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Down Memory Lane Part 3 - Remembrances of Christmas and its import to Ghanaians
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
21ST December 2011
Introduction to the nativity story
What is Christmas? It is a period when Christians throughout the length and breadth of the globe observe the birth anniversary of our Lord and Saviour/Messiah, Jesus Christ. He was born of the Virgin Mary, of Immaculate Conception by the Holy Ghost. This took place about 2000 years ago in Bethlehem in Judea, with his native home being Nazareth. His earthly father was Joseph, a pious and God-fearing humble carpenter. Christmas represents a period of love, care and a time for sober reflection of our lives and the purpose of our being, and above all, a period of thanksgiving to the Almighty for his munificence and loving care. It is a time of rekindling our Christian faith and recommitment to the Great Commission of spreading the message of the Kingdom of God which all believers look forward to. Jesus was born during a period of the rule of the ruthless Roman Empire with Emperor Augustus Caeser in power in Rome, and King Herod 1 ruling in Judea. The Roman governor then was Pontius Pilate. At the time Jesus was born, there was a decree or fiat out there from Emperor Augustus to conduct a census (Luke2:1-21). Mary was heavy with child, but being a good citizen, Joseph obeyed the statutory requirement to go with Mary to Bethlehem, his ancestral home to be registered. Joseph was a descendant of the patriarch Abraham and King David and of the 42nd generation, according to the Bible. Because of the large number of people in the city, there was a shortage of accommodation so they had to settle for a humble cowshed, for our Lord to be born least of all places, in a manger. What humility! The period was of cloudless skies and the shepherds were out there with their flock on the plains of Israel. Some scholars and religious denominations vehemently oppose the date of Christmas on the evidence of the Biblical account of the nativity story, on the account that Christmas time in the northern hemisphere coincides with the time when winter is around and the sun’s solstice occurs on the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern hemisphere. Therefore, the date of Christmas in December must be wrong and rather their postulation is that it should be March, during spring time. It is also averred that in the Roman Empire, there were pagan festivities celebrated around the same time with a lot of fireworks and heathen orgies. Be that as it may, if a heathen celebration had been sublimated for a good and noble cause, so be it.
Three years ago, I was in Ghana and met with one of my many nephews who is with the Ghana Air Force. He told me of his peacekeeping mission with UNIFIL at the Golan Heights between Israel and Lebanon. In fact, he confessed that the beauty and sereneness of the land in the Middle East points to the fact that it is the Holy Land and abode of God. He told me that it is simply breathtaking. We had a hearty chat and that strengthened further my faith. I look forward to making a pilgrimage there as would any ardent and fervent Christian. I will one day want to see the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, River Jordan, Damascus, Joppa, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Capernaum, Jericho, Caesarea Philippi, Emmaus, Bethsaida and some of the places connected with our Lord’s Ministry, when he walked this earth. Some of these places now lie in places such as Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Gaza. Yes, on the night while the shepherds kept their flocks by night, the angel of the Lord appeared to them and urged them to go to neighbouring Bethlehem to go see the newly born Christ the Messiah. They heard a multitudinous heavenly host of angels singing perhaps the song,
Do you know the song that the angels sang on the night long long ago
Glory to God in the highest heaven
And on earth peace among those whom he favors or peace, goodwill among people (Luke 2:14).
The three wise men (the Magi), made up of Belthazar, Casper and Melchior, representing Africans, Caucasians and Asians respectively, journeyed from the east to bring him their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, portending his kingship, priesthood and eventual death (Mathew 2:1-12). They had journeyed from the east, having done their consultations and divined that the Messiah was to be born at that time. Led by the beauteous star of Bethlehem, they traversed to the west, in search of the man called in some circles as the ‘Desire of the Ages’, to go pay their obeisance and homage to him. Unfortunately for them, their paths crossed with that of the rueful, wicked and over-ambitious King Herod! Having enquired from them and known their mission, he purported to be interested and expressly charged them to return to report to him if they found the child king of the Jews so that he would also go and worship him (Mathew2:1-12). Herod I ruled from 37 to 4B.C. Herod Antipas, his younger brother, was ruler from 4B.C to 39AD and he was the Tetrarch of Galilee who married his brother’s wife, Herodias, whose daughter Salome had asked for John the Baptist’s head on her birthday, after she had done an erotic dance before his uncle (Mathew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 3: 19-20; 9:7-9). The angel of the Lord warned the wise men not to return to Herod as he had diabolical intentions. So also Joseph was warned in a dream to escape to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus. Hence, Herod caused all Jewish male infants of two years and below to be slaughtered, hoping to annihilate and obliterate his supposedly challenger and usurper of his throne. But God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm. So goes one of the hymns in the Methodist Hymn Book (M.H.B). Herod’s rage beclouded his reason, and he caused a carnage and holocaust among the Jews. The Lord incarnate escaped the pogrom or mfecani (Zulu). Herod was blind with power, drunk with unreason and obsessed with evil scheming. He was the devil incarnate and a misanthropist.
The Meaning of Christmas to Ghanaians
To many a Ghanaian, Christmas is a period which portends many things, both religious and secular. Many churches of different denominations and hues lay on their Christmas agenda, making feverish preparations towards Christmas to receive the Christ, who at his death on the cross, had Pontius Pilate causing the inscription INRI to be nailed above his head on the cross. INRI is Latin which translates as Iesus Nazarene, Rex Indaerum (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). Many churches in Ghana practise anthems, carols and some tuneful local compositions and arias which they hope to render on the d-day to entertain guests and members of the congregation. The priests go to town to shop for appropriate themes to use in their preaching on the d-day. You would not be surprised to come across terms like eschatological, Pascal lamb, atonement, incarnation, missiology, systematic theology, great commission, enunciation, agnus dei, nativity, trinity, ecclesiastical, schism, transubstantiation, catharsis, among others. Christmas is the time for those gifted with music, drama, and dance or preaching to share their talents with the congregants. Therefore, organists, percussionists and those who play wind instruments perfect their skills and art. Many households also leave no stone unturned as feverish preparations are made to receive the august visitor at Christmas. Weedy areas are cleared, houses are painted, perhaps a new set of electrical gadgets such as hi-fi music systems, are purchased, among others. There is no Ghanaian who can afford it who will not stop at buying new clothes, shoes, watches and cell phones. Christmas is also the time many young adults organize weddings and birthday parties. Households are decorated with Christmas trees, buntings, drapes, electrical neon light displays, etc. Those who cannot afford such decorations will take it out on their churches where they go to decorate the church which is often the rallying point for all, rich and poor. Some people may not go to church because they are shy of wearing old clothes. Shopkeepers go crazy and they enjoy brisk business as the tempo of sales increases, and they hike prices. Tailors, hairdressers, seamstresses and designers often cannot cope with orders as they are inundated with many orders. Some work around the clock to please their customers. Shopkeepers make sure they stock large quantities of Christmas goods such as assorted fizzy drinks and sweets for kids, biscuits, wedding cakes, Xmas cards, toys, fireworks, gifts and clothes. Business really booms and there is a frenzy of brisk activity in places such as Accra, Agona Swedru, among others. Hotels and lodges record high occupancy rates. Commercial drivers go crazy as they over speed in their mad crave to make quick/bucks. Many road accidents occur during Christmas, especially two days before Christmas. On several occasions, I encountered gridlock between Weija and Kasowa on my way from Accra to Winneba, and I vowed never to go to Accra again when it is a few days to Christmas. Perhaps, the situation is better now. Christmas is also the time that family members travel home to meet with relatives, enjoy reunions and renew family ties. It is also a time to get to know and meet relatives you have not met before. The occasion is used to settle family disputes. In some communities, especially among the Gomoa in Central Region and the Kwahu and Akwapim of the Eastern Region, Christmas is real home coming whereby indigenes are expected to land in style, fully loaded with wads and wads of bucks to splash around in festivities and to donate handsomely towards community improvement projects such as construction of schools, wells, Community Centres and public toilets. Because of high expectations from elders back home, Kwahus, Akwapims and Gomoas work extremely hard in the diaspora to save towards such occasions. They are also very thrifty and frugal, unlike some of us Fantes who are spendthrifts and extravagant. Christmas period is also earmarked for rendering community service, especially during the New Year. Gomoa people are noted for their Gomoa ‘Two Weeks’ and Akwambo Festival during this period. They marshal all the young men and women to undertake voluntary community service, such as construction of roads, repairing bridges and digging pit latrines and water wells, or helping to construct community schools, toilets and clinics. Those who decline manual labour pay a fine. Indeed, some people in Ghana may not taste delicacies such as mutton, turkey or chicken until Christmas time when the arrival of visitors from the Diaspora means more in the local economy and more dining and wining. Young men and women buy many presents which they give to their parents and elders when they come home for Christmas and this is believed to elicit blessings on the giver. I remember in the early 60s, one of my classmates wrote in an English essay or composition titled, How I Spent the Xmas and he wrote, During Xmas, my father assassinated a goat for Christmas!
Down Memory Lane many Christmases Ago
I will take you down memory lane again to give you a lowdown on my recollections and remembrances of Christmas many, many decades ago. Before Christmas, we children would go and cut palm fronds and create some small huts which we believed would house Christmas. Our parents used to buy us fireworks which did not explode. These were sticks like incense sticks, and when you light it at one end, it would flicker with many flickers coming out in star-like formations. I remember in 1957, the year Ghana got independence,I was in primary grade 1. During Christmas at WACRI, Akim New Tafo, my father bought me a rose -coloured short-sleeved shirt with a navy blue-black pair of shorts with braces. It was proper clothes from the store and not ‘otwasen’ (off-the-peg) kind. That was something to remember. I think I was about 6 years old. It was the only proper clothes which I received in my childhood and thereafter, I had to make do with oversized coats and jackets which some elders had discarded. My school uniform of khaki was ‘otwasen’, bought by my mother when she went to the market. I remember in 1959, we had a very beautiful but naughty female teacher who in front of assembly, paraded us as boys who did not wear underwear. So we were to strip to our birthday suits!. One boy called Djan was stripped. Before it got to my turn, I was saved by the skin of my teeth by Master Addo Danquah who bumped onto the scene and ordered the teacher to stop the ordeal. May God bless the soul of that headmaster, whom I believe might have been a relative of the doyen of Ghana politics, J.B. Danquah. Some of my classmates then in 1957 were big boys. I recollect names such as Lasisi Gbadamosi, Delelaki, Raimi, Issah, Obeng, Kwanin, Ofori Mercy, Atta Kyei, Tetteh Kwaku, my twin sister, Atta Asi and myself, Ataa Kwasi. My primary one teacher was my namesake, Mr. Sakyi. He used to wear a white shirt and a white pair of shorts with Achimota sandals to match. I guess he was a trained teacher. One day, in the hot afternoon, he slept off at his desk and his genitals were in full glare. We naughty boys took turns in going to see and attracting others to the scene. My primary 2 teacher was called Miss Amoah, primary 3, Mr. Essandoh, Pry 4, Mrs.Bathrop Sackey, Pry 5, Messrs Pratt, Bonney and Yamoah and Pry 6, Ms. Gifty Arhin. In fact by Pry 3, I had relocated to Winneba, my hometown. My form 1 teacher was Mr. Pratt, form 2, Mr. Ebenezer Ghartey(later Col. Ghartey), Form 3, Mr Otoo Manteaw from Swesco, Form 4, Mr. J.B Arkorful (late). Back to the beautiful clothes I ever received in my life in primary one. By 1959, my old man had proceeded on pension with a large family of 13, mostly girls. My father’s pension of 13 shillings and six pence was nothing to write home about in sustaining such a large number of us, including the extended family in Winneba, who looked upon my old man as a Father Christmas (Santa Claus) and a deus ex machina (solver of problems, as if he had a magic wand!). I remember vividly an oversized fur coat of silk, pink in colour, and one of the regalia of the No2 Asafo Company, which I wore for a long time over a pair of some fancy white pants with small brown flowers embossed over the white backdrop. I painstakingly saved 9 pence to buy those from the Zamarama Apampam Store dealers at Nkwantanan, near Mr. Inkoom’s hardware store, opposite Kojo Alata’s place, and opposite the storey buildings of Papa Akootey and Papa Doherty, a Sierra Leonean immigrant. I never wore shoes until aged 16 years, when I went to teacher training in 1966. Back to Christmas remembrances, as I was digressing as usual. The Christmas of 1964 was a bitter one to me and my entire family because my father’s elder brother passed on.
He used to be a catechist of the Winneba Methodist Church in charge of Nsuekyir Parish, about 6 kilometers from Winneba. It was indeed a black Christmas. As my father had gone on retirement in 1959 from WACRI (now CRIG) at Akim New Tafo, we settled down in Winneba, our hometown. The old man was formerly a cooper, making barrels which were used to export cocoa, palm kernels and lime juice. He had worked in places like Nsaba, Abakrampa, Asebu, Adzentamu, Swedru and other places before converting to become a Mason bricklayer, which trade he plied at Tafo. He was among the pioneers at WACRI who put up the building at ‘Quarters’ in the late 1940s. Being a mason, he undertook old construction jobs, even at his advanced age in order to make ends meet for the large family. Being the only boy, I was permanently at the end of his tether and I stayed with him in the male house, while my numerous sisters and nieces stayed at Ponkorekyir at my mother’s house, Maame Sasaw/Mansah’s house, behind Odebi Pramado, where General Nunoo Mensah hails from and also late Prof Atta Annan Mensah. I used to accompany my late father (he passed on in 1971 and my mum in 1997) on his rounds, as he teamed up with his old friend, one papa Kwaw Bondzie, whose trainee was called Kwesi Bakare. I used to work together with Kwesi Bakare to fetch water, mix mortar and the most arduous of all the chores, lifting up heavy six inch blocks for our fathers on scaffolds to lay them. Sometimes, we tried to use the plumb rule, trowel and plastering board to try antics. I liked very much flooring or cementing floors and doing the screeding chores. Once, a big hammer fell on my left big toe and I was done. The nail finally came off after a big swell. Some of the houses we worked on were made of mud, yet we had to take off the plastering and put on a veneer of cement plastering. One of the tedious jobs in masonry is doing concrete work at the corners and lintel levels where you had to chuck between the steel wicker works for the concrete mortar to set. If I had put interest and mind to the job, I would have by now been a master mason by profession and not a chalk pusher or teacher. I mean I would have been an operative mason. I guess I wanted to escape from the abject poverty so I did not put my mind to anything manual, as I thought book work was superior, or theory surpassed praxis. Of course, had I had the chance to go to secondary school, I would have definitely done engineering as I often thought myself to be the next Euclid or Archimedes or Pythagoras or Pascal. Really, I was very good at mathematics and my fertile imagination always ran riot with geometry. I also enjoyed lurid and intricate algebraic derivations, whereby after a proof, you usually appended the acronym, QED quod errat demonstratum (I have demonstrated what is required of me). For example, I figured out in form two that an inscribed circle in a square occupies 11/14 of the circle while an enscribed circle with a square inscribed, occupies 7/11 of the circle. When you multiply both ratios, you get ½. Therefore, the inscribed circle is half of the escribed circle. (98 is half of 196 while the area of the circle is 154. The ratio of 154 to 196 is 11:14). Back to old man. I guess my old man did not charge much for the contracts as he often knew most of those he worked for. Despite the fact that Winneba is a fairly big town, if you probe very deep into relationships, you come to the conclusion that almost everybody is related to one another in a very close way. Even my current wife is related to me because he comes from Nnekyi family and my father was called Kweku Nnekyi, alias James Sackey. In 1962, at a place near Anglican School, my father had a wealthy client, a fairly old aristocratic Fante woman. She contracted my late younger sister and myself to fetch water for the project at the princely fee of fourteen shillings. That was the money with which my late father used to procure my standard 4 basic text books, comprising Reader’s Digest, Red and Blue Books, Fundamental English, Limpback Exercise books, hardcover note books, A West African Mathematics by Mardell, Short History of Ghana and other materials like water colour boxes and brushes, T.R Batten’s Tropical Hygiene, among others. These were purchased cheapily from the Winneba Catholic Mission Manse which had subsidized books. The money was not enough as I had to engage a Senior called Asomani to sell me some old books which were badly stained and splashed with ink. At that time, our school prefects were Peter Ali, Ewool and Egyir. Our football captain at Boy’s School was called Ayirebi. There were other prefects like Essel, Wallace, Ninsin, Hanson, Kobena Wankyi and Kwesi Tompoli. The books sold at the Catholic Church were far cheaper than those sold in town in a place such as Sufflet House. On one Christmas occasion, my father won a contract to go paint the house of my father’s cousin, popularly known in Winneba as ‘Most Important’. She was of the Amoasi family. At the time, I could smell Christmas in the air as harmattan mist lay thick on the air, blurring visibly and creating a white Christmas euphoria. There was also the unmistaken cool breeze, wafting along from the sea. My Auntie, ‘Most Important’ game me some crackers and gem biscuits, with lemonade and sweet portello. Of course, my father, despite our abject poverty, would lay on a special treat for us and our neighbours on Christmas morning. He would open his box of crisp Christmas crackers and dish them out to all and sundry, amid the usual salutations of Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. One naughty boy once said the salutation should read ‘Mary Christmas and Joseph New Year.’ Even though I was a teenager in the 60s, I had far older cousins whose children were much older than me, perhaps with children, some of whom could be my age. I was, therefore doted upon and venerated by old men and women who often called me cousin wherever I went. That was much to my discomfiture and embarrassment. This was mostly on my father’s side, from the Ayirebi Acquah, Quaison-Sackey, Yarney Ewusi, Abbiw Jackson, Richter, Browne, Acquaye, Dickson, Brew and Anancie families at Adansi, Ogyaye, Penkye, Kormantse and Ndaamba. On Christmas day, we would receive many visitors from the diaspora, those working in Accra, Cape Coast, Tema and Takoradi. Most of them were my nephews, even though they were 30, 40 or 50 years older than me. Those older nieces and cousins of mine would spoil and dote on me with rice water (rice porridge), poposo (maize porridge), mankeni mpiwee (mashed cocoyam with palm oil, spices and salted fish). I was also treated to eburow na nkatse (roasted corn and groundnuts) which unhelpfully, have ruined my teeth. My more elderly male cousins and nephews working in Accra and Takoradi (oh, they were so many), would arrive on Christmas eve and put up at the only guest room opposite my father’s room, with a parlour in between, and a cacophonous cohort of ladies at the other side of the house with six rooms. We had a small window of about 2 feet by 2 feet linking us and the women at the back. They used to rile my father, their uncle, grandfather and great grandfather. Many were the altercations that ensued between them and my short -tempered late father.
The Sackeys of Winneba are known to be fearless, educated and descendants from Akwamufie, Nana Kwafo Akoto and also half descendants from Mfodwo and James Town in Accra. My father’s cousins were professors, engineers, lawyers, artisans and educationists. There was Acquaye, Sackey of London etc etc. On Christmas day, many dishes of food would arrive from benefactors, wives and consorts/concubines of my myriad relatives and I had the duty of mastering which plates, cover clothes, baskets belonged to who. I think I displayed early adroitness as a chef/pantry boy and storekeeper in putting things in their proper place. And I was handsomely rewarded for keeping the plates spick and span, and delivering them to their proper destinations after the consumables had been consummated. Oh boy, I was extremely responsible, condescending and at their beck and call. I conducted my business with éclat to the admiration of all. Some of the visionary ones among them predicted that I would be an engineer, a doctor, among others. But none ever said that when push came to shove, they would chip in to tide me over to see me through to secondary school. They did not put their money where their mouth was. I eventually ended up a teacher, like Confucius of Lu, who taught Ren, concern for others and Li proprietary behaviuor. Confucius earlier on had wanted to be a politician but when his family lost their property and they became very poor, he condescended to become a philosopher and teacher in 500 B.C., during the time of the Greek sages, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato. I became very religious and took my church work and obligations with avowed zeal. (I am still very religious to the core but not outwardly). The Methodist Middle Boys’ School at Winneba had a strict regimen from austere teachers who made sure we went to sing at church on Wednesday evenings and during Christmas. At Christmas, we had to erect a Christmas tree by cutting a branch of a fir tree and decorating it with gifts, banners and neon lights. We also performed biblical plays of the Annunciation and Nativity, and other apt themes.
In 1970, after completing my 4-year teacher training college at the age of 20, I got stationed at Twifu Hemeng Kotokyi Denkyira, where I doubled as a catechist with a Fante Elder of the church and my Landlord, Opanyin Edusah. Later, I transferred to Nsuekyir near Winneba. I was appointed the Methodist Youth Fellowship Secretary from 1970 to 1975, when I went to Legon. We used to meet at Wesley Hall near the cemetery for white colonial expatriates (Aborofo Esie) and the cemetery for the Winneba Royal Family, near the estate of Opanyir Arkhurst. The Chairman of the Youth Fellowship then was my former teacher, late Mr. S.K. Nkrumah of blessed memory, also an educationist at the Winneba District Education Office. I doubled as the Treasurer and kept the collection money. We organized debates, had insightful lectures and organized many games. We also had outreach evangelical assignments, which took us to places such as the Winneba Prisons Yard, Nsuekyir, Mankoadze and other places. Once, we hosted the Accra Methodist Youth Fellowship and it was a great honour and privilege for me as Secretary. No wonder, in 1973, I was selected as ambassador to represent Ghana at the World Assembly of Youth Seminar on Family Planning in Nairobi in March, along with Mrs. Efua Sutherland Addy, who was then at Ackimota School. She later became the Minister of Higher Education under the Rawlings Regime. In the same year, I represented the Ghana Methodist Church at the Billy Graham Spree Convention in London in September. Our Youth Fellowship at Winneba had dynamic youth leaders like Prof S.K. Quartey (my teacher at Komenda and later Pro Vice Chancellor at UEW), Mr. Kofi Kuranche Taylor, Mr. Paapa Halm, Mr. S.K. Tetteh, and Mr. Ayensu Ghartey. Mr. V.E.R Blankson, Mr. Blankson (biology teacher at Winneba Sec), Mr Anthony Howard, Mr. K.K. Mills Robertson, Mrs. Baawah Idun, among many others. I was also elected Secretary of the Winneba Methodist Teachers’ Union, comprising teachers from the Methodist Boys’ and Girls’ Schools and the Integrated Primary Schools. The young people of Winneba established the Winneba Young People’s Union (WYPU) and I was the first to be elected Secretary to be followed by K.K. Mills Robertson and Kweku Yamson or J.N. Yamson. WYPU carried out many laudable community-based activities such as harvesting a large field of maize belonging to the Life Corps Unit at Sankor, and undertaking town cleaning exercises in conjunction with the District Council and NUGS, led by Cann Tamakloe at Cape Cpast University. The Winneba Methodist Youth Fellowship was richly blessed to be occasionally graced by eminent Winnebarians such as the late Mr. M.H.B. Yarney (Singing Band Organist and Composer), Mr Yarney Jnr (former Headmaster of Winnesec), Mr. R.R. Okyne (my former principal at Komenda), Dr Alex Quaison Sackey (my late cousin), Mr. H.E. Mills Robertson (late), Mr. A.B. Yamoah (my late head teacher, teacher and friend), Mr. Aidoo, Mr. Fletcher (Winnesec), Mr. Kittoe (Swesco), among others. The Methodist Church at Winneba has seen halcyon days. Christmas at Church in those days was such a glamorous occasion. What with the great singers such as Maame Beatrice Sackey, Alice Hammond, Acheampong (Abasa), A.B. Yamoah, J.O.K Sekyi, Taylor Sackey, Quarteylai Quartey, H.E. Mills Robertson, Samuel Yeboah, Anthony Kwesi Howard, Keelson, Bilson, among others. During Kofi and Ama Collection on Christmas day, it was a big do of who was who, as the august guests strode majestically to the front of the church to cast their widow’s mite, amid finger-pointing of eminent people such as Prof Yarney Ewusi, Prof Kwesi Dickson, Prof A.B. Wright, Prof Kwamena Dickson, Prof Ebo Hutchful, Prof Acquaye (UST), Prof Evans Anfom (UST), Dr Don Arthur, Prof Abbiw Jackson, Prof R. Okyne Jnr, among others. Sometimes, it would be my uncle, Nana Sir Ayirebi Acquah (of GET fame) or Kojo Halm (Veteran broadcaster at G.B.C). Sometimes it would be Wonderful Dadson (former Principal of Nyakrom Training College) or Rev Assiaw Dufu (formerly of Komenda) or Prof B.A. Dadson (Dean Chemistry-Cape Vars). Christmas time would see a full complement of the choir as those in the Diaspora would turn up. We had the musical saw, played by Mr. Micah (late), a relative. My elder brother, J.O.K Sekyi of Guru Ruhami Satsan Beas, still plays it. The musical saw is a wonderful piece of musical instrument and I wonder whether many people know it and are aware of its threnodies and awe-inspiring performance. The Methodist Church at Winneba at Christmas time was par excellence. They would sing perfectly difficult anthems such as ‘ Jesu Joy of Man Desireth (Bach), Alleluia Chorus (Handel), ‘Unto us a child is born,’ ‘The heavens are telling of the wonders of the Lord,’ among others. You should have seen the earthquake generated by those spirited performances and the rendition of those anthems in their contrapuntal cadences, with the organists charged and possessed in the ethereal realm. I remember great organists such as Mr Arkorful (late), V.E.R Blankson, C.C.T. Blankson, Ebo Hammond, Yamoah, Brew Riverson, Attah and Bessa Simmons.
In 1959, the resident superintendent was Rev A.N.P. Koomson, followed by Rev J.H.Hammond, followed by Rev Awotwe Pratt, Rev Cudjoe, Rev Bassaw, Rev Bournful, Rev Entsuah Mensah, Rev Kittoe, B.A. Dadson, Rev Yarquah, among others. Those were exceptionally gifted and qualified preachers who had exquisite command over the English and Fante languages, and the theological content of their homilies. Some of the guest preachers who made indelible mark on me included Rev Yedu Banmeman, Rev Stephens, Rev B.A. Dadson, Rev Dr Agbeti and Rev Thompson. Some of the resident junior ministers stayed at 1920 and others at the Arkhurst building above Narrow Way Stores near the Royal Mausoleum on Commercial Road. Former head teachers at the Winneba Methodist Boys’ School included Mr. A.B. Yamoah (late), Mr. H.E. Mills Robertson, (Late), Mr. Browne from Senya (who went to the USA), Rev Markin (Obo), Mr. J.F Acquaye (late, my uncle), Mr. Mensah (late) and Mr. Kweku Ewur Ghartey (heard of him but long before I was perhaps born.)
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
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