Mango Parr, a Scottish traveller, born at Fowlshiels, Selkirkshire, Sept. 10, 1771, killed in Africa probably in the early part of 1806. At the age of 15 he was apprenticed to a surgeon in Selkirk. He afterward studied medicine at the university of Edinburgh, and made a voyage to Sumatra as assistant surgeon to an East Indiaman. On his return he offered his services to the African association for the exploration of the river Niger, sailed from Portsmouth May 22, 1795, and in one month anchored at Jillifrey on the Gambia, whence he proceeded to the British factory of Pisania in the kingdom of Yani. During an illness of five months he acquired the Mandingo language, and on Dec. 2, accompanied by six negroes, set out on horseback toward the east. Unable on account of wars to traverse the country of Bambarra to Timbuctoo, he resolved to make a detour toward the north in hopes of reaching the same destination through the Moorish kingdom of Ludamar. At Benowm, the capital, a wild boar was let loose upon him, but, to the surprise of the natives, it attacked the Moslems and let alone the Christian. He was then placed in a hut, in a corner of which the boar was tied, and it was debated between the king and his advisers whether he should lose his right hand, his eyes, or his life.
After more than a month's captivity and torture, he made his escape alone, and reached Bambarra. On July 21, 1796, he struck the Joliba or Niger at Sego, a city of four distinct quarters, two on each side of the river. Communication was kept up by large canoes, and Park had to wait two hours before there was room for him in the boat. Then came an order from the king forbidding him to cross, and he was indebted for relief to a woman who took him into her hut, gave him supper and a bed, and with the female part of her family sang a song about the "poor white man" which the traveller has preserved in his journal. The king sent him a guide and a present of 5,000 cowries, with which he pursued his journey down the left bank of the river to Kea, where he dismissed the guide and went by water to Silla on the opposite bank. Here he was again attacked by sickness, and despaired of advancing further into a country where the fanatical Mohammedans were paramount, and at a season when the tropical rains rendered travel impossible except by water.
He set out on his return July 30, and after a long series of sufferings and robberies arrived at Pisania June 10, 1797. An American vessel carried him to Antigua, whence he took ship for England, and on Dec. 22 landed at Falmouth. His unexpected return, after he had long been given up for dead, created an extraordinary enthusiasm. An outline of his adventures was drawn up by Bryan Edwards, accompanied with geographical illustrations by Major Rennell (4to, London, 1799), but it threw little light upon the problem of the direction of the Niger. Park now returned to his father's farm in Scotland, married, and commenced the practice of medicine at Peebles. In 1805 he undertook a second journey to the Niger under the auspices of the British government. The king gave him the brevet rank of captain, and his companion and brother-in-law Mr. Anderson that of lieutenant. The other members of the expedition were Mr. Scott, draughtsman, an officer and 34 soldiers of the garrison of Goree, two sailors, and four artificers.
They reached Pisania April 28, and at once pushed into the interior, keeping considerably to the south of Park's former route, and winding among the head streams of the Senegal and Gambia. They were not much molested by the negroes, but the climate proved a more deadly enemy, and before they came in sight of the Niger near Bammakoo 28 of the soldiers and three carpenters had died. With the remnant of his force Park floated down to Sansanding in canoes, where he sold some of his goods. There died Mr. Anderson. Scott had also died, and when a boat was prepared for resuming the voyage, Park's only companions were Lieut. Martyn and three soldiers, one of whom was deranged. About the middle of November they set out, having first sent back their guide Isaaco with a journal of their discoveries. In 1806 rumors reached the British settlements of Mungo Park's death, but nothing was known of his fate until the governor of Senegal in 1810 despatched Isaaco into the interior to ascertain what had become of him.
From a man at Sansanding who had accompanied the party from that place to Yauri, Isaaco received a later journal, and learned that after passing Jennee, Timbuctoo, and Yauri, and repelling several attacks of the natives, they reached at Boossa a narrow pass where the river flows between precipitous rocks. Here they were set upon by the soldiers of the king of Yauri, with lances, arrows, and stones. Two negro slaves were killed in the canoe, and the white men jumping into the water were drowned. Olapperton found full confirmation of this story, and learned that Park's manuscripts were still in the king's possession, but was unable to obtain them. The narrative of Park's second journey, with a biography (London, 1815), has been translated into French and German. D'Avezac published in Paris in 1834 Examen et rectifications des positions determinees as-tronomiquement par Mungo Parle; and another biography of the traveller appeared at Edinburgh in 1835. A monument was erected in his honor at Selkirk in 1859.