The British Empire Library

Gold Coast And Ghana Memories

Edited by Eric Cunningham, assisted by Jennifer MacDougall, Alan Mayhew and Michael Hammer

Courtesy of OSPA

John Smith (Nigeria 1951 - 1970, Western Pacific 1971 - 1978)
Ghana School Aid helps the education of children in Ghana by making grants to schools. The charity was founded by people who had worked there, admired and respected Ghanaians and wanted to continue to help them. It has a permanent representative in Accra. Since 1986, 180 schools have been helped and to celebrate the charity's coming of age supporters decided to record some of their memories from their working days. The result is an intriguing and diverse collection covering a spectrum of interests from the 1920s to the 1980s from a wide range of contributors. A brief historical introduction is followed by sections covering politics, education, work, events and memories.

What makes this collection of memories so attractive is the way in which they belie stereotyping and defy preconceived expectations. So the Accra riots of 1948 are seen through the eyes of a Posts & Telegraphs accountant with all of three weeks service and comment on the 1951 elections comes from a woman education officer recruited to assist with the registration of voters. Eric Cunningham, an education officer, was seconded to the team organising the Togo plebiscite in 1956 and provides a graphic and valuable account of the nuts and bolts of a significant administrative undertaking successfully completed with limited resources, typical of the experience of many colonies in the immediate run up to independence. Lord Listowel comments briefly on his role as Governor General and Jane Drew, of the famous Drew and Maxwell partnership which set such high standards for architecture in West Africa and elsewhere, writes about her arrival in the then Gold Coast during the second world war. Robert Yearley reminds us of a generation of expatriates many of whom arrived in Africa unable to drive and several contributors speak of the charm and charisma of Kwame Nkrumah, acknowledged by all who met him.

Education, rightly, has a major place in these memoirs which include extracts from the diary of Sylvia Ward, wife of the great educationalist W S Ward whose influence extended far beyond the Gold Coast. She takes going ashore in a surf boat as a matter of course. It was 1926. Her natural use of the idiom of the time makes one realise just how much has happened in the intervening eighty years and how great the achievements in which both Ghanaian and expatriate can take pride. Here, as on every page, these memoirs are witness to the undoubted fact that the vast majority of expatriates working in the Gold Coast and then in Ghana loved their work, the people they worked for and with, and cherish overwhelmingly happy memories to warm the chill of retirement. In my experience that is true of everywhere in empire and should be a source of satisfaction to the people we served as much as to us.

British Empire Book
Eric Cunningham, assisted by Jennifer MacDougall, Alan Mayhew and Michael Hammer
Ghana School Aid


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