Wednesday, February 14, 2007
In the beginning was…PAA GRANT
· And the UGCC
*The big six – Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Obetsebi Lamptey, Ako Adjei, William Ofori-Atta, J.B. Danquah and Akuffo Addo.
By: MRS. SARAH ESI GRANT-ACQUAH
EXCERPTS FROM RECOLLECTIONS
Director (rtd.) GES
Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah went to pay his respects to Mr. George Alfred Grant in his office one afternoon after Court in Sekondi.
Paa Grant, as we now know him, was surprised when he saw Dr. Danquah because he had been thinking of him concerning his dream about this country. Mr. George Alfred Grant was a member of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS), member of the Legislative Council and member of the Provincial Council.
He was instrumental in many development projects, including the introduction of street lighting and pipe-borne water supply to Sekondi and Axim Districts, and the extension of Sekondi Hospital.
Paa Grant had much respect for Dr. Danquah. They frequently met at Legislative Council meetings in Accra and he considered Danquah to be dynamic and a man of substance.
By this time Papa, as we his children used to call him, was old and he was convinced that Danquah was the person with the right qualities to lead the struggle for Independence, but he was surprised when he saw Danquah on this specific day. He said, “Danquah, you are a Godsend, you are the only person who can make my dream come true. Our country is drifting down the drain. If you are staying overnight, could you come and see me”? They agreed on 7:00 p.m.
When they met that night at Paa Grant’s house, namely Beach Crescent House, Grant asked Dr. Danquah, “Could you get some people like you who could help us to get these Europeans out of our country? If you could, I would be happy”.
Paa Grant told Dr. Danquah how he felt about the country’s decline under the colonial government. He said this had haunted him for sometime and because of that he had gone to Cape Coast several times to discuss this with some prominent lawyers like Messrs Sackeyfio Sekyi, Abaidoo, Chief Moore and R.S. Wood and other members of the ARPS, but he did not get any favourable answer from them. He said if Danquah could get the interest of some of his lawyer friends from Accra they could discuss this important dream of his.
Paa Grant was a political activist but he was also a hardworking native son of the Gold Coast, who had been trained as an entrepreneur from his youth in the Ivory Coast and Gold Coast.
He started out as a messenger in the Cote d’ Ivoire, where his father had sent him to work, because he could not speak French, but through hard work, he grew to become a successful merchant trading in timber, gold and rubber. He also had shops.
The Historians wrote:
Quoted from Ghana Celebrities by Dr. Ephson.
George Alfred Grant was born in Beyin, Western Nzema, on 15th August, 1878. He was the son of William Minneaux Grant and Madam Adjuah (Dwowa) Biatwi of the Aboradze Clan. Mr. George Grant’s grandfather was Hon. Francis Chapman Grant, a Scotsman, who was one of the earliest merchant-princes of the Gold coast and a Legislative Council member from 1863 to 1873. Hon. Grant was also one of the leaders of the political agitation during the days of the Fanti Confederation from 1867 to 1874. He even agitated for self-government at that time.
George was educated at the Cape Coast Wesleyan School and privately under the care of Joseph D. Abraham, a wealthy merchant of Cape Coast, who was a friend of his father William Minneaux Grant.
Early Business Experience (quoted from Life and Work of George Alfred Grant by Dr. Ako Adjei).
After completing his education at Cape Coast in 1894, George Alfred Grant settled at Assini in the Ivory Coast. It was in the Ivory Coast that he was first introduced to the business world to work and earn his livelihood in a humble position. He was employed in 1895, as an office messenger by the firm Messrs. C.W. Alexander and Company, who were timber dealers and general merchants with considerable experience, substance and tradition in business. Mr. C.W. Alexander, the chief partner in the firm, was an African who had his education in Sierra Leone.
As a messenger in the office, the person under whom George Alfred Grant worked directly was Mr. William Taniki, who was then the Chief Clerk of the firm. The salary paid to Mr. Grant was fifteen shillings (15/-) a month. However, he did not grumble. He kept the appointment and did his work cheerfully and with diligence and consuming interest. He was loved and admired by all his superior officers. Mr. C.W. Alexander, the Manager, took a particular interest in the insignificant office messenger, whom he early suspected as a young man with unusual abilities and prospects in business.
In the meantime, George Alfred Grant continued in the employment of the firm. He was promoted from the rank of office messenger to become supervisor of labourers operating in the bush. His salary was also increased from 15/- to £3 a month. This was an exciting and pleasurable experience for the unassuming young man, who was destined to be the wealthiest and richest African. Mr. Grant continued to work for the firm in the bush as supervisor of labourers for eight months. Upon his return from the bush and back in Assini, Mr. Alexander advised Mr. Grant that he should go and get his own timber cut and ship independently on his own. This was good advice, but it was difficult for Mr. Grant to act upon the advice immediately. He felt that he was economically insecure and he needed a fairly substantial financial outlay to start on his own. He therefore continued to work for the firm for a short while.
After a long reflection over the advice, George later made his first attempt to start his own timber business. He cut and shipped five logs of timber on which he spent all his wages while he was still in the employment of Messrs C.W. Alexander & Co. He did not make any profit in this first attempt. He wept because of his failure. He wanted to resign from the employment of the firm of Messrs C.W. Alexander & Co., but he could not. He continued to work in the field under Mr. W. Taniki, the Chief Clerk of the firm.
In his second attempt, Mr. Grant cut and shipped six logs of timber. In this attempt he made a profit of £180. This gave him much hope and encouragement that he had the ability to achieve success in the timber business. This was in the year 1896. With the success in this second attempt, Mr. George Alfred Grant resigned from Messrs C.W. Alexander & Co. and started on his own as an independent timber merchant. Mr. George Alfred Grant used his well-earned profit of £180 to purchase two logs of timber which he shipped and realized an amount of £900. According to Mr. Grant, this was his first big success in his timber business.
From this modest beginning, Mr. Grant continued his timber business with phenomenal success, which eventually earned him the enviable and undisputable reputation as the “First Among the Merchant Princes of the Gold Coast”…
Quoted from ‘Ghana Celebrities’ (by Dr. Ephson).
Trading under the name George Grant and Company, by the time the First World War broke out in 1914, George Grant had established many business connections with the Principal companies in the timber industry both in England and America.
These principal companies overseas chartered steamers and sailing vessels to Axim to enable George Grant and Company to supply them with timber. As a result of the increased growth in the business, he visited England and, for that matter, Europe, to open offices in Hamburg, Liverpool and London. George Grant was able to purchase a German minesweeper manned by German and English crew.
The ship sailed to Axim and George Grant traded conveniently between Half Assini, Axim, Sekondi and Cape Coast. Unfortunately the ship grounded at Axim. He kept a number of launches to continue operations in the timber trade, calling as far as Winneba and Sekondi. Before the Second World War broke our in 1939, George Grant had transferred his timber business to Sekondi, Dunkwa and other parts of the Central Province and extended his trading business to the provinces.
By the end of that war, his timber activities had extended from Anyinam in the Western Province, through the Central Province, right up to the French Frontier in the Western Province. He was among those appointed as advisers to the Gold Coast Government during the timber control period regarding the arrangements for the exportation of timber for the British Government. Grant’s opinion was accepted as that of an authority in the timber industry.
Upon Kwame’s arrival, father’s car went
to Takoradi Harbour to bring him
Thenceforth until his death, he concerned himself mainly with politics, for he had made enough money in trade and now decided to turn his attention to freeing his country from British rule.
I remember that Papa complained about the behaviour of the colonial masters, nearly every day. During that historic evening when they met at Beach Crescent House, he shared his experiences and told Dr. Danquah that he felt the Europeans were cheating the Africans too much. They were not fair to Gold Coast citizens in many things and areas of governance. Through his business operations, the suppression of indigenous people by the colonialists became very clear to him. There were many colonial practices that were unfavourable and unfair to our people. For example, he was not happy about the way in which the Europeans calculated the price of labour. He thought it was unfair to the labourers. Father suggested to J.B. Danquah that they form a group which would eventually oust the Europeans from our country and restore the dignity of our people. Dr. Danquah did his assignment as quickly as he could and got Lawyers Obetsebi Lamptey, Akuffo Addo and Ako Adjei on board.
This is what started the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and these were the men who started it as far as I remember Mr. George Alfred Grant, Lawyers J.B. Danquah, Akuffo Addo, R.S. Blay Obetsebi Lamptey, Ako Adjei, Francis Awoonor Williams, deGraft Johnson and Mr. William Ofori Atta.
When they started the meeting, Lawyer Ako Adjei, being the youngest, was appointed the Secretary. I also knew him to be a very dedicated and committed member of the group. Later, I found out that I had known his wife Theodosia at Achimota and we remained in close touch until the end.
After Ako Adjei had worked for about two years, he decided to resign from the post because he felt the role was taking him away too much from his work. Father agreed to his resignation but insisted that he nominated a substitute for them. That was when he mentioned Kwame Nkrumah’s name. The name rung a bell in Father’s ears, and he said he knew a Catholic teacher in Axim with that name who had left the teaching field and had gone abroad. Ako Adjei confirmed that Kwame indeed was the man. Father then asked Ako Adjei to write to Kwame to invite him. At their next meeting Ako Adjei brought a letter from Nkrumah accepting the invitation to come to the Gold Coast.
Father then went to his room and gave Ako Adjei £100 to be sent to him. Father was spontaneous whenever it came to financing the independence struggle and other Gold Coast issues. He also helped people out with all kinds of financial assistance. I remember especially that he spent a lot of time and money on UGCC affairs. At each UGCC meeting he always saw to it that the members had lunch and filled their cars with petrol before they left. He told me he did so because it was he who had asked them to leave their various jobs and travel all the way to Sekondi for the meetings. Father was strict and a disciplinarian, but he was also a very kind man. I wish Dr. Danquah and the others were alive. They would have a lot to say about the old man.
Upon Kwame’s arrival in the Gold Coast, it was Father’s car which went to Takoradi Harbour to bring him. Kwame came home to a big welcome. Many strong women were also there to welcome him. Mrs. Grace Ayensu, Mrs. Duncan, Auntie Seguah, Mrs. Vardon, Mrs. Dinah Blay, Auntie Dinah, etc. etc. There was a lot of jubilation on that day. Kwame stayed with us for about four months, before he left for Saltpond when his house was ready.
During this time we became good friends and remained friendly until the end when he went into exile after the coup in 1966.
While he was staying with us, he enjoyed palm-nut soup and would always want to come to the kitchen to have his local dishes direct from the source. We remained in touch after he became President and he would occasionally ring me when he came to Sekondi/Takoradi.
I would sometimes visit him at Mr. Baidoe Ansah’s house. On one such visit he showed me a photo of two Egyptian sisters and asked me to choose the one that I thought was more beautiful. I chose one. Then he asked me if I was sure, before he told me he was planning to marry the other one – who turned out to be lady Fathia. Anyway, he also spent some days at Lawyer Blay’s house. Thereafter, the UGCC meetings were held in Saltpond.
The text of the following letter dated 21st March, 1947 addressed to some forty personalities in the Gold Coast is very relevant:
For sometime, myself and a few friends have met and discussed the alarming state of the economic and political affairs of this country, and have come to the conclusion that the only solution to these problems was an invitation to a few members of the country, who have their country’s interest of heart to meet and discuss these topics; and to resolve ourselves into a Committee to appeal to a wider circle of the public to co-operate with us, to form a National Political Body or Organisation, for concerted efforts in matters of economic, industrial and political, and to raise funds for these purposes.
Our ultimate object is to appeal to all sections of the community in this great movement.
I believe that this is the only sure way to the ultimate success in our national aspiration towards economic and political independence; and being so convinced, I hereby invite you to a meeting to be held on the premises of Mr. Albion Mends at Saltpond on Monday the 7th day of April, 1947, at 10:00 a.m.
This invitation is extended to the attached list of gentlemen.
GEORGE ALFRED GRANT”
As a child, Papa was my hero. I loved him so much. I remember that he hardly slept. He would be up by 4 a.m. every day and work till 8 a.m. when Papa archer the office Manager then came for the work to be sent ahead to his brother Uncle Charlie Grant in the office. Papa would follow up later and work through the day. Because of work he was not always at home.
To keep up with him, I started to go on trek and wanted to travel everywhere with him at a very early age. I also wanted to go to the bush with him because I enjoyed the train ride. There was a cook on the train and the food was always delicious. Whenever we got to Twifo Praso, Papa’s men would carry me on their shoulders for the long walk from the station to his house at Twifo Praso. I remember that monkeys would throw small stones at us along the way and the men would respond. For me it was a big adventure.
Papa was not a proud man and there was never anything to differentiate him from his workers. They were his best friends. In the mornings they would get dressed for the bush and leave in a group holding their axes and happily conversing. There were no chainsaws in those days.
One of my earliest memories was of him working together with the timber labourers. He would wade into the water and stand on the logs using a long pole to separate the timber. I was about six years old. When they came home at night he would join them to play his fovourite game of draughts till long after midnight.
I would sit there with their wives watching them play till I fell asleep. Papa was always at ease when he was with his workers. Gradually, I became more interested in these trips to the bush than staying at home to go to school. Because of this Papa sent me off to boarding school.
Father believed in educating his children. I finished my training as a teacher at Achimota School in 1947. I studied House-craft at first but I had been encouraged to pursue the teaching profession by Miss Alice Appleyard, who was a teacher at the school. However, being a traditionalist in those days, Father did not want me to work. For example, he did not allow our elder sisters to work when they returned from Fourah Bay College in Freetown. He said he wanted his girls to be educated in order to raise their horizons and be good homemakers, not necessarily to be employed. Only our elder brother worked with him in his office, and I suspected the same thing could happen to me. Father was a disciplinarian, especially to his sons.
After completing my teaching training, I was posted to Cape Coast Government Girls School. It was a big fight with Father going to Cape Coast to teach.
After less than one year, I was informed that I had been transferred from Cape Coast to Kyebi Government School. I cried and refused to go to Kyebi, so I traveled to Sekondi to tell Father to write to the Education Department not to transfer me. I was also afraid to go to Kyebi because of the Akyea Mensah murder case.
Father listened to my story told amid tears and said, “I told you not to go and work. You did not listen to me and now that you are transferred you are refusing to go. If you want to work, then you must be prepared to go on transfer if the authorities say so”.
“Akyea Mensah’s case has nothing to do with teaching and school. Nana Ofori Atta is my friend. I will give you a letter for him and you will be looked after”.
So, off to Kyebi I went with my brother Kofi who is now in Monrovia, Liberia. When we arrived in Kyebi the driver asked for Nana’s palace and drove us there. I stayed with Mr. and Mrs. William Ofori Atta, whom I had known at Achimota School.
Mr. William Ofori Atta or Uncle Willy, as we called him those days, had been a teacher at the school. Dr. Danquah’s house was near our house in Kyebi. He used to come from Accra at weekends but he did not know me then. I remember that Dr. Danquah was a gentleman, always well dressed – I liked the way he combed his hair. We became good friends later in Sekondi in the UGCC days and he used to tease me by calling me “President’s daughter”.
After I had been at Kyebi for about three weeks, Father came to visit. That was when he met Mr. and Mrs. Ofori Atta for the first time. Father expressed the wish to see his friend Nana Ofori Atta, so Uncle Willy took Father and myself to Nana’s palace. Nana was surprised and happy to see Father. They chatted for sometime before we left there. When we returned to Uncle Willy’s house, Father and Uncle Willy talked for a long time about the UGCC and its ideas. When Father was ready to leave, he invited Uncle Willy to come to Sekondi to join the UGCC, thanked them and left.
With time, it became clear that all was not well within the UGCC camp. We heard that on several occasions Dr. Danqauh had seen Kwame Nkrumah using the UGCC office letterhead to write letters to the Soviet Union. Dr. Danquah had reportedly told him that the UGCC had nothing to do with Russians and the Communists, so he should stop using their papers.
This apparently infuriated Kwame and from that time he had different ideas and started traveling widely to Takoradi, Tarkwa, Obuasi, etc. At first the UGCC thought he was traveling and spreading the Good News for the UGCC, but eventually they realized that this was not the case and it became increasingly clear that he was forming his Party.
For example, it came to the notice of the UGCC members that there was a big gathering at Tarkwa in Mr. Ackah Watson’s house, uncle of Kwame Nkrumah, without their knowledge. They were also informed that he had some of their own men doing his underground work for him.
I remember once there was a meeting at Cape Coast Town Hall and the hall was full with people, including Paa Grant, Kwame, Nkrumah, Blay, de Graft Johnson, etc. After the prayer to open the meeting Kwame Nkrumah spoke, Paa Grant spoke. As soon as Danquah got up to speak there was an uproar – some of the young men disrupted the meeting throwing about chairs and insulting everybody – Paa Grant and all. This confirmed to them that what they heard was true.
So, they decided to call Kwame to Paa Grant’s house for a meeting – only Kwame and the Founders. As they were settling down to start the meeting they heard some commotion downstairs, so Dr. Danquah went to the window to verify what was going on.
I personally witnessed this event. There were about 50 supporters of Kwame noisily beating drums and singing:
“Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah aye wo den?
Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah aye wo den?
Nyē hon na wo kra no ma ofiri aborokyir bei a ?
“Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah aye wo den?
For each verse they replaced Dr. Danquah’s name with that of the Founders – Papa’, “Ako Adjei” etc. I recognized some of these supporters as frequent visitors of Father. One of them was Pobee Biney – TUC Gold Coast Railways. When they saw Dr. Danquah, they became more agitated. They started insulting and calling his name.
This was the time Dr. Danquah asked, “Who are these verandah boys” ? Paa Grant was able to calm them down for a while. He came down once or twice to do so.
With time, it became clear that all
was not well within the UGCC camp.
By this time it was late and I remember that my stepmother asked him to be careful and pleaded with him to stop and ask his members to come and have lunch. He retorted, “Look, we are talking about the country here, not food”.
Meanwhile, the shouts grew louder. They started calling Kwame to leave those big heads and come downstairs. Some were hoisted on the shoulders of others clamouring to see what was going on inside. Some of them then rushed upstairs to take Kwame away amid insults. There was nothing the members could do. Kwame shed some crocodile tears, wiped his tears with his white handkerchief and said there was nothing he could do but to resign. The boys took him away and that was the end of his Secretary-ship with the UGCC.
Before this Father had started his new office at Adum in Kumasi with about four office staff members. Mr. Ahobour and Mr. Ayeh Kumi were among the staff.
Mr. Ayeh Kumi became one of Kwame’s staff members at Flagstaff house. I remember the late Krobo Adusei, a young energetic newspaper seller, who used to bring his papers to the office to sell.
He had a sort of symphony which went like this – “Morning Post, Spectator eh, Daily Echo…”. We liked his songs very much. Young Krobo also used to bring some sort of siren to our house and this brought a lot of people to the house for Father to tell them about UGCC which Father did willingly. Mr. Krobo Edusei also became a Minister in Kwame Nkrumah’s Government.
As soon the British Government heard about the UGCC, they started crippling Father’s business, but he was undaunted. To start with his name which was embossed on the 1st Class coach of the train because he was a regular traveller, was ripped off. He did not take notice of it. He was determined to fight. When the trains stopped bringing his logs from the hinterland to the harbour, he ordered some long vehicles to cart his logs to the harbour. Then the ships stopped taking his logs to the UK. You should see his logs piled up with his initials marked on each log. It was pathetic.
Soon after the war in 1946, R.T. Briscoe came from South Africa to understudy Father. Father took him round to all his concessions. They were working nicely when a law was passed banning round logs to UK. Briscoe and Father then decided to build their own sawmills. Father built his sawmill at Kojokrom while Briscoe built his at Essikadu in Sekondi.
They got busy building their sawmills and they did that in no time. When they finished they applied for power to run their mills. Briscoe’s applicant was promptly attended to and so got supplied with power, but George Grant’s application was delayed for a while, then the inevitable happened. A big rejection, forcing George Grant to resort to gas to run his sawmill. When you travel along the Accra-Takoradi round and get to Kojokrom, look on your left and you will se the dilapidated sawmill which was too expensive to run on gas.
So Papa really helped R.T. Briscoe, whose company became renowned in Ghana. Although Briscoe was so grateful to Papa, is it not ironic that Briscoe’s business thrived while that of Papa, a citizen of the Gold Coast, died soon after the struggle began?
When Kwame and the others were imprisoned, Father was also put under house arrest. A British Police Officer in Khaki uniform came to patrol at the house from 6a.m. to 6p.m. daily to make sure that Father did not go to the office. I witnessed this myself. The children in the house used to taunt him but he seemed not to have taken notice of them, he just went on pacing up and down.
Father defaulted in paying some taxes because his sawmill was not working properly – he was taken to court for nonpayment and faced the threat of imprisonment. This made his blood pressure shoot up, and it did not subside till he died.
When Father became ill, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah used to ring to find our about his health. Suddenly he stopped ringing. When he came to Takoradi after a long silence he rang me at Dominica House, Sekondi, where I lived with my late husband, Howard J. Christian, and I asked him why he had not rung for so long.
He claimed it was Mr. Gbedemah and others who had stopped him from ringing and going to visit Papa. When Father’s illness became serious he was taken to Axim. It was then that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah rang to say he was going to Axim to visit Father at the last moment. Father died two days after.
All UGCC members came to the funeral. I remember how Dr. Danquah wept like a baby at the funeral. I will never forget this. He was a genuine man. Dr. Danquah’s memorial to Father at the funeral was that Paa Grant was the Moses of Ghana politics because he did not live to see the Promised Land, which was the Independence he had struggled to attain. Paa Grant’s image was put on a postage stamp, but that also did not survive – Who can tell why?
Thus it came to pass that Paa Grant (for so was he called in reverence to his age and personality) fathered the famous United Gold Coast Convention, a national movement found to emancipate the Gold Coast from British rule. He became its first President, with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as the Secretary-General. Among the executive members of the Convention was Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah, doyen of Gold Coast politics.
He was himself no new man to Gold Coast politics; for he had been at the Legislative Council for a brief period from 1926 to 1927 as a nominated Member for the Western Province.
During that period he was responsible for:
- Recommending the extension of pipe-borne water supply to Sekondi and Axim.
- Introducing more street lamps in Sekondi, Tarkwa and Axim.
- Building the Sekondi Post Office.
- Extending the Sekondi Hospital.
- Building more schools in the Western Province.
- Checking a devastating plague, which decimated many families in Ashanti and the Colony, by recommending more doctors to be appointed.
But he was now advancing in age, and in 1955 he suffered an attack of apoplexy from which he never completely recovered. He died at Axim after a protracted illness, on 30th October, 1956, aged 78.
“We speak in name of inherent residual sovereignty of Chiefs and
people in free partnership with British Commonwealth for our country
to be saved from inept and incapable Government indifferent to
suffering of Governed.
Sons of Gold Coast men slaughtered in cold blood upon Castle Road
cry out for vindication in cause of freedom and liberty.
Firing by Police and military going on this morning.
Let King and Parliament act without delay in this direct hour of
Gold Coast people and their chiefs.
God same the King and Floreat United Gold Coast”.
- The Author is the Daughter
of PAA GRANT.
Daily Graphic - Wednesday, February 14, 2007. Pages 15, 16, 33 & 34