FREETOWN and ROMARONG…and Christopher Fyfe



We have seen an article in the online publication the Patriotic Vanguard,  in which the author takes the Mayor of the City of Freetown to task for congratulating the city on the 222nd anniversary of its founding. The author takes issue with the age of the cityreported by the Mayor, saying it is in fact much older and was not called Freetown, but Romarong. He then goes on to claim that the area was never purchased for the Settlers.


This is not the first time the Patriotic Vanguard has delved into Sierra Leone’s history. Back in February 2013, following a caustic article from the Vanguard on the generally accepted details of the founding of Freetown, we published a rebuttal of the points raised (www.natinpasadvantage.com/essays/WHO OWNS FREETOWN.htm ). The claims made in these two Vanguard publications are similar, but they are attributed to different authors. It is quite important to answer these claims, for there is a real danger in their being allowed to gain wide acceptance.


Now we at natinpasadvantage are all in favour of delving into our history, and we spend large amounts of time doing just this and reproducing and/or commenting on historical material. We believe our history holds significant clues to our present situation as a nation and provides pointers as to how we might escape our predicament. We know that any serious historical work must cite credible sources, and this the Vanguard has failed to do. Indeed, the Vanguard fails to provide any references at all, credible or otherwise, for its many claims. Not only that, the Vanguard selects for special vituperation no less a person than Christopher Fyfe, the doyen of Sierra Leone historians. His great sin, apparently, is that his history differs diametrically from the Vanguard version of events.


We are yet to find anyone more authoritative than Christopher Fyfe on Sierra Leone history. In fact he stands head, shoulders and trunk above the vast majority of the competing pack (who incidentally rely on him greatly for their histories)., The breadth of sources he cites is simply staggering: Sierra Leone government archives, British government records including voluminous British Colonial Office correspondence, Governor and Colonial Secretary correspondences, CMS reports, Methodist Mission reports, UMC reports, contemporary newspapers, periodicals and books, other historians, the British Museum, libraries in England and America, memorial tablets in Freetown churches and cemeteries….the list goes on and on. His work could only have been a labour of love. It is doubtful that in today’s age, with its pressures on time and finance, with the deteriorating standard of record keeping (the interested reader is invited to visit the Sierra Leone archives at Fourah Bay College or the Registrar-General’s office in Freetown), with the decline in interest in colonial history after the flush of Independence, given all this it is doubtful whether his work can ever be equaled. To crown it all, he is an excellent writer (as opposed to a mere collector of historical detail), always interesting, humorous, with a good deal of empathy for his subjects, respectful of the traditions and culture of others, and extremely fair-minded, sometimes to the point of generosity, in his interpretations. We believe this man is (not was, for his work lives on) a great ‘Sierra Leonean’, and to prove the point we will be reproducing some of his work in the weeks and months to come. He still has much to offer Sierra Leone.