Trunk of Explorer Mungo Park to be Auctioned

History, Scotland

A trunk belonging to Scottish explorer Mungo Park is to be auctioned in New Zealand. It accompanied Park twice to the Congo circa 1794 and is expected to fetch up to £26,000 when it goes under the hammer this week.

(c) Scottish Borders Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mungo Park (1771 – 1806)

Mungo Park was born in Foulshiels on the Yarrow Water, Selkirkshire, Scotland, and was the first known Westerner to successfully reach the central part of the Niger River.

Educated as a surgeon at the Univercity of Edinburgh, he was appointed a medical officer in 1792 and his studies of plant and animal life in Sumatra won him backing to explore the true course of the River Niger.  Park’s chronicles of his first expedition to Africa in the late 18th century made him a famous figure, however, on his third voyage he was attacked and drowned.


Stone tablet set into the cottage at Foulshiels Farm near Selkirk where Mungo Park was born in 1771. 

The trunk was returned to Selkirkshire, Scotland by 1797 and then went to New Zealand in 1839 with a Park family member.  The trunk has been on exhibition loan to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Scottish Borders Council has said it will not be bidding to bring his trunk back to the region of his birth.

Selkirkshire councillor, Vicky Davidson, is hopeful a benefactor might buy the trunk and return it to Scotland.

“It would be very fitting if we could somehow retrieve his trunk and bring it back to Selkirk in the Year of Homecoming,” she said.

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From an illustration from Life and Travels of Mungo Park, Edinburgh, W. P. Nimmo 1872

Park’s honest descriptions set a standard for future travel writers to follow. It introduced a vast and unexplored continent and gave a valuable insight to Europeans what Africa was really like. After his death public and political interest in Africa began to increase. He had proved that Africa could be explored.

Mungo Park’s Trunk will be sold on Friday 28th March at Dunbar Sloan Auctioneers, Auckland, New Zealand,  2pm (NZDT).

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