The British Empire Library

Gold Coast to Ghana

by Colin Russell

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by M. Ensor (Gold Coast 1940-1955)
It should not be held against this work that its basic story is another one of a young man, in this case a Scot, joining the Colonial Service, with little more expectation than that of enjoying Africa's wide open spaces and retiring from it with a deep affection for the people among whom he worked. Nor should the fact that the author's overseas career began and ended among the Ashantis (as the word was then written) - Administrative Cadet in 1929 to Chief Regional Officer (as the Chief Commissioner had come to be called) in 1957. For the early chapters are an interesting account of many-faceted district administration in the area of what had been throughout the 19th Century the major military power of this part of West Africa. The later ones recount the author's growing conflict of loyalties as representative government for the Gold Coast brought a legislature and Government composed mainly of Ashanti's traditional enemies. It was greatly to Colin Russell's credit that independence for the whole of Ghana was achieved without major bloodshed in Ashanti. This also required a special visit by the Secretary of State and an eleventh hour modification of the independence constitution, both recalled in this book.

Many of us will have thought of recording our recollections of lives in what is now an almost forgotten era for the enjoyment of our descendants or for colonial archives. But the author, now in his nineties and retired from a second career as a clergyman, had the good sense to keep a diary in West Africa. And this has provided the supplement to memory justifying this exposure to a wider readership. The diary entries were rarely judgemental so we learn little of the author's impressions of the many important people he met during his tour spells as Private Secretary in Government House, or otherwise in Accra and Cape Coast or whom he entertained in the Residency at Kumasi. However some people stand out - early in his career the Chief of Kintampo; later the Paramount Chief of the Ashantis for whom the author developed an admiration; and some members of Nkrumah's Government and a leading academic for whom he did not. With the Prime Minister himself the author had a satisfactory working relationship.

In short a readable and entertaining book.

British Empire Book
Colin Russell
The Pentland Press Ltd


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