Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parke, Thomas Heazle
PARKE, THOMAS HEAZLE (1857–1893), surgeon-major army medical staff and African traveller, was second son of William Parke, esq., J.P., of Clogher House, Drumsna, co. Roscommon, and Henrietta, daughter of Henry Holmes of Newport House, Isle of Wight. The family, said to be of Kentish origin, settled in Ireland in the seventeenth century. Born at the family residence on 27 Nov. 1857, Parke spent his early days in the neighbourhood of Carrick-on-Shannon, co. Leitrim, with which town his family has long been connected. He was educated from 1869 at the Rev. Edward Power's private school at 3 Harrington Street, Dublin. In 1875 he removed to the school of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and attended the City of Dublin Hospital; at a later date he studied at the Richmond, Whitworth, and Hardwicke Hospitals as an intern surgical pupil for six months. He became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1878, and of the King and Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland, and a licentiate in midwifery in 1879. For a time he acted as dispensary medical officer at Ballybay in co. Monaghan, and as surgeon to the Eastern Dispensary at Bath. In February 1881 he was gazetted as surgeon in the army medical department. He saw service in the Tel-el-Kebir campaign of 1882, for which he received the medal and khedive's star. During the cholera epidemic in Egypt in 1883, when two-fifths of the English soldiers were prostrated by the disease, he acted as senior medical officer at the Helouan cholera camp near Cairo. His report on this epidemic won the especial approbation of Surgeon-general Irvine. He served in the Nile expedition in 1884–5, and accompanied the desert column sent to rescue Gordon, marching with the convoy for Gadkul under Colonel Stanley-Clarke, and taking part in all the engagements which occurred in crossing the Bayuda desert. He was present at Abu Klea on 17 Jan., in charge of the naval brigade under Lord Charles Beresford, when, out of five officers, two were killed and two wounded, he alone being unhurt. He was at the action of Gubat on 19 Jan. and at the reconnaissance at Metammeh on 21 Jan., but he did not accompany the steamers to Khartoum. For these services he received two clasps. After the Nile expedition he was employed at Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt.
Towards the end of January 1887, when stationed at Alexandria, he offered to accompany, as an unpaid volunteer, the African expedition formed under the leadership of Henry Morton (afterwards Sir Henry Morton) Stanley for the relief of Emin Pasha. In February he was selected by Stanley to accompany the expedition, obtained the necessary leave, and was duly commissioned by the khedive. On 4 Feb. he set sail with his new commander for Zanzibar, where the main body of the expeditionary force was collected. They went from Zanzibar by sea round the Cape of Good Hope, and thence to the mouth of the Congo. They ascended the lower river to the head of its navigation in steamers, and thence marched overland for two hundred miles to Stanley Pool. From that place there was a long river voyage up the Congo, and its affluent, the Aruwimi—nearly a thousand miles in all—to the point on the latter selected by Stanley as his base. Here an entrenched camp was formed, and the famous march into the Congo forest was commenced.
Throughout the expedition, in addition to all his medical and sanitary responsibilities, Parke commanded his own company, and proved himself as efficient as any in the management of men. Mr. Stanley asserted that without Parke the expedition would have been a failure. He ministered to the wants of the natives who accompanied the expedition with all the tenderness, patience, and skill possible, sucked the poisoned wound received by Lieutenant William Grant Stairs [q. v.], attended Stanley in his severe illness, and was devoted to his chief through all perils of the Dark Continent.
On the return of this expedition to Zanzibar, Surgeon-captain Parke was detained at Bagamoyo, in order to look after Emin Pasha, who had met with a dangerous accident. Parke showed himself a most devoted physician, and his patient completely recovered. On 16 Jan. 1890 Parke returned to Cairo; he was then recovering from fever, and was hardly able to walk upstairs, but a few days later he began ordinary medical duty at the Citadel Hospital. He landed in England at the beginning of May, when he was warmly welcomed, and received many tokens of cordial recognition from his brethren of the medical profession and from many scientific bodies. He was entertained at a banquet by his brother officers of the army medical staff. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland awarded him an honorary fellowship. The editors of the ‘Lancet’ entertained him at their offices on the afternoon of 6 June 1890, and presented him, in the presence of their staff, with a large silver salver. In the evening of the same day a banquet was given in his honour by some of the most distinguished medical men in the kingdom, under the presidency of Sir Andrew Clark. The chairman, Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson, and Sir James Paget all spoke in eloquent terms of Parke's services. The university of Durham conferred on him the honorary degree of D.C.L., and he was presented at Birmingham with the gold medal of the British Medical Association ‘for distinguished merit.’ He received the gold medals of the Royal Geographical Societies of London and Antwerp, and was elected an honorary fellow of those and many similar societies. He was also made an honorary associate of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and was the recipient of the orders of the Medjidie and the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar. The only consideration he received from the government was permission to count his time in Africa as full-pay service. After his return he was attached to the 2nd lifeguards in London, and was subsequently employed at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. He was promoted to be surgeon-major on 5 Feb. 1893.
The hardships which he had undergone had ruined his health, and during the latter years of his life he had several seizures of an epileptiform nature. He died suddenly on 10 Sept. 1893, while on a visit to the Duke and Duchess of St. Albans at Alt-na-Craig in Argyleshire. His remains arrived in Dublin on 15 Sept., and were received by a military escort. Next day they were interred in the private burying-ground of the Parke family at Kilmessan, co. Leitrim.
At the meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Freemasons of North Connaught held on 19 Sept. 1893, a life-sized oil portrait of Parke, painted by Miss Ffolliott, was presented to the Lodge No. 854 (of which both he and his father had been members) by Lieutenant-colonel Ffolliott, D.L., of Hollybrook, co. Sligo. It was for a time in the masonic lodge, Boyle, co. Roscommon, but was finally placed in the Parke Memorial Hall, which was erected in Carrick-on-Shannon. A fund was also opened to erect a statue of Parke in Dublin. In a letter to the ‘Lancet’ of 23 Sept. 1893, Mr. Stanley, who had visited him at Netley shortly before his death, paid a tribute of esteem to Parke. He speaks of him as one ‘true to the core, a very honest and punctiliously honourable gentleman; one made up of sweet simplicity, tenderness, and loving sympathy.’ In the garrison chapel at Netley his brother officers erected a memorial brass.
He was the author of the ‘Report to the War Office on the Cholera Outbreak in Egypt,’ 1883; of ‘Experiences in Equatorial Africa,’ published in 1891, in which he described some of his adventures; and of ‘Evidence before the Vaccination Commission,’ 1890. But his chief medical work was ‘A Guide to Health in Africa, with Notes on the Country and its Inhabitants,’ which was published in 1893, with a preface by Mr. H. M. Stanley. It contains useful chapters on the physical geography, meteorology, natives, fauna and flora of Africa.
Parke contributed many articles on professional subjects to periodicals; these include ‘Empyema and its Treatment,’ in the ‘British Medical Journal,’ 1884; ‘Arrow Poison of the Pigmies,’ in the ‘Pharmaceutical Journal,’ 1891; ‘Incidents connected with the relief of Emin Pasha,’ in ‘Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society,’ 1890; ‘How General Gordon was really lost,’ in the ‘Nineteenth Century,’ May 1892; ‘Uganda,’ in the ‘Tyneside Geographical Journal,’ November 1893 (a posthumous paper); and ‘Reminiscences of Africa,’ in ‘United Service Magazine,’ December 1892 and January and February 1893.[The Lancet, 23 Sept. 1893; British Medical Journal, 16 Sept. 1893; Provincial Medical Journal, 1 Oct. 1890; Times, 11 Sept. 1893; Men and Women of the Time; information obtained from Surgeon-major Parke's family, from his writings, and from personal knowledge.]