If your ancestors were living in the general area now referred to as Gambia today, specifically the village of Karantaba, chances are, they probably saw this giant box above, owned by a Scottish explorer named Mungo Park. Park, a surgeon who graduated from the university of Edinburgh, was picked by African Association to explore the true course of the Niger River.
Park left Scotland and headed for The Gambia where he began both his exploration in 1795 and 1805. He followed the River Gambia to Pisania in the interior, where a British trading station was located. But, you are not going to find the village of Pisania on your Gambian map today because the place is known as Karantaba, where an obelisk commemorating the great travels of Mungo Park is situated. The Scottish surgeon set out from Pisania first in 1795 to trace the source of the Niger river. He encountered a lot of difficulties and was back in Pisania in 1797, packed his Trunk, and left the Gambia for Britain.
In Britain, he became an instant celebrity, wrote an account of his adventures, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa (1797) and it quickly sold out. The success of this first trip was what made the second trip in 1805 possible. During his first trip,he took back to Britain a Trunk loaded with tons of items from Africa, to show people back in Britain that he indeed made it to Africa.
The trunk was stored in the town of Selkirk in the attic of the Langs – family friends of Park. A generation later, the daughter of another Selkirk family, the Curries, also friends of the Parks, emptied the Trunk and used it to carry her stuff as she migrate from Britain to New Zealand.
Incredibly, 220 years later, a journey through three continents, the people of Selkirk have bought back the Trunk from an auction in New Zealand to bring it back home to Britain. On June 25th, the Trunk was put on display at Halliwell’s House Museum, to celebrate the success of their local kid.