After being introduced to the familiar cultures of historical societies, it was as an African, with illustrious cynicism looked upon, the way in which the many accounts of mortal life were preserved, some with an almost systematic means of remembering the eras of their existence; that life accounts lost almost everything in meaning the closer examined to their death. Indeed, the obituary in any simple newspaper often alludes to the irony: when they see your death, then they will know what life is...

In spite of this, there is in the absence of life and its history, also knowledge acquired, since life often seems to engage in a debate to prove itself; if anything, in a debate to substantiate an incompletion. Therefore, as a modest addition to any formal assortment of events relating to Fredrick Sherman Macaulay, relating to, as history is defined, “significant events” more so than just events in his life; I felt it most necessary to contextualize my own view of him as man and grandfather, since it was a role like many who find themselves engulfed in the pluralism of their social life, that he performed both instinctively and purposefully. An overcoming like father, like person, that was absorbed into the greater workings of his identity, which is perhaps reason for the explanation given then, to any narration of his life.

Fredrick Sherman Macaulay was father to my mother and Aunt Anita or preferably Ola, often termed as Papa by his daughters (and the term daughters is not to suggest that both women were anything below 25 years of age in hindsight), and an estranged husband to my grandmother who chided him when ever they were together as Alfred and for me and my two sisters as well as cousins, commonly referred to as Grampa.  His only son died shortly after birth.

In the early 1970’s and well into the 1980’s, he lived in an earth fractured hamlet structure on the more populated lower side of Bumpe; though much of such descriptions take into account that such was reasonable habitation away from the bushes, in front of which Maraka or Sarakulae men every so often, engaged in the play of Ancient Wari. Macaulay, my grandfather for the most part spent time back and forth to Freetown and other areas; but particularly to Bat’s Street Brookfields, where he found a familial place to relax in suspenders, white vest and pants or like a typical African, a casual short sleeve patterned print shirt with buttons.  Seldom could there be play in his room except perhaps some allowance given to admire the camel figure he used to role tobacco cigarettes or inhale the aroma residue of his pipe. He also found place in the home of his daughter Ola in Kingtom, as well as his many sisters he visited during his trips in between Freetown and Bo.  Physically, he was a slim man, and in retrospect of current fitness emphasis, one could consider him an unspoken guru in that regard. He sported a baldhead that displayed a perpetual shine with two rows of slick hair above both ears as side. What invited most when out of view was his laughter, which often ended with inner wind scrapes to the upper portion of his mouth. It was raucous laughter, that in obvious symbolized perhaps amity with his parliamentary associates or if not, something he developed in teaching over the years that made his scholars sense that they were a part of an implicit strictness. Without a doubt he transferred this certainty to all, including his family - with biblical parables, African proverbs and tales that he reinterpreted from text books and the heritage of life; from the complexity of Shakespeare’s The Tempest to the wisdom of the Chicken and the Cockroach, to the fascinating stories of Aladdin and Ali Baba and a host of situation narrations from his experiences. His favorite phrase being, even among his old scholars, performed in English with wide eyes:
If I beat you, will see stars with wings!

F.S. Macaulay was also an unapologetic lover of films, especially the manner in which they brought the text books of history to life and an appreciator of the variety of pan-African music available, such as Nigerian Fela, American Soul - James Brown, and Caribbean music, Roaring Lion and Mighty Sparrow, over and above the cynicism of Sierra Leonean Kalenda, which seemed a necessary part of any effect of Freetown Krio and its linguistic aura. This imagery of civilizing fact and fiction was projected, whether in a common uproar of enjoyment in 1974 at the Freetown Odeon in view of screen literature and history; Oliver Cromwell and Oliver Twist; or at the Globe Cinema in gaze of the Asian amulets of dancing gods and boiling pots on early Indian film which gradually became modern by the late 1970’s onwards - deferring traditionalism by 1976, to the discipline of Chinese martial arts.

Film had been part of the ascendance of Fredrick Macaulay’s contemporary experience when in the early 1930’s he aggravated the cultural norms of his wife’s Sherbo expectations, insisting the name of his  first daughter to be Shirley, after watching the performance of a little American girl on screen, Shirley Temple.  Yet his life was not a film but the real act of Sierra Leone. This boldness was exercised beyond the naming of his daughter to whom he capitulated eventually adding the name Yema in the Sherbro tradition of second female child, having lost a first born son. Yet, there was no indication that F.S. Macaulay was a devout enthusiast per se to be swayed by any manner of fanaticism during his life. Still, he could be given picture of, as an educated person; a characteristic which stood out above all. 

It was education that distinguished his personality, laid his reputation, and maintained the appearance of his formal expertise, notwithstanding as an organic African.  For instance, narratives have it that in the early days when his wife Violet fell ill and was taken to a local spiritualist in a village town then was delayed in the process of failed cure after cure, Macaulay would not have it! So on his return from mission, Macaulay pulled his wife from the bosom of the spiritualist, with a fearless and reverential shout against any form of cultural experimentation. He at once loaded her on public transport on route to the nearest hospital.  For F.S. Macaulay, Africa may have been existent by learned rule, whether traditional or modern; and this was evidenced in his acquired Mende country-cloth robe or his little suitcase filled with documents, hard-pressed shirts and ties; not subject of any result of war, savagery or villainous craft. Thus he was always filled with cautious warning about traditional demeanor, conduct and ways.

In September of 1978 courtesy of my grandfather with one phrase, I was alighted at Christ the King College boarding school in Bo, with him in character as grandfather and intellectual traditionalist. Soon that same phrase was found in the pages of Chinua Achebe and in the annals of British literature:
the heights that great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight for they while there companions slept were toiling upwards through the night. Again, years later in 1985 as I departed for an American tour, he was in blind state quite cautionary with his wisdom, suggesting: Let your acquaintances be many, but let your friends be few. It was in this manner F.S. Macaulay’s routine presence shaped the lives of others and by the time of his death, he was perhaps one of the few Sierra Leoneans who could recount local Sierra Leone history as far back as when he was a boy, not as a recent component. He spoke of relatives like his younger brother, long traveled by ship, conflicts with British colonialists, African immigrants from sea and migrants by land into Sierra Leone and how this fusion contributed to language.

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of Fredrick Sherman Macaulay was the assumption that he was from the Caribbean. On the contrary, his father Fredrick Sylvester Macaulay (1850-1944) through his own father Chief Chikosi’s Congo Town’s  affiliation with Zachary Macaulay and certain aspects of Christian conversion on the one hand and secularism on the other, that gradually acquired the honorarium as retained associates of Zachary Macaulay (1768-1838) who was an influential 18th century British philanthropist, abolitionist, estate manager in Jamaica turned Governor to Sierra Leone 1793-1799. It was this compound populace, migrant Congolese and Yoruba tribes some of whom inter-married with local Mende and Temne ethnos, that formed a rich part of the complex of Freetown culture; comprehensive of the Caribbean element.

There is much to add about the man and his politics, from his precarious cocktail disposition for instance, to his cohesive service as speaker of the Sierra Leonean Parliamentary House under Steven’s APC, which is not included in his biography, to the sickle scar above his eye. Indeed, he was a life-force. Therefore, the narrative of F.S. Macaulay’s life like all conversion attempts, closely encounter extraordinary political and social changes in existing values and memory. This is evidenced in the person of Nigeria’s Herbert Macaulay for example, suggesting if anything, the many transformations of West Africa, those relating to British colonies, Pan-Africanism, as well as family.           

Gbujama J.M.

Thursday, January 15, © 2009



(Circa. 1904 -1986)

Hailing from Chief Chikosi in the Congo and Prince Manna Massaquoi both his great grandfathers, Fredrick Sherman Macaulay was born in Mofwei Bumpe Chiefdom in the Bo District on 25th September 1904, son of Fredrick Sylvester Macaulay Snr., formally of Bo and Congo Town and Madame Lucia Brainard of the Mende Massa family of Mofwei.

As a young man the late F.S. Macaulay was set apart from thirty two siblings and brought up by his uncle the late reverend D.B. Roach through whose influence he attended the Model Primary School and the Methodist Boys High School.  On completion of his school career, he joined the government service as a surveyor in 1922, constructing several roads in the Eastern and Southern Provinces, particularly in the Pujehun, Kenema and Kono districts.

At the end of his days as a surveyor, he worked briefly in agriculture at Njala and at the United Africa Company. Encouraged however, by Reverend Herbert Thomas, F.S. Macaulay entered the Methodist Mission, first as a lay worker and later as a Teacher,  serving in several places including Medina Sebureh and Gerehun Sogbini in the Bonthe District and later, Kent in the Western Area. In 1934 he married Violet Keitel from the Bonthe District where she taught at the Methodist Mission School at Gerehun-Sogbini. Two years later, in 1936, the Macaulay’s gave birth to Shirley Macaulay ( later Shirley Yema  Gbujama ) who in the breadth of time became Sierra Leone’s earliest female emissary, OAU and United Nations Ambassadeur, National Consultant, as well as Foreign, Social & Gender Affairs Minister.    

After several arduous years at the Methodist Mission, on the strength of his performance, he received a transfer from Kent to the Government Teaching Service in the year 1939 and was first posted to the Bo School for a very brief period from where he was moved to Jimmy Government School and later to Koyeima School.  He retired from the government Service in 1955 while at Koyeima where he had been an effective Nature Studies Teacher, Boarding Home Master and Cashier for ten years - his most notable scholars being the Sierra Leonean politicians, Harry Williams and Francis Minah. 

Returning to his home chiefdom headquarters of Bumpe he was called upon to head the Bumpe Native Administration School, which by this time had transformed into a District Council School. Having served there close to six years, he finally left the teaching field in 1961, the year of Sierra Leonean national independence. 

With the advent of Independence,
FS as he was popularly known became interested in politics and with the nickname Gbongon! (Like the sound of a clanging bell to which he would reply Gbangan!), he succeeded twice to the District Council seat where he had become a tribal authority until the time of his death. 

He was appointed Justice of the Peace in the year 1962 by Prime Minister Milton Margai and in the following year 1963, he was appointed President of the Native Administration Court, a post he head for ten years until 1973.  As his career advanced he had to leave the court of his own volition to participate in national politics for a seat in parliament which he won and became Honorable Member of Parliament for Bo West Constituency.

During his days with parliament, he was very persuasive and effective with his back bench colleagues, mainly because of his connections in the Western Area, the Southern Province and his perfect knowledge of the Temne language which he acquired while staying with his uncle Reverend D.B. Roach who had been on transfer in the Magburaka area in those early days.  After one inning in Parliament it became necessary for him to take a bow because of his age which was now fast advanced at 74. Three years later in 1977, Violet Macaulay was taken of sudden illness and died, while in accompaniment of their daughter and family in New York.

In endurance and spirit, although he had left parliament, the late Pa Macaulay continued to be an effective and influential part of the politics of Bo West Constituency, in commission as a pioneer member of the APC party in that area.  Shortly after his parliamentary days, he was appointed a Director of the Sierra Leone Oil Refinery Board by President Siaka Stevens, a post which he held until December 1984 when it was necessary for him to be relieved of his assignment because of a complete loss of sight.

The late F.S. Macaulay served as a lay magistrate in Bo West Constituency Magistrate Court #2 on several occasions and will be remembered as a very firm arbitrator and an expert in the Customary Law and Administration of Sierra Leone.

During his final years until his death, though blind, he continued to recount and serve as a consortium of knowledge in the first hand history of Sierra Leone, often staying with the eldest of his daughters Mrs. Shirley Yema Gbujama and family in Freetown. F.S. Macaulay was also well travelled, having been to India in a Common Wealth Parliamentarians delegation to that country in 1975 and to Ethiopia, US, UK, and France on private visits.  He is in matrilineal; survived by two daughters the other being Anita Ola Bowen currently residing in UK, and several grand lineages; J.M. Gbujama, Amie Gbujama, Lucia Gbujama, Ade Shinor Bowen, Akindele Bowen and their progeny.

© 1986; Edited 2009


As close to the synopsis of F.S. Macaulay’s life it must be added the quandaries that existed in relation to Sierra Leonean nationalism and its growth over the years. The beginning of the 1900’s in Sierra Leone witnessed the end of the Hut Tax War and its tensions, during an era in which few voices were heard in the colonial context. Any attempts towards administrative control in Freetown and the West African colonies were still remotely viewed and controlled by British interests. In fact, history records as result of the 1898 Hut Tax War, a general suspicion of African involvement in the Sierra Leone legislature and colonial government ensued, becoming amenable therefore to altruist philanthropy and the outreach of Christian missionary expansions. Perhaps reason to make general statement that colonial lifestyles were therefore interpreted in terms of Christianized missions, despite any past attempts in the maturing of a nationalized identity of the local citizenry; in terms of British colonial representations more so than local state pragmatism.  It was the era that lamented the unfortunate death of barrister Sir Samuel Lewis in 1903 at the crucial age of 50; just a year before F.S. Macaulay’s birth in 1904 and that of a more intractable nationalist character, Siaka Stevens, born in 1905. Indeed, the dawning consideration must be made, that even the individual who would eventually usher in national independence and formalize a wider and more conventional Pan Africanism, Sir Milton Margai, was but in the course of those years, only 9 years old. 

Yet, Macaulay unlike Stevens, Margai or Lewis had come from a tradition of local intermarriage, beginning with his Congolese grandfather Chief Chikosi to a Mende hand maiden (circa 1840), who was austerely referred to as Mende Ahna; and his father Fredrick Sylvester Macaulay to Lucia Brainard (circa 1890) of the Mende Massa family of Mofwe. Circumstantial testimony must be made, that early colonial accounts recorded by British explorers tell of the Mende woman as she appeared in the colony of Freetown, to be perhaps the most avant-garde and free-spirited of that era compared to the demure upbringing of colonial women.  Therefore by the time of his birth in 1904, localization and its relations were two generations in the making for F.S. Macaulay, with at least forty years in Christian conversionary history as a Macaulay. Gradually, like his father before him, F.S. Macaulay in death would acquire his own engraved cornerstone courtesy of the Methodist Church in Freetown, in honorarium as a memorable pioneer in the development of missionary teaching in Sierra Leone. 

Despite these aspects of his life, in retrospect, by the time F.S. Macaulay reached the age of 40, the philosophical outlook towards Pan-Africanism had progressed tremendously; eventually affecting the nationalist beliefs of those who lived within the colonies - specifically remembered in the person of an associate of F.S. Macaulay, ITA Wallace Johnson. Johnson’s involvement in transnational movements across West Africa, along with the organizational ascendance of an older Herbert Macaulay in Nigeria, ultimately led to the formation of independence factions across West Africa.    Though it may be further rationalized that F.S. Macaulay’s daughter Shirley Yema Gbujama’s involvement with the Organization of African Unity (1972-1976) was perhaps the generational outgrowth of such modifications, however, often appearing more conservative, Macaulay’s local initiatives sought towards the education of the African in the British protectorate (later turned Sierra Leonean Provinces) conceivably will always remain his utmost realization, energized more by the pleasure of teaching than any form of idealism; and this is to consider that his efforts were not only in the direction of large administrative schools but those of native and smaller polities.  It was this category of frontline permeations of local African missions that eventually standardized, forged and translated the connotations of the African beyond that of the idea of Christian literacy. This is most evidenced in the successes of Wole Soyinka and Kenneth Kaunda both of similar African teaching parentage. Through F.S. Macaulay’s efforts as a Nature Study Science Teacher, Native Administration Leader and Judicial Authority of native custom, he thus played his own internal role in the debut the Sierra Leonean character, and was among the early generation of African Teachers to triumph in the interpretations of traditionalist native knowledge, especially in a proximity well know for its history of Islamic growth. However, if summary were made of men such as F.S. Macaulay and the manner in which they attended to the conflicts and changes of their era - reference would be made a 1977 issued Passport, better identified in the tradition of regional literary prose as; The Passport F.S. Macaulay, which simply reads in standardized denotation, distinctive of an African patrician --- Politician.

Gbujama J.M.
Sunday May 10, 2009

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