Although the Mutiny of the Fleet at the Nore does not properly belong to this century, yet it so nearly approached it (1797), and was of such a national importance for the time being, that I venture to insert a ballad respecting it. The Navy was in a bad state. Many men had been impressed; they were badly paid and badly fed; and their punishment, for the slightest infraction of discipline, was fearful, 50 to 500 lashes, according to the temper of the captain, being no infrequent punishment for very venial offences. Early in the year the men sent in very respectful memorials to Lord Howe, telling him of their grievances. No notice was taken of it, and the men, probably ignorantly, committed a gross breach of discipline in combining together and opening communications with each other throughout the Fleet. They plotted to seize the ships and expel the officers; but it became known, and the Admiral gave orders to sail to sea. The men refused to do so, until their grievances had been looked into and redressed. This was promised and granted, but still the men were suspicious that faith would not be kept with them, and they set some of their officers ashore. Lord Howe, however, went to the Fleet at St. Helen’s, and showed them an Act of Parliament, granting their demands, and this pacified that portion of the Fleet.
But at the Nore there was open mutiny; they blockated the entrance to the Thames, and fired on several ships entering or departing. This could not be endured, and the Admiralty removed the buoys. Provisions ran short, and some men-of-war were sent alongside, with orders to sink those ships that did not surrender. They gave in one by one, and the chief ringleader, Richard Parker (a man of some education), and several others were hanged; but they were long regarded as martyrs. Parker was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary Matfelon, Whitechapel.
DEATH OF PARKER.
Ye Gods above, protect the widow,
And with pity look down on me,
Help me, help me out of trouble,
And out of all calamity.
For by the death of my brave Parker,
Fortune hath prov’d to me unkind;
Tho’ doom’d by law, he was to suffer,
I can’t erase him from my mind.
Parker he was my lawful husband,
My bosom friend I lov’d so dear;
At the awful moment he was going to suffer
I was not allowed to come near.
In vain I strove, in vain I asked,
Three times, o’er and o’er again,
But they replied, you must be denied,
You must return on shore again.
First time I attempted my love to see,
I was obliged to go away,
Oppress’d with grief, and broken hearted,
To think that they should me stay.
I thought I saw the yellow flag flying,
A signal for my husband to die,
A gun was fired, as they required,
As the time it did draw nigh.
The boatswain did his best endeavour,
To get me on shore without delay,
When I stood trembling and confounded,
Ready to take his body away.
Though his trembling hand did wave,
As a signal of farewell,
The grief I suffered at this moment,
No heart can paint, or tongue can tell.
My fleeting spirit I thought would follow,
The soul of him I love so dear,
No friend, nor neighbour would come nigh me,
For to ease me of my grief and care.
Every moment I thought an hour,
Till the law its course had run,
I wish’d to finish the doleful task,
His imprudence had begun.
In the dead of night, ’tis silent,
And all the world are fast asleep,
My trembling heart that knows no comfort,
O’er his grave does often weep,
Each lingering minute that passes,
Brings me nearer to the shore,
When we shall shine in endless glory,
Never to be parted more