Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parker, Richard (1767?-1797)
PARKER, RICHARD (1767?–1797), mutineer, baptised in the church of St. Mary Major, Exeter, 24 April 1767, was son of Richard Parker, baker and corn factor in the parish of St. Mary Major, Exeter, who had married Sarah, a lady of good family. 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 illtreated by his captain, and to have sent him a challenge, which the captain promised to answer with his cane. A more prosaic account says that the ship was the Bulldog sloop, in the West Indies, and the captain was Edward Riou [q. v.] But in 1794, when the Bulldog was in the West Indies, her captain's name was Brown. Riou was in the West Indies at the time in command of the Rose; but Bulldog and Rose alike were ignorant of the name of Parker. It is impossible to say whether there is any more truth in the complementary stories that he was chief mate in a merchant ship of Topsham, trading to Genoa and Leghorn, on board which he incited the men to mutiny on account of the badness of the provisions; and that he was mate of the Lascelles, East Indiaman, where he got into trouble for excessive drinking.
About 1791 he married Anne MacHardy (of a Scottish family), who lived at Exeter, and leaving the navy went to Scotland. He is said to have been employed at one time in making golf balls for players on Bruntisfield Links. While imprisoned for debt, apparently at Edinburgh, he in 1797 accepted the bounty of 30l. as a volunteer for the navy and was drafted to a tender off Leith. He was sent up to the Nore as what was then called a quota man. He was put on board the Sandwich, the flagship at the Nore, as a supernumerary ‘able seaman,’ on 31 March 1797. On 10 May, when the mutinous spirit first declared itself, Parker's officer-like bearing was recognised by the men; a committee of delegates was chosen, and Parker was the president. On 23 May the flag of Vice-admiral Buckner was struck, and a red flag hoisted at the fore on board the Sandwich and all the mutinous ships. The committee of delegates sat almost continuously in the admiral's cabin on board the Sandwich. The table was covered with a union-jack, and on it stood a can of beer. The mutineers paraded Sheerness with red flags, took ships out of the harbour, sent boats up the river to win over the crews of vessels lying in Long Reach, blockaded the mouth of the Thames, the military not being allowed to fire on them for fear of bloody reprisals on the naval officers in the mutineers' power.
On 29 May three of the lords of the admiralty went to Sheerness and had a conference with the delegates, who, conceiving that they were masters of the situation, and that the government was on the point of yielding to all their demands, behaved with extreme insolence. Consequently the lords returned to town, assuring them that no further concessions would be made. All reasonable concessions had been already granted on account of the mutiny at Spithead, for which there had been too good cause. For the mutiny at the Nore there was no reason, except the falsehood and deceit of the leaders; but by what motives these were actuated has never been known. Possibly they had been won over by Irish or French intrigues; but an unusually small proportion of the ringleaders had Irish names. It was believed by many of the senior officers of the fleet that the mutiny was a political job, got up by the opposition to convince the nation of the impossibility of continuing the war. It was positively affirmed that influential members of the opposition were seen prowling about Sheerness, and it was certain that the delegates, but more especially Parker, who had just escaped from a debtor's prison, were amply supplied with funds (Cunningham).
Meantime the terror in London was extreme. The number and value of the merchant ships stopped at the Nore were very great, and the three per cents went down to forty-seven and a half. The rebel fleet numbered thirteen sail of the line, besides frigates, sloops, and gunboats. The first blow to the mutiny was the desertion of the frigate Clyde, by the influence of her captain, Charles Cunningham [q. v.], followed shortly after by the San Fiorenzo and Serapis. The mutineers began to doubt, but Parker and his principal officers stood firm, and proposed to take the fleet to sea and deliver it to the enemy, or sell the ships for what they could get. On 9 June Parker made the signal to prepare for sailing; all the ships answered, but none obeyed. On the 10th the first lieutenant of the Leopard, with the officers and a few faithful seamen, cowed the mutineers, cut the cables, and took the ship out of the fleet. On the 13th the red flag on board the Sandwich was hauled down, the ship was surrendered, and Parker was put in irons. The next day the ship was taken into harbour, and Parker, with about thirty of the most active of the mutineers, sent on shore and confined in the gaol. On the 23rd Parker was tried by court-martial, and after a trial extending over four days was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was carried out on board the Sandwich on 30 June. The body was buried in the naval burial-ground at Sheerness, but his wife had it secretly removed and brought to London, intending, she said, to take it either to Exeter or to Scotland. After an attempt to bury the remains in Aldgate churchyard was frustrated by the mob, they were put into the vault of Whitechapel church. Parker left one child. Another had died just before he left Leith. He is described by Captain Brenton, who appears to have been present at the trial, and to have seen him afterwards, as ‘thirty years of age, of a robust make, dark complexion, black eyes, about five feet eight inches high, and might have been considered a very good-looking person.’ A cast of his face taken after death, the property of Mr. C. D. Sherburn, was lent to the Naval Exhibition of 1891. A portrait by Drummond was in 1861 in the possession of Mr. J. B. Dalrymple.[Cunningham's Narrative of Occurrences that took place during the Mutiny at the Nore in the months of May and June 1797; Pay-book of the Sandwich; Minutes of Courts-Martial, vols. lxxviii. and lxxix., in the Public Record Office; An Impartial and Authentic Account of the Life of Richard Parker … by a Schoolfellow and an intimate Acquaintance, London, 1797; Trial, Life, and Anecdotes, Manchester, 1797; Brenton's Naval Hist. of Great Britain, i. 427–56.]