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Opinions Sat, 2 Oct 2010

Tribute to Sam Clegg, our hero!

Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) 1833

Before we actually met sometime in 1988, Mr. Sam Clegg was already a name.

A renowned senior journalist with the reputable national daily Graphic and later its editor during the turbulent days of the revolution, he appears to have had the reputation of being gritty, principled and very professional in his work.

Of course it would be Robert, his younger son, my friend, on whose laps would be entrusted the welcome responsibility of initiating what would turn out to be a lifelong father-son affair (due apologies to Prof. Azumah Nelson). By this time, of course, he would become elevated to Uncle Sam Clegg and then much later between the sons, both the biological and the adopted, become immortalized as the Old man.

The old man is gone! Or as the Graphic would have it, “Sam Clegg is dead!”

Of course in the telling of the story, it would be necessary to point out that Robert it was who virtually destroyed what would otherwise have passed for an engaging afternoon for me with his terrible telephone call. A call so terrible that almost two hours after its demise, I would be left unduly ruffled by some of the details.

I am kept no doubt by the fond memories I have of the old man. These, I would hold and treasure.

I have fond memories of his asking to see me during his visit to Livingstone House, Achimota. I recall the family collision during which our mothers got acquainted. I have fond memories of his use of the word “medicaments” and me wondering silently why he didn’t just say “medication” a term I was more familiar with.

Much later though, it would be proven that Uncle Sam Clegg rather chose his words carefully, a trait he succeeded in infecting Robert and i with. In due course, we would review each other’s scripts and/or speeches with the eyes of hungry lions. Robert would okay my written speech, thereby assuming collective responsibility for it only to turn around ‘hypocritically’ weeks after its delivery to point out an error in a particular phraseology that he had only identified hours earlier. Of course, later, as neighbors in Dansoman, it was easy for him to amble over and cause his trouble with the English language using points earned no doubt from the old man.

I have fond memories of the post-Graphic days when he attempted setting up a private newspaper. Though eluded later by sustainability, Robert and i immediately got summoned to put pen to paper and produce articles for the paper. This we did with glee.

I have fond memories of the feedback he sent when i started writing regularly for the ‘Mirror’ and then later for the ‘Graphic.’ As he chose to put it, “I have been reading you” which as you can imagine, was akin to the approval of the gods. So magnetic was his hold on us and so much his mentoring effect that it was always a breath of freshness and a renewal of sorts to hear from him.

I reserve my fondest memories however for the kind of rich relationship that the Old man maintained with his children in general and Robert in particular who for obvious reasons was the only one i could track. In reciprocation, Robert simply adored his father and spoke endlessly of him. In Livingstone House, i knew for example that Mr. Sam Clegg was a man capable of reading two books simultaneously, knew of his athletic exploits, knew in bits and pieces the professional challenges associated with working as an editor during a revolution, knew which dignitary he had met before and so on and so forth.

I remember the extra vim and impetus he provided for us during Operation 01. At the time, Livingstone House had maintained a consistent last position in two consecutive inter houses athletic competitions. Apparently, we had failed to back spirited jama with matching performances where it mattered most. In Sweet Lower, we launched Operation 01 with the singular aim of catapulting us to the top of 9 male houses. We then rolled out a vigorous training programme. One Saturday morning, the self imposed wicked training got so charged. Robert threw up. Ayamah collapsed in sickness.

Then on D day, who should turn up on the games field but Sam Clegg, adorned in a white cap! The facts would reveal of course what a talented athlete the old man himself had been in the sprints in Adisadel. In all my life however, i don’t know how many fathers came to the games field either to cheer their children or encourage their house teams. Clearly, Mr. Sam Clegg was the exceptional father. This singular act left an indelible print on my mind and often enough, the memory of Mr. Sam Clegg cheering us on the games field would return to me and I would pray for a similar relationship with my own children in due course. As a matter of fact, on many occasions, it was unclear, judging from the camaraderie and the academic arguments etc whether the Old man was the father, brother or friend of the children.

It was truly beautiful and unforgettable. That said, Operation 01 catapulted us from two consecutive last positions to number two; bowing to the more experienced Aggrey House team.

By the time of the wedding of course, he was not quite the same although his warm engaging smile, booming authoritative voice and sheer joy remained irrepressible. By this time, it was obvious challenging times had set in. His spirit however remained undaunted as he proceeded in his humor-laden avuncular ways. On the arrival of his grandson Nii Mantse recently, the old man would declare without either mincing words or batting an eyelid that “I must hold this baby in my arms before i die.” When Robert reprimanded him for talking about death, unrepentant as he was, he reiterated, “Ah, as for me i have told you, so let me see the baby.”

He would have his way, see and hold the baby a week before the outdooring and naming ceremony, collapse three days later and die within three months of cuddling the grandson. And as my friend Robert would put it, “That was the last time we had the Old man, the way we had always known him.”

These are truly sad times. We shall however take solace in Tennyson’s words that “though much is taken, much abides” safe and secure in the knowledge that that which Sam Clegg is, he truly is; our hero.

Beyond this, we shall soldier on till we ourselves are summoned upstairs.

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey

27th September 2010

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi