In 1884 the ship Mignonette was fitted out in Southampton for a journey to Australia. There were 4 crew members including 17 year old orphan Richard Parker from Peartree.
On July 4th the Mignonette was hit by a terrible storm south east of Trinidad. The four crew members took to a lifeboat with only two tins of turnips for supplies. After 16 days the Captain, suggested drawing lots to see who would be sacrificed. After 19 days Dudley killed Parker with a pen knife. The corpse kept the others in food for the next five days until they were picked up by a German ship the Montezuma and taken to Falmouth. Dudley and one other crew member were tried and sentenced to death for the murder of Parker. This was later commuted to just six months in jail.
A memorial stone to Parker is on his mother’s grave at Jesus Chapel, Peartree Green in the Woolston area of Southampton. It is believed to be the last recorded episode of cannibalism on the high seas.
Dudley had taken a book by Edgar Allen Poe with him. It tells of a shipwreck where the survivors kill another to survive – called Richard Parker.
The book and film ‘The Life of Pi’ uses the name Richard Parker for the Bengal tiger in the boat.
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