Matthew Walker knot

A Matthew Walker Knot keeps the end of a rope from fraying but its origins are a mystery.

There are a number of different legends about the identity of Matthew Walker. One plausible account has it that he was a ship’s rigger in the Royal Navy working on Tyneside in the mid-18th century.

Was Matthew Walker a convict?

Another, more dramatic, theory is that Matthew Walker was a sailor who was sentenced to death by a judge who had once been a seaman. After passing sentence, the judge said that he would set Matthew Walker free if he could produce a knot that the judge could neither tie nor untie.

Matthew Walker returned to his cell, and, provided with ten fathoms (20 metres) of rope, he tried to come up with a way of avoiding his fate at the end of the hangman’s noose. He unravelled half the rope, put in the very first ‘Matthew Walker’ knot and wound the rope back up to the end. The judge proved unequal to the challenge and, as good as his word, set Walker free.

The knot's everyday use, as a lanyard or stopper knot, is less romantic. One encyclopedia of knots lists 25 different types of Matthew Walker knot, and there are as many variations on his story.