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The Spithead & Nore Mutiny

Discontent among sailors at the Nore, a Royal Navy anchorage in the Thames Estuary, overflowed in riotous mutiny in May 1797. Spithead sailors win better pay and a royal pardon but the Nore Mutiny, influenced by radical political ideas, is supressed and the leaders hanged.

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Spithead

The Spithead and Nore mutinies were two major mutinies by sailors of the Royal Navy in 1797. There was also discontent and minor incidents on ships in other locations in the same year. The mutinies were potentially dangerous for Britain, because at the time the country was at war with the Revolutionary government of France. There were also concerns among some members of the British ruling class that the mutinies might be the trigger to a wider uprising similar to the French Revolution.

The mutiny at Spithead (an anchorage near Portsmouth) lasted from 16 April to 15 May, 1797. Sailors on 16 ships in the Channel Fleet, commanded by Admiral Lord Bridport, protested at the living conditions aboard Royal Navy vessels and demanded a pay rise.

Seamen's pay rates had been established in 1658, and due to the stability of wages and prices, they had still been reasonably competitive as recently as the Seven Years' War, 40 years earlier; however, high inflation during the last decades of the 18th century severely eroded the real value of the pay. At the same time, the practice of coppering the bottoms of hulls, starting in 1761, meant that British warships no longer had to return to port frequently to have their hulls scraped, and the additional time at sea significantly altered the rhythm and difficulty of seamen's work. The Royal Navy had not yet made adjustments for any of these changes, and was slow to understand their effects on its crews. Finally, the new wartime quota system meant that there were a large number of landsmen from inshore, who did not mix well with the career seamen (volunteers or pressed men) and led to discontented ships' companies.

The mutineers were led by elected delegates and tried to negotiate with the Admiralty for two weeks, focusing their demands on better pay, the abolishment of the 14-ounce purser's pound (where the ship's purser was allowed to keep two ounces of every pound of meat as a perquisite), and the removal of a handful of unpopular officers — neither flogging nor impressment was mentioned in the mutineers demands. The mutineers maintained regular naval routine and discipline aboard their ships (mostly with their regular officers), allowed some ships to leave for convoy escort duty or patrols, and promised to suspend the mutiny and go to sea immediately if French ships were spotted heading for English shores.

Due to mistrust, especially over pardons for the mutineers, the negotiations broke down, and minor incidents broke out with several unpopular officers sent to shore and others treated with signs of deliberate disrespect. When the situation calmed, Admiral Lord Howe intervened to negotiate an agreement that saw a Royal pardon for all crews, reassignment of some of the unpopular officers, and a pay rise and abolishment of the purser's pound. Afterwards, the mutiny was to become nicknamed "breeze at Spithead".

The leader of the mutiny remained anonymous even after its resolution. Rumours during the time placed Valentine Joyce as the mastermind. Valentine Joyce was a quartermaster's mate aboard Lord Bridport's HMS Royal George (Roberts 2006).

 

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The Nore

Inspired by the example of their comrades at Spithead, the mutiny at the Nore (an anchorage in the Thames Estuary) began on 12 May when the crew of the Sandwich seized control of the ship. Several other ships in the same location followed this example, though others slipped away and continued to slip away during the mutiny, despite gunfire from the ships remaining (who attempted to use force to hold the mutiny together). The mutineers had been unable to organise easily due to the ships being scattered along the Nore (and not all part of a unified fleet, as at Spithead), but they quickly elected delegates for each ship.

Richard Parker, a former naval officer and French sympathizer, was elected "President of the Delegates of the Fleet". Demands were formulated and on 20 May, a list of 8 demands was presented to Admiral Buckner, which mainly involved pardons, increased pay and modification of the Articles of War, eventually expanding to a demand that the King dissolve Parliament, and make immediate peace with France. These demands infuriated the Admiralty, which offered nothing except a pardon (and the concessions already made at Spithead) in return for an immediate return to duty.

The mutineers expanded their initial grievances into the beginnings of a social revolution and blockaded London, preventing merchant vessels from entering the port, and the principals made plans to carry their ships to France, alienating the regular English sailors and losing more and more ships as the mutiny progressed. After the successful resolution of the Spithead mutiny, the government and the Admiralty were not minded to make further concessions, particularly as the key leaders of the Nore mutiny had overt political aims beyond pay and living conditions of the crews on board ship.

The mutineers were denied food, and when Parker hoisted the signal for the ships to sail to France, all of the remaining ships refused to follow — eventually, most other ships had slipped their anchors and deserted (some under fire from the mutineers), and the mutiny failed. Parker was quickly convicted of treason and piracy and hanged from the yardarm of HMS Sandwich, the vessel where the mutiny had started. In the reprisals which followed, a total of 29 leaders were hanged, others sentenced to be flogged, imprisoned or transported to Australia. The vast majority of the crews on the ships involved in the mutiny suffered no punishment at all.

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Richard Parker

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Richard Parker (1767-1797) was an English sailor executed for his role as President of the so-called “Floating Republic”, a huge naval mutiny in the Royal Navy which took place at Nore from 12 May until the 16 June 1797.

He was born on 16 April 1767 in Exeter, the son of a successful baker and was apprenticed as a navigator in 1779. 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. He returned to Exeter, reuniting with his wife Anne but fell into debt and was jailed in Edinburgh in early 1797. After three weeks in jail, he accepted a quota of £20 in return for reenlistment in the navy, his despair at the prospect such that he attempted suicide on the way to the embarkation point at Sheerness by flinging himself overboard.

Upon his arrival at the Nore, one of bases of the North Sea fleet, Parker was assigned to the ship Sandwich which was widely regarded as one of the worst in terms of its squalid and overcrowded conditions. It was on the Sandwich on 12 May that the Nore mutiny broke out which Parker played no role in organising but he was soon invited by the Delegates of the mutiny to join them and was even sooner appointed President of the Delegates due to his obvious intelligence, education and empathy with the suffering of the sailors.

His degree of control over the direction of the mutiny was limited and his role of President largely symbolic mainly involving processions of Delegates boats between the ships for communication and morale purposes. Despite the chaotic nature and his ill-defined powers, Parker did manage to exert control during the mutiny as on June 2nd when the sloop Hound arrived at the Nore and was boarded by a party of delegates. The crew and commander violently resisted the delegates but Parker’s arrival and display of authority quickly forced the Captain to submit and join the mutiny. During the mutineers blockade of the Thames only ships bearing a pass signed by Parker were to be allowed to pass without being stopped and searched.

On June 6th he organised a meeting of Delegates with Lord Northesk to whom he handed a petition and a form of ultimatum that their grievances be addressed within a period of 54 hours, after which he warned “such steps by the Fleet will be taken as will astonish their dear countrymen”. The increasing tension led to the desertion of the mutiny by several ships and even some of the radical delegates began to sense the end and fled abroad. The fear that the by now thoroughly demonised Parker would also escape led to a reward of £500 being posted for his arrest.

When the delegates deadline passed without reply, Parker ordered that the fleet sail for Texel on the morning of June 9th. However no ship moved when the signal to sail was given and the mutiny was effectively over. Parker was arrested on June 13th, brought to Sheerness under heavy guard, court-martialled and executed on board the Sandwich amid much ceremony on June 30th. His body was not publicly gibbetted after death, contrary to the wishes of King George III. Parker's wife Anne, who had worked tirelessly to prevent his execution, later managed to cut down and claim his body from the gallows.

About 30 others were also hanged but most of the mutineers were sent off to the prison colony in New South Wales.

 

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Eye Witness Acount

The following interesting account of the Mutiny at the Nore was written by an eye-witness of the events described, then a workman in the Sheerness Dockyard.

On the 12th May, 1797, I was on board the Sandwich when the mutiny broke out. I saw them point guns that were on the forecastle aft, towards the captain’s cabin, with intent to fire on the officers, in case they attempted to oppose them. The next thing they did was to reeve the yard ropes, with a view to hang any of the officers who might attempt to stay their career.

“First I should have told you how they treated their officers on board the Sandwich. When they had formed their committee, they went on to the quarter-deck, and told the captain that he might keep his cabin. They then called the first lieutenant and told him they wanted no more of his services there was a boat, or if he would step on the forecastle, there was a rope, whichever he pleased.

The ropes were reeved on the yards for the express purpose of hanging any of the officers who might attempt to oppose them, or any of the men who might revolt from their cause. They were all bound upon oath to be true one to the other. The next demand they made was for the keys of the magazine and spirit store-room. The same thing was done in every ship throughout the fleet.

On the 13th May all the delegates came on shore, with a large red flag flying. In that manner they paraded the Blue Houses and Garrison, with a band of music and their colours flying every day.

On the 14th May they went to the sick quarters to enquire how the sick were treated. (The sick quarters were in the buildings known as the “Old Swan,” which were pulled down before Albion Place was built .
“On the 14th the ships of the fleet then in port all began to turn their officers on shore.

About the 22nd, Admiral Buckner left shore to go to the Sandwich, all the delegates following him in boats to the number of twenty-three, to try and settle their grievances if possible, but did not succeed.

On the 28th, about two o’clock in the afternoon, orders were given for the guns round the battery to be shotted and furnaces got ready to heat red hot balls. The inhabitants were in great anxiety of mind.

On the 30th, about two o’clock in the morning, nine or ten guns from the battery were fired The distress and grief which fell upon the three or four thousand inhabitants it is beyond the reach of my pen to describe.
The 31st was a day ever to be remembered in Sheerness for the distress. Mothers were carrying their suckling children at their breasts, and the disconsolate husbands carrying their little property down to the Chatham boat.

From I believe, about the 30th, many of the mutineering ships slipped their cables and ran through the fleet receiving fire from what shall I call them- butchers, yes-not British seaman. and came into the harbour, every man in the ships turning in favour of the King.

June 6th.- we are and have been for some days as we may say in a state of siege.

June 9th.- The wind strong from the East. About two hours before high water the whole fleet their topsails loose, and some guns were fired, which caused us to be very much alarmed.

June 10th.- Things appeared much more favourable. That morning a great number of ships in the fleet did not hoist the red flag, but hoisted up the union jack instead.

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Sheerness Guardian June 12th 1869~Another Account

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The account has not only the merit of being genuine matter of fact narration, but it displays, in several passages, "touches of nature," which will enable the reader, seventy-two years after the event, to place himself, with a small exercise of imagination, in the position of the writer, when, from hour to hour, the dweller in Sheerness listened for the "alarm," and the common fear was that the mutineers would storm the fort and destroy the town.

What ever the real danger was, the fear of some "deeds of violence" towards the inhabitants was, at the time, evidently a very lively feeling of impending evil.

Another value this narrative has is the fact that the writer saw the events of the time from another point of view, from that occupied by Captain Cunningham, of whose full and precise history we completed the publication last week. Captain Cunningham appears to attribute the mutiny to over indulgence of the men, and ignores or undervalues the grievances which certainly did exist in the then treatment of the navy.

Mr. Bastard, without at all showing sympathy with the cause of the mutineers, by some of the facts he sets down, maybe considered to admit that the discontent of which Parker made capital was not an entirely unreasonable feeling. Bad as the course taken by the mutineers was, it was not an "effect" without "cause," and Captain Cunningham's suggested influence of "foreigners" and the "corresponding societies" were not the only causes.

The numerous reforms of the last seventy years, and the improved circumstances surrounding our "Hearts of Oak" of the present day, have happily made the state of navel affairs which obtained before the mutiny, "a matter of history," and nothing more.

May 12th, 1797.- Loving brother and sister, we are happy the hear of the welfare of yourselves and family, and I am to announce that these few lines leave us all in as good a state of health as possibly we could wish to be, considering the distress of mind we have laboured under from the 12th of May to the present time, June 14th, when things begin to wear a more favourable aspect.

Dear Brother, I cannot help hinting to you that the poorest person in the place could find asylum, but your sister and family. I may say with safety there were not twenty women left in the place. We had the good fortune to have a friend at Rochester, who sent for my wife and family, and all that she could pack up, that is all the linen and wearing apparel. She was gone eighteen days, and during the time of her being away we were much in doubt of their besieging the place.

I now proceed to give you a short sketch of the proceedings of the mutineers, as near the truth as I could possibly get at it, as for newspaper accounts you must not credit them.

On the 12th May, 1797, I was on board the Sandwich when the mutiny broke out. I saw them point guns that were on the forecastle aft, towards the captain's cabin, with intent to fire on the officers, in case they attempted to appose them. The next thing they did was to reeve the yard ropes, with a view to hang any of the officers who might attempt to stay their career.

In the evening they chose delegates, and formed a committee to investigate any business that the delegates proposed to them. However, whatever the delegates proposed the committee agreed to. A signal was then hoisted on board the Sandwhich, she being the Admirals ship, for the other delegates to come on board. Mr. Parker, who was chosen admiral, used to repeat whatever positions he had determined on, and these were generally agreed to without a dissentient voice.

"First I should have told you how they treated their officers on board the Sandwich. When they had formed their committee, they went on to the quarter-deck, and told the captain that he might keep his cabin. They then called the first lieutenant and told him they wanted no more of his services there was a boat, or if he would step on the forecastle, there was a rope, whichever he pleased.

Meaning to hang him, for as I before mentioned, the ropes were reeved on the yards for the express purpose of hanging any of the officers who might attempt to oppose them, or any of the men who might revolt from their cause. They were all bound upon oath to be true one to the other. The next demand they made was for the keys of the magazine and spirit store-room. The same thing was done in every ship throughout the fleet. The fleet at that time consisted of the following ships:-

On the 13th May all the delegates came on shore, with a large red flag flying. In that manner they paraded the Blue Houses and Garrison, with a band of music and their colours flying every day.

On the 14th May they went to the sick quarters to enquire how the sick were treated. (The sick quarters were in the buildings known as the "Old Swan," which were pulled down before Albion Place was built, part of the site of which was occupied by these buildings.)

Hearing some complaints from the sick they so hurt a Mr. Saffery, their doctor, by interrogating him, that he cut his throat. (The actual fact was, that Mr. Saffery was so alarmed by the threats of the mutineers, that he was thrown into a fever, during one of the paroxysms of which, not being watched, he committed suicide.)

On the same day (14th) the whole body of delegates went up to the harbour to inspect the Union, Spanker, and Grand hospital ships.

They much approved of the treatment on board the Union and Grand. Onboard the Spanker they did not approve of the treatment of the men, and thereupon ordered the steward and butcher of the ship to be severely ducked, from thence to be taken to the Sandwich and there to be flogged. The conduct of the butcher proved to be so bad that they nearly drowned him. The steward they had down and severely ducked him, and afterwards left him to the mercy of the ship's company.

"On the 14th the ships of the fleet then in port all began to turn their officers on shore, some more and some less of them, accordingly as they were liked or disliked by the ship's company.

The command of the ships then devolved on the delegates. They came on shore every day in a manner sufficiently threatening to try the stoutest hearts, armed as they all were with pistols and cutlasses.

About the 22nd, Admiral Buckner left shore to go to the Sandwich, all the delegates following him in boats to the number of twenty-three, to try and settle their grievances if possible, but did not succeed. On the 28th Lord Spencer (First Lord of the Admiralty), Lord Harden, and another lord came to Sheerness.

At eleven o'clock the next day they had a meeting with the delegates at the commissioner's House but they could settle nothing.

About this time there were two thousand soldiers in the Garrison under Sir Charles Grey. On the 28th, about two o'clock in the afternoon, orders were given for the guns round the battery to be shotted and furnaces got ready to heat red hot balls. The inhabitants were in great anxiety of mind.

On the 30th, about two o'clock in the morning, nine or ten guns from the battery were fired on the Nancy tender, going out to the fleet, as all communication from the shore to the fleet was stopped. The distress and grief which fell upon the three or four thousand inhabitants it is beyond the reach of my pen to describe.

The 31st was a day ever to be remembered in Sheerness for the distress. Mothers were carrying their suckling children at their breasts, and the disconsolate husbands carrying their little property down to the Chatham boat. The women and children were flying from their homes, and but few women and children were to be seen at Sheerness.

I believe, about the 30th, in the evening, the Clyde frigate slipped her cable and came into the harbour, every man in the ship turned in favour of the King.

Next day, on the 31st about half past twelve o'clock, the St.Fiorenzo slipped her cable, and ran through the fleet receiving fire from what shall I call them- butchers, yes-not British seaman. But I am afraid they mean to lose the name British seaman. I believe we now had three thousand soldiers in our little dockyard. Their quarters were our boat and mast houses, the sail loft, mould-loft, look-out house and seasoning shed, in short, anywhere in the yard where we could put fifty men.

June 2nd.- The Garrison and the shipping in the harbour kept a very strict look-out, and would suffer nothing to pass by the fort, not even a fishing boat.

June 5th.- Between eleven and twelve o'clock at night the Serapis store ship, and a transport, slipped their cables, ran through the fleet, and came into the

harbour. The drums beat to arms; what few women there were and the inhabitants were very much alarmed from the time of night. However, some hundreds of people gathered in the dockyard and on the battery, and gave three cheers as the slips past the fort, the crews answering them with loud cheers.

June 6th.- We are and have been for some days as we may say in a state of siege. On this day the delegates on board the Montegue ordered their midshipman to be severely ducked, then flogged and turned ashore. All their lieutenants they put on shore, and the doctor of the ship they tar and feathered., and then ordered him on shore.

June 7th.- The delegates of the Inflexible sent some of their lieutenants on shore; they flogged the sergeant of marines and another man; the sergeant's head was first shave, and then both were sent ashore.

June 8th.- About five o'clock in the afternoon the Leopard slipped her cables, and ran up the London river away from the fleet; they fired at her, but did no hurt. We are informed that the men onboard divided, and had a desperate engagement with one another, and that several were killed on both sides. At the same time the Repulse slipped her cable to run in, but a mile and a half from the fleet she got on shore, and lay there for upwards of an hour.

Several ships fired on her and she received, as was calculated two hundred shot, one of which cut off the second lieutenants leg.

It was miraculous that the ship was not destroyed, from the number of shot fired. This took place in the presence of some thousands of people, and had you been there you would have been troubled to get a place on the battery to get a site of the ship, although the batteries are so extensive.

About eleven o'clock the Ardent slipped her cable, when the Monmouth fired at her. The Ardent then ran up alongside the Monmouth, and poured a broadside at her, and then came into the harbour.

June 9th.- The wind strong from the East. About two hours before high water the whole fleet their topsails loose, and some guns were fired, which caused us to be very much alarmed. The drums beat to arms and both soldiers and sailors were at their quarters all in readiness for action.

June 10th.- Things appeared much more favourable. A great number of merchantmen got under weigh; it was supposed there were about one hundred and fifty sail that had been stopped by the fleet. That morning a great number of ships in the fleet did not hoist the red flag, but hoisted up the union jack instead.

June 11th.- nothing particular occurred, but the delegates and their president ordered a brig-cutter to be ready to take them onboard, that they might go round the fleet, as the sea often ran so high they could not go in an open boat. This scheme introduced a feeling of jelousy among the men on board the fleet, from their suspicion that the president and delegates meant to take the brig and make their escape to France, and from that day their influence began to decay rapidly. The brig mounted eighteen nine pounders.

Richard Parker hung on His Majesty's ship Sandwich, at Blakstakes, on Friday, 29th June, at half past nine o'clock.

Brother, I will thank you when you have perused this journal to return it, as I have nothing to refer to. ****."

Re-typed verbatim by Vic Basten 30th September 2003

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Ballads of The Great Mutiny of 1797

Four sailors had arrived in Portsmouth, in time for the celebration with Lord Howe.  They were from the Nore, the Kentish anchorage at the confluence of the mouth of the rivers Thames and Medway.  The Nore is just off the naval town of Sheerness on the Island of Sheppey.  The visitors brought tidings from their brother seamen and assurance that they joined with the men at Spithead and at Plymouth in seeking redress of their grievances.  They had agreed to commence their petition on May 12 and had raised twenty pounds from the men to pay the transport of their delegation to Spithead.

The next two ballads are from the papers of the sixty-four-gun man of war, Repulse that had arrived at the Nore from Yarmouth during the last few days of the mutiny.  The ballads were later used as evidence against the mutineers and were each entitled An Insidious Song

All Hail Brother Seamen1.  All hail, brother seamen that ploughs on the main,
Likewise to well wishers of seamen of fame,
May providence watch over brave British tars,
And guide them with care from the dangers of wars.

2.  Good providence long looked with pity at last
For to see honest Jack so shamefully thrashed,
But still held his arm for to let Jack subdue
The pride of those masters whose hearts were not true.

3, At Spithead Jack from a long silence was roused,
Which waked other brothers who did not refuse
To assist in the plan that good providence taught,
In the hearts of brave seamen, that had long been forgot.

4.  Old Neptune made haste to the Nore he did come,
To waken his sons who had slept for too long.
His thundering loud voice made us start with surprise,
To hear his sweet words, and he bid us arise.

5.  "Your brothers" says he ,"are all firmly resolved,
To banish all tyrants that long did uphold,
Their cruel intention to scourge when they please,
Such a set of brace villains you must instantly seize."

6.  "So away tell your brothers near Yarmouth they lie,
To embark in the cause they will never deny.
Their hearts are all good, they're like lions I say,
I've furnished their minds and they all will obey."

7.  "And when they arrive which I trust they soon will,
Be steady and cautious let wrangling lay still,
And love one another my favour you'll keep,
Success to King George and his glorious fleet."

Two of the Nore delegates returned from Spithead on May 18 to bring the news of the settlement.  The papers containing the pardon were read to the delegates but were only greeted with jeers.  The newly appointed chief spokesman of the fleet at the Nore, Richard Parker, allegedly said, "You've brought three pennyworth of ballads for our twenty pounds." Apparently the men of the fleet at the Nore were not told of the settlement at Spithead at this time, but still believed they were acting in solidarity with them.

Like at Spithead a list of grievances was drafted at the Nore.  The 8 articles in their petition included all of the items that the Admiralty had refused to discuss at Spithead.  Included, among other things, were the demand for shore leave, the stipulation that no officer expelled from a ship for bad conduct be returned for service on another ship, more equitable distribution of prize money, and all things granted to the fleet at Spithead.

The demands were strengthened when on May 19th delegates of 12 ships from the fleet at Yarmouth joined the delegates of 20 ships at the Nore in signing the petition.  The second ballad from the Repulse tells of the feelings of the men at this time:

The Muses Friendly Aid1.  The Muse's friendly aid I must invite,
Likewise a pen that's taught itself how to write,
No wit I boast, but am by fancy led
To search the deep caverns of my hollow head,
If attic rhyme, Apollo there has stored,
I'll here deposit all my favorite hoard.

2.  In days of yore when rich and poor agreed,
Poor served the rich and rich the poor relieved.
No despotic tyrants then the womb produced
But mutual all, each loved, and none abused,
But now how dreadful is the scene reversed,
We're blest with birth, but with oppression cursed.

3.  The theme I treat on is our Royal tars,
Whose God-like spirit rival even Mars,
From their supineness now their souls are roused
To rod and yoke no longer are exposed.
But all alike, each swears he will be true,
And tyrants ne'er their former course renew.

4.  At Spithead first their noble blood was fired;
Each loved his King, but one and all aspired;
To serve each other was their full intent,
And if insulted were on mischief bent,
But still their country's cause they would maintain,
Against the rebels, or the powers of Spain.

5.  Then at the Nore the lions boldly roused,
Their brethren's cause at Spithead they espoused.
Each swore alike to King he would be true,
But one and all the tyrants would subdue,
Their gallant hearts the chains of bondage broke
Not to revolt, but to evade the yoke.

6.  In Yarmouth next old Neptune reared his head,
Awake my sons the watery monarch said,
The torpid vapors from your souls remove
Inspire yourselves with true fraternal love.
Unto the Nore repair without delay,
Then join your brothers with a loud huzza.

7.  The worthy god's advice the heroes took,
Each broke his chains and off the panic shook
Unto the Nore their gallant ships they steered,
Whilst brethren cheered them as each ship appeared.
Oh Britains free, usurp no tyrants sway,
Protect your tars, and then they'll you obey.

The demands were sent to the Admiralty who responded that the agreement at Spithead was enough and they had no intent of agreeing to further demands.  On Sunday May 28, Spencer went to Sheerness to set up a board of enquiry and continued to refuse to negotiate with the sailors.  The Admiralty then presented an ultimatum to the mutineers that unless they surrendered by noon the next day, no royal pardons would be offered the participants.

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Parker Song

The leader of the mutiny at the Nore was Richard Parker.  He was a quota man, serving as an able bodied seaman on the Sandwich, who had obtained his way out of debtors prison in Perth, by agreeing to serve a second time in the navy.  He had previously served as a midshipman and a lieutenant but was demoted to able-bodied seaman after being tried for insubordination.  He was later discharged with crippling rheumatism.  He tried teaching school in Perth, his wife's hometown, and was later imprisoned for his debts.  He was an excellent speaker, and soon after his assignment to the Sandwich, was recruited as the Nore spokesperson.

By this time a great deal of government effort was being placed on developing sentiment against the action at the Nore.  Rumors were spread that the mutineers were planning to sail up the Thames to shell the city of London.  They were also accused of ingratitude for the concessions made to the sailors at Spithead and of disloyalty at a crucial time when the invasion of Britain was imminent.  The broadside propaganda-mongers were at it again producing this song:

A New Song on Parker the Delegate,
Head of the Mutiny at Sheerness 1.  I will not sing in Parker's praise disgraceful is the story,
Nor yet to seamen tune my lays, eclipsed is now their glory;
Fell factions head they proudly rear 'gainst country and 'gainst King sir,
And on their land they now do try destruction for to bring sir.

Then Britains all, with one accord, fight for your Constitution,
And let surrounding foes behold we want no revolution.


2.  Parker the means has brought about our seamen to corrupt sir,
And like a daring traitor bold, our trade doth interrupt sir;
The ships at Sheerness rear the flag the symbol of defiance,
With sorrow strikes us to reflect, on them we've no reliance.

3.  An admiral he calls himself, takes a commander's station,
On board the Sandwich doth insult, and braves the English nation;
Gives law, dispenses life and death or punishment disgraceful,
And by his arbitrary deeds hath made himself most hateful.

4.  A terror to each merchant ship, detains and doth them plunder,
And if they offer to sail by, his guns at them do thunder;
What'er he likes he from them takes, and should they dare to refuse, sir,
The captain's ordered to be flogged, thus does he then ill use, sir.

5.  Five hundred pounds is the reward, the traitor to bring in, sir,
Who thus the bloody flag hath reared 'gainst country and 'gainst King, sir;
Let's hope the villain quickly will to punishment be brought, sir,
Who like the daring traitor bold his country's ruin sought, sir.
All of a sudden some good news finally came to the mutineers.  On May 31 eight more ships from Yarmouth arrived at the Nore to join them.  However, things continued to deteriorate shortly thereafter.  The Admiralty's program of starvation and stirring up public opinion began to demoralize the men.  A five hundred-pound reward for the capture of Parker was posted in Sheerness.  Parker had resisted proposals by some of the men to defect with the ships to France.  The end rapidly arrived on June 15, as one, by one the ships raised the white flag of surrender.  Parker himself then surrendered and was taken the next day to Maidstone jail, where government agents interrogated him.

His court-martial started on Thursday June 22.  He was found guilty on Monday June 26 and sentenced to death on June 30, 1797.

Parker's wife had traveled to London and had daily petitioned the Queen for leniency for her husband but her plea fell on deaf ears.  She somehow managed to arrive in Rochester at eleven o'clock on the night of June 29.  She found a market gardener who took her down the Medway to Sheerness at the break of dawn.  Three different times she attempted unsuccessfully to get close enough to speak to her husband before he jumped to his own death, cheating the hangman of his satisfaction.

Somehow the attempts to discredit Parker did not last.  The best known of all the songs of the Great Mutiny is the song that tells of Anne Parker's ordeal that culminates with her exhuming his body at night and transporting him to London where she obtained for him a sacred burial.

President Parker 1.  Ye gods above protect the widow, and with pity look on me.
Oh help me, help me out of trouble and out of all calamity,
For by the death of my dear Parker fate to me has proved unkind;
Though doomed by law he was to suffer I couldn't erase him from my mind.

2.  Brave Parker was my lawful husband, my bosom friend I loved so dear;
And at the moment he was to suffer I was not allowed to come near.
In vain I asked in vain I strove, ay, three times o'er and o'er again;
But still they replied, "You must be denied, and must return on shore again."

3.  I thought I saw the yellow flag flying, the signal for my husband to die.
A gun was fired as they required when they hung on the yard so high.
I thought I saw his hand a-waving, bidding me a last farewell;
The grief I suffered at this moment no heart can paint, no tongue can tell.

4.  My fainting spirit I thought would follow the soul of him I loved most dear;
No friend or neighbor would come near me to ease me of my grief and care.
Then unto the shore my Parker was brought, most scornfully to be laid in the ground,
And for to get my husband's body an artful scheme I quickly found.

5.  Indeed of night when all was silent, and many thousands fast asleep,
I and three more went to the shore and to his grave did quietly creep.
With trembling hands we worked with shovel and digged his body from the cold clay,
And there I had a coach a-waiting to carry to London his body away.

6.  And there I got him decently buried, and then the doleful task was done;
I soon did finish the doleful task that his imprudence had begun.
Oh farewell, Parker, thou bright genius, thou were once my only pride;
Though parted now it won't be long till I am laid down by your side.

7.  Ye gods above protect the widow, and with pity look on me.
Although my Parker was hung for mutiny there were worse men in the wars than he.
All you who here my tender ditty do not laugh at me in disdain,
But look on me with an eye of pity, for it is now my only claim.
In all, 29 men were hung and many more were flogged or deported to Australia.  It was many years before true reforms were instituted in the British Navy.  The French government went through a change of philosophy shortly after the mutiny was resolved, and invasion plans were temporarily set aside.  Napoleon used the Brest invasion fleet for the invasion of Egypt in January 1798.  In August of 1798, Ireland was invaded by French troops under General Humbert but the British Army soon routed them.  In the second wave of the invasion force Wolfe Tone himself was captured on board a French man-of-war the Hoche on October 12.  He was brought to trial, but avoided the hangman by taking his own life.

The two songs included from the British Admiralties court-martial case against sailors from the Repulse are each titled An Insidious Song in the record.  It is speculated that they are part of a more complete set of ballads that were written during the action at the Nore.  This theory is based on what is perceived to be song numbers on the ballads in the trial record.  If the numbers are correct there could have been at least twenty-nine songs collected by the tars of the Repulse. According to the Public Records Office at Kew there are only two songs in the court record, however  It is possible that a thorough search of British Admiralty records from this time-period could reveal that there are more songs on the subject of the Mutiny.  Hopefully if they are found they may shed more light on the happenings during those important times of change.

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