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Walter Parker 1845 ~ 1880 from Tattingstone Workhouse to the Merchant Navy

Walter Parker was born in the poor house in Tattingstone, Suffolk on 21st June 1845 and baptised there on 29th June. His mother was Eliza Parker, single woman, originally from Capel St Mary, Suffolk.

Walter soon had three sisters, Eliza, Thirza and Jessie, also no father apparent. When Walter was 6, he was living with his grandparents, Walter and Elizabeth Parker, in Washbrook, his mother and sisters were living in East Bergholt, where Eliza was working as a stay stitcher, and shortly after she moved to Ipswich, Eliza eventually married at the age of 40.

In the 1861 census, at the age of 16, I found Walter on board a vessel called Iris, in Cornwall. Then on 3rd November 1863 I found him joining a ship called “Proteus” in Ipswich. He had joined the Merchant Navy.

At the age of 26 he was awarded a certificate of competency by the Merchant Service and became an “Only Mate”. This is what he had to be able to do:

10. An ONLY MATE must be nineteen years of age and have been five years at sea.

IN NAVIGATION. –In addition to the qualifications required for a Second Mate, an Only Mate must be able to observe and calculate the amplitude of the sun, and deduce the variation of the compass therefrom, and be able to find the longitude by chronometer by the usual methods. He must know how to lay off the place of the ship on the chart, both by bearings of known objects, and by latitude and longitude. He must be able to determine the error of a sextant, and to adjust it, also to find the time of high water from the known time at full and change.

IN SEAMANSHIP.–In addition to what is required for a Second Mate, he must know how to moor and unmoor, and to keep a clear anchor; to carry out an anchor; to stew a hold; and to make the requisite entries in the ship’s log. He will also be questioned as to his knowledge of the use and management of the mortar and rocket lines in the case of the stranding of a vessel, as explained in the official log-book.

When he was 29, he was awarded another certificate of competency as a “Master” in Blyth, Northumberland.

This is what he had to be able to do:

12. A MASTER must be twenty-one years of age, and have been six years at sea, of which at least one year must have been as First or Only Mate, and one year as Second Mate. He must also have served one year, at least, in a square-rigged ship.

In addition to the qualifications for a First Mate, he must be able to find the latitude by a star, &c. He will be asked questions as to the nature of the attraction of the ship’s iron upon the compass, and as to the method of determining it. He will be examined in so much of the laws of the tides as is necessary to enable him to shape a course, and to compare his soundings with the depths marked on the charts. He will be examined as to his competency to construct jury rudders and rafts; and as to his resources for the preservation of the ship’s crew in the event of wreck; and of his knowledge of lights and fog signals and steering and sailing rules. He must possess a sufficient knowledge of what he is required to do by law, as to entry and discharge, and the management of his crew, and as to penalties and entries to be made in the official log; and a knowledge of the measures for preventing and checking the outbreak of scurvy on board ship. He will be questioned as to his knowledge of invoices, charter party, Lloyd’s agent, and as to the nature of bottomry, and he must be acquainted with the leading lights of the channel he has been accustomed to navigate, or which he is going to use.

On the 22nd October 1880 disaster struck, when Walter who was a Master on the ship “Macedonia” was overloaded with timber, Walter of 53 Grey Street, North Shields was one of the casualties.

The following is an article about the tragedy from Lloyds List 13th November 1880:

Lloyds List 13th Nov 1880

Obituary East Anglian Daily Times 26th Nov 1880

44 views2 comments


That's incredible and very Clever off Walter Parker. Was good to start from being a young man with so much to learn but he got there with pride I would hope. He earned that place in life. Sure enough.

Replying to

I think I've only just seen this comment, I'm sorry! yes, some stories make an impact, and he was one of them.

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