Thomas Heazle Parke, the first Irishman to cross Africa

Surgeon to the British army became a celebrity after bloody expedition to rescue governor

Thomas Heazle Parke undergoing a ‘blood brotherhood ritual’. Illustration from Heazle Parke’s book, ‘My personal experiences in equatorial Africa as medical officer of the Emin Pasha relief expedition’/ Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Heazle Parke undergoing a ‘blood brotherhood ritual’. Illustration from Heazle Parke’s book, ‘My personal experiences in equatorial Africa as medical officer of the Emin Pasha relief expedition’/ Wikimedia Commons

“What about Livingstone?”Agnetha and Anni-Frid harmonised on Abba’s 1974 album Waterloo. What about all those Victorian men who thought fame and renown lay in blazing tracks across Africa, their motives and conduct often questionable?

Thomas Heazle Parke. Photograph: 1891
Thomas Heazle Parke. Photograph: 1891

Thomas Heazle Parke was one of the last in that tradition of 19th century African exploration. Today, he stands outside Dublin’s “Dead Zoo” - the Natural History Museum - an exemplar of Victorian masculinity with a virile moustache, rifle and explorer’s garb. The statue was raised by public subscription in 1896, three years after his premature death; his sudden demise after seven years of ill-health were the costs of his African adventure.

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