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The custom of the sea -Richard Parker and a horrid story of cannibalism!


Richard Parker.jpg

In the church yard of Jesus Chapel, a tombstone tells of a tragedy which happened in 1884, when three men and a cabin boy called Richard Parker were taking the yacht "Mignonette" to a new owner in Australia. The yacht foundered in mountainous seas in the South Atlantic, and they took to a dinghy.

The cabin boy, who had been told to bring food and water, threw the water keg overboard, thinking it would float and be retrieved, but it sank like a stone. The two tins he brought contained turnips, not meat.


After 16 days adrift in the open boat, while crazed with hunger and thirst, two of the men decided to save their own lives by killing and cannibalising the 17 year old cabin boy, who was already near death from the effects of drinking sea water. This they did. On the 19th day, they were picked up by a passing ship and brought back to England. They were tried and condemned to death for murder, but owing to the terrible suffering they had under gone, they were reprieved and given a short term of imprisonment. The tombstone telling the tragic story was placed on the grave of the boy's mother. 


Scenes from the tragedy of the Mignonette, the death of Richard Parker and the trial of Dudley (centre) and Stephens (left of centre) in Regina v. Dudley and Stephens (1884)

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