Cannibals at Sea & the Real Richard Parker

the-life-of-pi-movie

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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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

floating bridges southampton

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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

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:

http://wp.me/p6jveM-zH

6 Word Story Challenge: Supernatural

 

Vienna tomb 2016 © Southampton Old Lady
Vienna tomb 2016 © Southampton Old Lady m

 

 

Guided in darkness through devil’s fen

To take part or see others who have taken part in this week’s 6 word story challenge visit: https://nicolaauckland.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/sometimes-stellar-storyteller-six-word-story-challenge-22/

Valentine’s Day

This is a dedication to all those who grieve over loved ones on the 14th of February.

I am fortunate that the love-of-my-life and I will be together to celebrate this day which will hopefully be a happy occasion, but I am so aware of those who find it difficult to cope on St Valentine’s Day. You might be widowed, have a a family member snatched away by Cancer or grieving for someone who is still alive but gone from you. My heart goes out to the parents of those massacred by bullets that commemorate this day.  Whatever your grief this is for you…

YouTube link to David Bowie singing Valentine’s Day: https://youtu.be/S4R8HTIgHUU

Holyrood

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: http://www.iwalkalone.co.uk/?p=22590

CCTV & Phoenician Eye

Weekly photo challenge: eye-spy

2 for 1:

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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=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/eye-spy/”>Eye Spy</a>

Death on the Line (Ghosts in Southampton)

Eric Jones-Evans was a medical practitioner and actor. He maintained a medical practice in Fawley, near Southampton, and closed his surgery on matinee days to perform at the Grand Theatre in Southampton. In 1928 he formed his own company and both wrote and appeared in a number of his own melodramas, chiefly adapted from the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot.

A performance of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act

Among the papers of Dr Eric Jones-Evans is a typescript of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act. Based on Dickens’ short story The Signal Man, the play is set in a signal-box in a deep cutting near a tunnel entrance on a lonely stretch of the railway line. The author describes it as a play of “atmosphere and tension”, with the wailing of the wind in the telegraph wires introduced judicially to provide an eerie background to the narrative. It tells the story of a railway signalman who is haunted by a recurring apparition, with each appearance of the spectre preceding a tragic event on the railway. The first is followed by a terrible collision between two trains in the tunnel (likely based on the Clayton Tunnel crash of 1861) and the second by the mysterious death of a young woman on a passing train. The third and final warning of “death on the line” causes the signalman to rush onto the track in an attempt to stop an oncoming train where he is struck and killed. As the driver and other characters stand over his body a telegram is received warning of fallen rocks on the line up ahead. The play ends as they ponder how he could have known and how many lives might have been lost if not for his intervention.

Death on the line was reblogged from the University of Southampton Special Posts “Ghosts in the archive” https://wordpress.com/read/post/id/62458727/1629 (for the play typescript itself: MS 91)

The Grand Theatre in West Marlands Southampton, Opposite the Civic Centre before WW2 Blitz
The Grand Theatre in West Marlands Southampton, Opposite the Civic Centre before WW2 Blitz
Today stands a new row of shops after Grand Theatre was flattened by bombs.
Today in its place stands a new row of shops opposite Marlands Poundworld.
Train line at Six Dials, Northam, during Southampton Blitz
Train line at Six Dials, Northam, during Southampton Blitz

 

 

 

 

 

For more about  Southampton Blitz see my search engine or  go to the website below:

https://southamptonoldlady.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/southampton-blitz/

 

Amazing People 4: The Weed Fighter

Edwina clearing weeds away from grave stones at Southampton Old Cemetery on the Common.
Edwina clearing weeds away from grave stones at Southampton Old Cemetery on the Common

Edwina lives in a small flat not far from The Old Cemetery on Southampton Common. She loves gardening but has no garden of her own. Every week she comes here with her gardening gloves and secateurs to spend the day clearing weeds away from these ancient grave stones. The Cemetery is over-run with weeds, the worst of which to tackle is ivy. Edwina does not belong to the official team of “Friends” (www.fosoc.org), who tidy up the paths etc. nor organisations that clear up the stones of Titanic victims and the famous. She clears up the lost ones that she thinks would benefit from her help. She gets neither pay nor thanks from anyone as no-one even knows she does this task.  So on this ‘Day of the Dead’, I would like to say thank you Edwina – you are amazing!

Snap as Seen 1: Boat with Discarded Alien

Boat with Discarded Alien, from Discarded Objects series © Southampton Old Lady
Boat with Discarded Alien, from Snap As Seen series
© Southampton Old Lady