R v Dudley and Stephens


Jan 23


Read the story of Richard Parker and Tom Dudley. Is what Dudley did defensible? What would you have done?

Is what Dudley did defensible? Are you kidding me?

Hi, my name is Richard Parker. 

When I was younger, my mom would take me to buy fish from the fishermen by the shores of Southampton. At first, we used to buy fish from different fishermen, but then my mom met Mr Brook. Mr Brook had a nice smile and a kind heart. He gave us extra fishes and told me stories of the sea. He was kind to me and my mom and soon his kindness translated to occasional dinners and treats. I liked him because I didn’t have a papa and my mom was becoming happier day after day. She would say to me, ‘Richy, wouldn’t Mr Brook make a fine father to his children?’ And I would nod. I did not really care about anything but the sea and Mr Brook had nice stories to tell about the sea. 

On the day I turned 17, Mr Brook brought me a large chocolate cake and we celebrated in our small living room. It was the first time ever I had a cake to celebrate with. It was so big that I did not know what to do with the cake. As I glared and ooh-ed at the cake, he said to me, ‘Richy, you may not know what to do with that cake but wait till you get back from Sydney by sea with me and the boys! You’ll wish for some cake like Ms. Floyd eyes those filthy burgers at the meat store.’ And my mom shriek-laughed, hit his shoulder and said, ‘Oh Edmund!’ I just stood there for about 2 minutes staring into blank space… shocked. I was going to sea!!!! And I was going to Australia!

The sea is indescribable. Maybe writers skilled with words have tried to describe the vastness of the sea. or to explain how big and yet empty the sea is. But the sea is indescribable. Oh, the many spirits and animals that live in that part of the world. ‘It’s a whole different atmosphere here on the sea, son’, said Mr. Stephens (who asked me to call him Edwin). Mr Dudley on the other hand was mostly quiet, but whenever he spoke, he was the voice of reason. Like when we discussed over dinner on the second night, and Edwin spoke of his wife and their second son. He said he was concerned that his wife suddenly became a bad mother after their first boy. He was worried. ‘Charles is suffering so much from bad parenting because I cannot be there. I’m always on sea.’ Mr Dudley smoked his pipe for a while and after Mr Brooks had spoken, he said, ‘I am a lot like my father, and yet I hardly ever saw him around. The same with my son. It isn’t in the amount of time spent, but in the amount of time invested’. And then he went back to smoking his pipe. I never really like him. 

We had been on sea since the 19th of May 1884 and had encountered several obstacles. ‘The yacht is not strong’, Mr Dudley had once noted to no one in particular. Irritated, I asked, ‘Even for a four-man crew?’ He looked at me in mild shock, scoffed like I was an idiot and said, ‘A vessel is not built for its passengers, it is built for the journey’ 

The 5th of July, however, launched us into the beginning of unbelievable hardship. The yacht ran into a terrible storm. Mr Dudley said it was not the worst of storms, but that, like he earlier said, the yacht was not built for such. Mr Dudley gave the orders to slow down the progress, fix the helm and sail positions so we didn’t have to actively steer the yacht. 

Things looked good until I was down below preparing tea and a felt a wave strike the yacht. It was terrifying. I ran up and soon joined the others in jumping into the lifeboat which had already been lowered down. Mr Brook had managed to drag along two tins of turnips. That was all. It was so hard being out there. No one knew what to do. Each man was quiet except for when we had to fight off sharks with our oars. It was so hard. But I knew everyone was thinking what I was thinking: How would we survive in the middle of the sea in a lifeboat, two tins of turnip, no freshwater and no smoke?

Things were not so bad when we ate a raw turtle for three days and drank its blood as our water. Things were not so bad when we drank our urine. But things became bad when the men started casting lots on who would sacrifice his life for other so that we would have some flesh to eat and some blood to drink. I cringed when Mr Dudley first suggested it. This was going to be different from when the priest used to tell us that we were consuming the sacred blood and flesh of Christ. Mr Brook was withdrawn from us and he barely spoke to anyone. Sometimes, he’d look at me and I’d see him shed tears in the dark sea-cold night.

I fell sick shortly after the decision to cast lots. And as I slipped into coma, I somehow knew that fate had chosen me to be the sacrifice for these men and that if fate did not choose me, Mr Dudley would. Maybe I too would have done the same to me. I do not know. Maybe Mr Dudley did the right thing eventually – I cannot objectively tell, because I never really liked him. 

I was not in a real coma… because I heard all the conversations they had. And as I heard Mr Dudley mutter a prayer to himself and I felt him come near me and raise his penknife, all I could think of was the cake waiting for me in Southampton…

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