or work for companies that take them all over the world, particularly at sea – with so many stories from other countries it must have given us an appetite to travel.


Anne McCarthy MBE (a French teacher) and Jon
Anne McCarthy MBE (a French teacher) and Jon
Lady Sovereign & Jim Bull
Lady Sovereign & Jim Bull
Cleo and Robbie
Cleo and Robbie


The Deanery School, 1930 -1989

Continue below for the history of the rise and fall of The Deanery School….

The Deanery was a mixed-sex secondary school for the central community; ages 11-16 taught over 5 years. Pupils could leave school at the age of 15 when I attended, but changed to the age of 16 with an option of going on to a Further Education College until the age of 18.

It was the first multi-cultural school in the South outside of London. Southampton, being a port city, has always had variety of diverse communities, all of which are valued and respected, as I have explained in previous posts.

When I attended, white English people were in a minority at the school. In my year, there were a great many Hindus  Muslims, some Buddhists and a few Jewish, although the majority were Christian. The biggest cultural group of people were first to third generation Indian, not only from India but from what is now Pakistan, and other parts of Asia including places like Fiji and from Africa (North and South). In my year we also had first to third generations of Polish, Spanish, Italian, Irish, Chinese (from Vietnam and Hong Kong), West Indies: Jamaica, Barbados (white and black), Virgin Islands, Dutch, Cypriots (Turkish and Greek), Hungarians and Maltese. Nearly all could speak English before they started at the school.

Multi-cultural schools are quite normal in cities now, throughout Europe. But at that time they were rare and my school was a great fascination for others, especially for the media, politicians, sociologists and those with ‘melting pot’ theories. We filled out endless surveys and felt as though we were being watched. We had a strict school uniform that included options for turbans and loose leggings (to wear underneath a skirt). There were no hats or other items that covered the head or face as these were rarely seen in the community then and certainly not on children. In the Summer boys could wear shorts (but none did; they weren’t cool) and girls could wear any attire so long as it was red and white and modest.

As the number of educational subject increased, The Deanery expanded to many other sites spread out over central Southampton. The main site was Marsh Lane, next to St Mary’s Church, and was originally built to educate children from the workhouse. It is now a block of flats. As the community grew, the school expanded to the other half of the building that housed Southampton College of Art until 1970 when the art department moved to a new building in East Park (now part of Solent University). The school also took over The Central Boys School building in Argyle Road, Nicholstown, mainly for teaching the 4th and 5th years. Nissan huts were added to the playgrounds. I lived nearer to this site (which is now a Hindu temple). It had a separate dinner hall about a 10 minute walk away in Covelly Road, where, unlike the food at Marsh Lane, lunch time meals were cooked on the premises. Due to the many different religious beliefs regarding meat, there was a lovely choice on the menu. That was rare in England in my day. The meals were some of the best I had ever tried. In the evenings this hall operated as The Boys Club. Opened by famous crooner Frankie Vaughn, who had been an Italian immigrant. He supported boys clubs, which opened up all over England and Wales, to keep boys off the streets and away from gangs.

Another site was Latimer Street off Oxford Street (Now trendy apartments and restaurants). This is where all the domestic science and needlework took place. In my day this was only for girls, while boys did wood and metal work. Many subjects were segregated until the late 1970s. I had my first and only ever fight in the corridor here. My head was thrown against a row of coat pegs by the school bully. It was generally a peaceful school, so this caused an outrage. There was blood everywhere, I’ll never forget it.

There was also Site 4, which was an inner-city farm. Though I never went there and Cross House Hard where I learned not only sailing skills, but how to repair boats and sails.The school  had its own launch on the river. We also used the Council swimming pool (now the Grand Harbour Hotel) at the Town Quay, the sports centre north of the town, the cricket pitches in Hoglands Park and The Common for all sorts of sports activities.

It was normal to walk through the city for 2-3 miles between lessons. As traffic increased it became more dangerous. Later the school could not match the range of subjects that the new comprehensive schools could. The Deanery School was forced to close in 1989.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Creepy

Page ascending staircase © Southampton Old Lady
Guard Ascending Staircase                                                       © Southampton Old Lady

The WordPress Photo Challenge for this week is  – Creepy

I realised that I had far too many creepy photos to choose from: haunted, half-timbered English pubs – shocking Spanish-museum artefacts – abandoned Ministry of Defence buildings – rotting submarines…  In the end I went for the one I like, taken inside Portsmouth’s Square Tower.

This Medieval building, which is part of the fortification of Old Portsmouth, England, has had a varied, bloody history. It was reinforced during the reign of Henry VII as part of this Naval Port’s expansion.

I acted the part as Lady of the Manor at a Medieval banquet here. Saxons at a long table one side, Normans on another. I snapped this picture of one of the guards ascending the staircase to the fort’s roof.