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Born in 1767 in Little Stile between South Street and Cathedral Yard, Parker did not take over his fathers' bakery business, but instead, went to sea. He entered the Royal Navy and served in several ships before leaving for the merchant marine before returning to the Royal Navy. He married, left the navy through illness and fell into debt.
It was then that he rejoined the Navy to gain the £20 bounty as a common seaman. In 1797 he joined HMS Sandwich. The ship had a crew of 1,100 who endured intolerable conditions on an elderly, decaying 'man o' war'. There was a mutiny running through the Navy at that time due to appalling conditions, and on May 12th, the crew of the Sandwich joined in.
Parker was not a ring leader, but by virtue of his previous rank and experience was voted by the men as Chairman of the Committee, to represent their views. The mutiny in other naval ports fizzled out with some concessions, but the ships of Sheerness including HMS Sandwich held out for better conditions. Chaos reigned, with the Sheerness fleet imposing a blockade of the Thames, then HMS Repulse attempted to leave the blockade. The men were arguing amongst themselves and Parker was having difficulties keeping order. On June 11th, 1797, a bounty of £600 was put on Parkers head.
On June 14th he gave himself up and was escorted ashore. The mutiny collapsed at this point, with some men escaping to the continent. Parker was tried on HMS Neptune, charged with Acts of Mutiny, Disobedience of Orders and Contempt of Officer's Authority. Parker represented himself and managed to obtain some beneficial admissions from officers and captains. Despite his best efforts, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. On the morning of his execution he drank a glass of white wine and was then led to the yard arm. The noose was placed around his neck and after a minute to collect his thoughts, Parker jumped to his death. His body swung there for two hours as a warning to other seaman. Richard Parker was buried in Whitechapel.
Parker paid with his life, trying to improve the conditions and pay of the common seaman.
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