Reprinted from Sierra Leone Studies, New Series no. 11, December 1958
Sierra Leone's Role in the Development of Ghana, 1820 - 1930
(Deputy Director, Department of Extra-mural Studies, University College, Accra)

It cannot be denied, though it does often get forgotten, that Sierra Leone has played a great part in the history of evolving Ghana, in many ways as significant a part as any. The fact that Freetown is no longer the “Athens of West Africa ", that economically Sierra Leone is no great power to reckon with if you want to get on internationally, and that politically she will be the last to attain self- government in British West Africa (the Gambia apart)—these are separate issues, to be fairly examined elsewhere. They have nothing to do with the history of this country’s invaluable help to the then Gold Coast for a hundred years from the last century to this. For those, of the younger generations especially, who know nothing about this history here are a few fragments of it.

   Many people, both in official Britain and in “British” West Africa, know that between 1800 and 1880 the seat of government and the centre of control of the West African settlements shifted constantly from one spot to another, from the Gambia on to Lagos Colony and back again. The full details are set out in the original dispatches and in Claridge, Raymond Leslie Buell, Ward, Hailey,1 and most of the other histories treating this period. These details are actually of no great concern to us here. They were the administrative manoeuvrings of a confused period, the harassed necessities of a quest for direction: is it worth it; shall we come or go; stay or leave; expand, contract, or merely consolidate and stabilize present holdings ?

   It is a fascinating study to-day in retrospect but, to repeat, not very important for our purpose. The only point of interest to us here is to note that in this process of shift and shuffle the colonial Government of Sierra Leone was, for long enough periods, in control of the affairs of “Her Majesty’s Forts and Settlements on the Gold Coast ".2 And one of the practical and necessary results of this was that Sierra Leone, apart from doling out pocket-money to the Gold

1 W. W. Claridge, A History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti, 1915. R. L. Buell, The Native Problem in Africa, 1928. W. E. Ward, A History of the Gold Coast, 1948. Lord Hailey, An African Survey, 1956.
2 See, for instance, Halley, op. cit., 1956 ed., pages 316, 324.

Coast during these periods—often in staggering amounts like £14 9s. lOd. and £89 12s. 51/2d. 1—provided the latter country with personnel to man various posts. This was the first kind of contribution by Sierra Leone to the Gold Coast.

   But put baldly like that the point carries only a straw-weight of importance. The proper way to show the significance of this manpower traffic is to subdivide it into its categories. For there were (a) the purely military assignments, (b) the administrative, (c) the clerical, (d) the educational, and so on. In addition to this classification the differentiation must be made between the European and African groups of personnel thus provided. This is crucial, for while thÁ British officers were foreigners from another world who in the main did their work well then went away or died, the Africans were in comparison sons of the same soil from next door, some of whom also did their official work well but then stayed on to take root in their new home. One such individual Sierra Leone African, for example, was J. Bright-Davies, important to the Press history of Ghana.

   Gold Coast Dispatch Book, “Letters to the Gold Coast, 1874—87,” is now in preservation in the Sierra Leone Government Archives, at present lodged at Fourah Bay College. In this volume is set out the story of how Bright-Davies came to be sent to Accra. The letter from W. W. Streeton, Esquire, Administrator-in-Chief, West African Settlements, sent from “Government House, Sierra Leone, 8th May 1880 ", and addressed to H. T. Ussher, Esquire, C.M.G., “Governor-in-Chief, Gold Coast Colony,” offered the services of Mr. Bright-Davies, then aged thirty-two, as Chief Clerk in the Colonial Secretariat at Christiansborg. It read in part (transcribing the comments of the Colonial Secretary):—
  “3....that Mr. Davies’ handwriting is excellent and that he is a good accountant and possesses considerable ability. That he is at present the Editor of the most influential paper here (the West African Reporter) and that he thinks with a short experience he would be found suitable in every way for the Chief Clerkship in the Colonial Secretariat at Christiansborg.

1See Gold Coast Dispatch Books of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the Sierra Leone Archives, for numerous examples.
2Under custody (and reclassification) of Dr. Kup, editor of this journal as well, to whom the author of this article is much indebted for the unearthing of part of these records.

4. From what I know of Mr. Davies personally, I agree with the description of him as reported to me by the Colonial Secretary and Treasurer.” 1

   In dispatch No. 13, dated 16th June, 1880, Mr. Streeton acknowledged Major Ussher’s reply of the 25th May asking that Bright-Davies be offered the appointment forthwith and sent to Accra. But before the new Chief Clerk of the Gold Coast Government Secretariat left home for his new station there followed a triangular series of correspondence between him, his home Government, and the Gold Coast, the nineteenth-century subject of which would tend to evoke a twentieth-century smile every time.

   In gist, Mr. Bright-Davies wanted a loan—an advance on salary— by which alone he could prepare for this complete change of life and fortune. He had to buy things, meet existing commitments and family obligations, as well as have a reserve fund against the immediate necessities of the new situation awaiting him in Accra. And the amount he wanted ?— £25! But the chances are that our twentieth century smile would have frozen into a slightly horrible mask had Mr. Bright-Davies also left us with a detailed list of what his 1880 loan of £25 could get for him in terms of cash value.

   Anyway the arrangement was eventually agreed and the new Clerical Chief of the Gold Coast Administration arrived soon afterwards in Accra, automatically high in status and presumably quite well-off financially! Barely fifteen years later he was no longer a leading Civil Servant but a citizen of Accra, the contemporary of the Gold Coast’s own leaders: Laing, Brew, Vanderpuye, Sarbah, Attoh Ahuma, J. P. Brown, and Casely Hayford. His concrete contribution was the earlier editorship of the first Gold Coast Independent, which was for that country part of the history of the immensely important last decade of the nineteenth century.

   The case of James Bright-Davies is a good illustration, in the journalism context, of what we might describe as almost an “involuntary” assignment-to-posterity. He was originally sent to the Gold Coast by his Government on demand; he had not spontaneously thought of going on his own as a private individual. Nor was he unique in this sense by any means. As a matter of fact that is the whole point of the story of Sierra Leone’s ancien role: that for

1 Dispatch No. 12, G.C.
2 Copies of the Independent of this and the later series are lodged at the British Museum Newspaper Library at Colindale, north London

generations in the early days of the opening up of West Africa “involuntary” Sierra Leonean expatriates were sent out to the Gambia, Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Dahomey, Fernando Po, and elsewhere by Government, the Church, and the trading firms; and that they went as accountants, clerks, teachers, ministers, and even top administrators, without whom no modern processes or installations in those countries could have been worked.

   The latter owe their thanks in this respect largely to the historical accidents which provided these means, notably to the great emancipation and the moves in Britain which had led to the settlement at Freetown.1 Through the efforts, in many cases the devotion to duty, of these African officials, education and general improvement were brought to the countries named at a rate which would not have been possible otherwise at the time.

   If all of this sounds like “ painting the clouds with sunshine” and no more, let us have some names to prove the point, at

least for the then Gold Coast: Mr. Justice F. Smith, Judge of the Supreme Court; Charles Pike, Esq., C.M.G., Colonial Treasurer; James M’Carthy, Esq., Queen’s Advocate and Solicitor-General; Dr. J. Farrell Easmon,2 Chief Medical Officer; Postmaster Cole and Chief Dispenser Peters; Dr. R. S. Smith, Dr. Sylvester Cole, and Dr. A. F. Renner Dove, Medical Officers and acting District Commissioners at various stations; Peter Awoonor-Renner, silver-tongued leader of the Gold Coast Bar for many of his last years; and Mr. L. E. V. M’Carthy, son of Solicitor-General M’Carthy and himself successively Crown Counsel, Solicitor-General, and Puisne Judge 3; together with many others.4

   1The settlement at Freetown between 1787 and. 1792 was a different matter altogether, of course, from the building of forts on the Gold Coast littoral much earlier on. The aims and purposes could not have been more dissimilar: altruistic and humane in the one case; economic, selfish, and inhumane in the other.
   2 Grandfather of Charlie (Charles Odamtten) Easmon, a surgeon specialist in Ghana at the present time. A grand-nephew is Raymond, of the Sierra Leone branch of the family, another brilliant Dr. Easmon (who could just as well have been a politician or university lecturer as a medical man).
   3Now Sir Leslie, a company director in Ghana and active in civic life.
   4The sources of this information are many: Blue Books, histories, and newspaper records in London, Ghana, and Freetown; an article by yet another Dr. Easmon—tho older Charlie (“M. C. F.”)—in the Ghana Independence com memorative issue of the West African Review of March, 1957; and personal knowledge of some of the people, as well as the facts, on the part of the writer of this article.

   As great a part was played, however, by the voluntary Sierra Leone expatriates of Nigeria and the Gold Coast. The record is replete with the current facts themselves and calls for little documentation. Until his death in March, 1957, at the age of eighty one, Dr. C. C. Adeniyi-Jones, of Lagos, was one of modern Nigeria’s Grand Old Men: a founder of the Nigerian Democratic Party and former long-time legislator, a medical practitioner there for over forty years, and a leading light in Lagos society. Dr. Adeniyi-Jones had migrated to Nigeria in the early part of this century and had reared a notable family there; but all five of his children had been sent back to Freetown for their schooling, the last boy leaving Lagos in 1927. His wife came from the equally notable Freetown family of the Noahs. Of the five children, all three girls married men well placed in the professions and the Civil Service, while both boys have become Medical Officers of Health in Nigeria’s two largest towns, Ibadan and Lagos respectively.1
There are also to-day in Nigeria’s national service Mr. Justice G. Dove-Edwin and Mr. Justice Stephen Thomas, among many other distinguished Sierra Leoneans—like the McEwans—who either went there by themselves years ago to settle and work, or whose people migrated to various parts of the country during the nineteenth century. In the Gold Coast also we had distinguished voluntary settlers like Jonathan Palmer, who came in the 1850s, and his ambitious son Tom 2; Akilakpa Sawyer, son of a settler also, Member of the old Legislative Councils for years, and always a leading lawyer; Crowther-Nicol, another barrister; E. Marcus Jones, a mercantile man; the Reverend J. T. Roberts, founder and long-time principal of the Accra High School, which has turned out citizens of the stature of Mr. Justice Ollenu; and the late Reverend J. O’Reilly, also the founder and long-time headmaster of a secondary school, the O’Reilly Educational Institute.

   Mention of Mr. Justice Dove-Edwin brings us to the case of the fabulous Doves of Freetown and the history they have made in Ghana. This family alone, between about 1880 and 1940, supplied West Africa with a stream of musicians, teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and sportsmen, the number of whom, for so comparatively

   1Populations: 459,000 (+) and 272,000 (+) respectively, according to the 1952-53 census. Now estimated much higher, especially Ibadan.
   2J. E. Casely Hayford: Ethiopia Unbound, London, C. M. Phillips, 1911, chapter xii.

short a time, is not common anywhere. To-day all but one of the brilliant members of the third generation have gone and few are the signs that there will ever again be such a reign of Doves in West Africa. But at the height of their fame and fortune, from the second to the fourth decades of this century, there were five Dove brothers before the public eye.

   The oldest, Frederick William, at one time member of the Freetown City Council and Deputy Mayor, was most of his life a business promoter-politician, who spent his time between Britain, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, and Nigeria, and was a member of the delegation of the National Congress of British West Africa to London in 1920.1 The next oldest, Francis—or Frans Dove as be was called by everyone—became a legend in his own life-time. One of West Africa’s most brilliant and best-known lawyers for over half a century, he became a fabulously rich man who, single-handed, educated his next three brothers in the law and medicine, then his first son and two nephews for the Bar. In addition, he sent some twelve to fifteen of his own children, nephews, and nieces to England either for professions or to finishing-school. Mabel Dove, whom we shall be considering at length shortly, was one of Frans’s most outstanding children—of whom some observers have slyly estimated that there must have been sixty or more.

   The two oldest of these, Frank and Evelyn, were the children of Frans Dove’s first wife, an Englishwoman from whom he was later divorced. Frank became a lawyer and Eve took to the variety stage in England and America. So that in all there were in Nigeria and the Gold Coast at one point in the period under discussion (besides the younger ones), five lawyers Dove and two doctors: giants in their professions, sportsmen of more than local fame, musicians, and philanthropists. There were also, in Freetown meanwhile, the older sisters—musicians and social leaders, the founders and moving spirits, for instance, of the famous Ladies Musical Society.

   Of the men, to get back to our subject, all except himself had been educated to their professions by the incredible Francis. And that is only part of his personal story in Gold Coast history. The rest included the fact that his was the great love of sport which fathered the development of tennis and cricket in West Africa in a big way.

    1The Red Book of West Africa, edited by Allister Macmillan and published by Collingridge in London, 1920. Now out of print and extremely rare (p. 140).