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Feature Article of Sunday, 8 January 2012

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Down Memory Lane Part 3- Remembrances of many christmases ago

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
Lusaka, Zambia

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