The Gale at the Nore. Richard Parker. Part 2.

Personnel is policy. This is just as true in mutiny as it is in business and government. Where the Spithead Mutiny was led by experienced and accomplished seamen, the mutiny at The Nore was led by an embittered quota man: Richard Parker.

Parker is a character swathed in legend. What we know for a fact is that he was baptized at St. Mary Major, Exeter, on April 24, 1767, and his father was a prosperous baker in Exeter.

The Dictionary of National Biography states:

He entered the navy as a midshipman in a frigate cruising in the Soundings, and is stated to have been acting-lieutenant at the close of the American war. He is also said to have returned home with a considerable share of prize-money, which he spent riotously to have conceived himself ill treated by his captain, and to have sent him a challenge, which the captain promised to answer with his cane.

Wikipedia has an unsourced account which claims:

From 1782 until 1793 he served on various ships of the Royal Navy mainly in the Mediterranean and India service, achieving the rank of masters mate and a probationary period as lieutenant. However on the ship Assurance he was goaded into an act of mild insubordination by an established lieutenant who informed on him resulting in his being court-martialled in December 1793. As a result he was disrated and eventually discharged from the Navy in November 1794.

Mainwaring, in The Floating Republic, states that he insisted on going to sea at a fairly young age and did well at the calling.

Then illness had struck across his plans, and perhaps a neurotic temperament He had transferred from the Royal Navy to the merchant service, gone to Africa, to India, where he engaged in trade; returned; married, and then, as thought he sea must have him, had re-entered the Royal Navy once more as a midshipman. Unluckily, in 1793, he had been goaded into a very trifling act of insubordination by a superior officer, and , though God knows the provocation had been bitter enough, his reaction of the mildest, he had been court martialled and disrated. Even so he might have done tolerably well, for he was applied for by the campaign of another ship, who saw in him a likely petty officer; but illness had once more interfered with his hopeful views, and he had finally been discharged on the ground that he was incurably rheumatic, though there is suggestion that the trouble was mental.

The story has arisen that the captain in the Dictionary of National Biography version was none other than Edward Riou, who was a member of the Parker’s court martial panel. This is almost certainly untrue as Riou was in the West Indies when Parker was disrated and Parker’s name does not appear in the muster roll of Riou’s ships at the time.
Some sources claim that while he was in the merchant service that he’d incited a mutiny because of bad food and that he’d been accused of drunkenness. These may or may not be true.
He moved to Edinburgh after leaving the navy but was unsuccessful in his attempts in civilian life eventually landing in debtor’s prison. After two week in prison he accepted the bounty of £30 to enlist in the navy.

Parker obviously wasn’t happy with going back to sea and attempted suicide on his way to Sheerness from Edinburgh. Like much else he’d recently attempted, this didn’t work out well either and on March 31, 1797, Parker boarded HMS Sandwich as a supernumerary able seaman. His education, bearing, and experience quickly set him apart from the others aboard Sandwich and when the mutiny was organized Parker was not only chosen a delegate but make president of the delegation.

Visit all our posts on the Spithead Mutiny and the mutiny at The Nore.

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3 Comments

Filed under Mutiny, Naval Life

3 responses to “The Gale at the Nore. Richard Parker. Part 2.

  1. Jim

    A sad note on page 83, vol. 2 The Naval Chronicle announces the death, at Exeter, of Richard Parker’s father “of a broken heart”.

    • billcrews

      Parker is a tragic figure. Unlike Valentine Joyce and his compatriots who actually controlled the action at Spithead, Parker was riding the tiger. He was never really in control of at The Nore and provided the British press with a convenient whipping boy.

  2. Pingback: The Gale at The Nore. Part 3. Quiescence. « Age Of Sail

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