Surgeon-General Thomas Heazle Parke (1857-1893) was an Irish doctor, explorer, soldier and naturalist.
Parke was born in 1857 at Clogher House in Drumsna, County Leitrim, and was brought up in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim. He graduated from the College of Surgeons in Dublin and was appointed to a post in Ballybay, County Monaghan.
In 1881 he joined the British Army and served in Egypt as a surgeon. Parke fought to Khartoum in relief of General Gordon in 1885.
Emin Pasha Relief Expedition:
Parke campaigned with Henry Morton Stanley on the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition. This expedition lasted three years and many were saved from death by Parke’s courage and medical skills. He was known as the ‘ man who had saved Stanley’. He thus became the first Irishman to cross the African continent. During the expedition Parke bought a pygmy girl. They travelled together for over a year and she nursed him through malaria. In the end he was forced to leave her behind because her eyes could not adapt to sunlight after the darkness of the forest.
When Parke returned home he received an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and was awarded gold medals from the British Medical Association and the Royal Geographical Society. Among his published works are My Personal Experiences in Equatorial Africa (published in 1891) and A Guide to Health in Africa. He died in Scotland in 1893 and his coffin was brought back to Ireland and drawn on a gun carriage from the Dublin docks to Broadstone station. He was buried in Drumsna.
A bronze statue of Parke stands on Merrion Street in Dublin, outside the Natural History Museum.
On the granite pedestal is a bronze plaque depicting the incident on August 13, 1887 when Parke sucked the poison from an arrow wound in the chest of Capt. William G. Stairs to save his life. He is also commemorated by a bust in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.