About the book
From the Land of Diamonds to the Isle of Spice is a first book by Sigismond Tucker in which he tells a compelling story about his family connections between Sierra Leone and the Congo. Through his personal friendships whilst growing up in Freetown, he introduces the reader to various significant political events in the history of his country, its customs and traditions, drawing attention to falling standards over the years. His marriage of destiny to Joan Celestine from Grenada provides the material for the second part of the title of this fascinating tale but saddened deeply by the unexpected passing of their son Joe at the age of 32. May his Soul Rest in Peace.
About the author
Sigismond Tucker was born in Hastings, Sierra Leone in 1944, and grew up in Freetown, Congo Town and Murray Town. He was educated at the WAM Collegiate Secondary School and worked as a Clerk to the Justices in the Supreme Courts Masters Office prior to travelling to England in August 1971 to pursue further studies. He gained both a National Diploma in Business and PublicAdministration at the Bolton Technical College, and an HND in Personnel Management at the Stockport College of Technology. He worked as a civil servant in the Unemployment Benefit Office, West Didsbury from 1976 to 1983, and later gained a BA (Hons.) degree in Political Studies from the Manchester Metropolitan University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Careers Guidance and Education at the East London University, before his appointment as the Community Careers Adviser in the Moss Side District of Manchester. He moved to London in January1988 to work for Brent Education Careers Service. Finally, he joined the London Borough of Southwark, Connexions Service in January 2005 working for the Prospects Careers Limited in Schools, Communities and Training Providers as a Personal Adviser until he retired in October 2009. He is married to Joan who moved to England from the spice Island of Grenada, and worked in the NHS as a Senior Staff Nurse. They have two grown up daughters, and a late son Joe who sadly passed away at an early age.
This is a true story, which encompasses two Republics in Africa. Sierra Leone, in West Africa and Congo-Brazzaville in Central Africa.
Most of the characters in this story carry their true identity, but others have been given fictitious names to protect their identities.
This story began 19 years before I was born as Sigismond Humble Tucker alias ?Humble? on 1st October 1944.
Around 1925, three good friends left the Port of Freetown, Sierra Leone on a merchant ship. The first, Christopher Williams, later became my grandfather, I.T.A Wallace Johnson who later became a well known if controvercial journalist, trade unionist, and politician both in Ghana in the 1950s and Sierra Leone in the late 60s until his death; and the third friend the less well known Mr Thompson.
The merchant ship arrived in Matadi, a famous Port in the Congo, to stay in Port for about a week, discharging merchandise and uploading fresh cargo. But, even in those days, sailors would go into the main town seeking excitement, amusement and entertainment.
Accordingly, the three friends went into town for a drink and ended up in a bar owned by an American business man who had lived in the Congo for some time, and had established businesses all over Brazzaville. They impressed him with their fluency in English, and more especially Christopher, so he enquired of them ?Where do you three come from, and what brought you to Brazzaville?? ?We are seamen? Christopher answered ?and we shall be going back to Freetown in a week?s time.? ?How much salary do you earn working on that ship?? They earned less than he could offer them. He explained that he came from America, and had amassed huge wealth doing business in Brazzaville. He proposed to these three men that they should consider working for him; he liked Christopher especially, and wanted to pass on some of his business responsibilities as manager of most of his stores.
After some negotiations, they agreed terms, and the three men never returned to their ship. They remained in Brazzaville long after she had sailed. Christopher moved to an interior district called Ouesso, with a very rich town much like Kono district in Sierra Leone with Yengema where most diamonds are mined. Diamonds remain one of the main sources of income in these two countries. However, Kono District in Siierra Leone had always been full of foreigners from all parts of the world, especially the Lebanese in great numbers. Originally, they would come to do small business in Freetown, but intending to move to the diamond mining areas. Whereas the Conngolese government only allowed indigenous Congolese to settle in Quesso. This major difference has caused serious problems in Sierra Leone for decades, as I shall reveal later in the book.
Having stayed on, Christopher became well established, and became an efficient business manager quickly. Naturally, he soon decided to get a girlfriend, and started an early relationship with a beautiful Gabonese lady, by the name of Caroline Tikalé. They went out for a few months until he came across a very beautiful local lady by the name of Fatoumata, originally from Senegal. Their romance developed, and eventually they got married. They were blessed with two daughters named Janet Lillian and Beatrice. The former subsequently became my mother.
Christopher had a sister who lived in Hastings, Kossoh Town in the outskirts of Freetown called Lillian Cole alias ?Mamma Lillie?. She had an only son by the name of Joko Cole also of Kossoh Town who worked for a shipping company in Cline Town in Freetown.
After many years in Brazzaville owning several businesses, and having amassed considerable wealth, the American decided to end his sojourn in Africa to go back to America. Behaving somewhat strangely, he unexpectedly called Christopher and said, ?I?ve had enough, you have been an invaluable business colleague all these years. I feel that it was time to return to America, and I want you to have the rest of the businesses?. Christopher couldn?t believe what he heard; it was like a dream.
Thus, Christopher became the owner of this vast business empire with his wife Fatoumata and their two daughters, Janet Lillian and Beatrice. Already a wealthy man, he had quite a number of people working for him. Servants carried him everywhere in a hammock like a Chief, as a practical symbol of his wealth. During one of these outings his entourage came across a buffalo that had been shot. Unbeknown to them, the beast had only been injured, but not killed. Christopher asked his men to put him down, so he could take a closer look. Sadly, the buffalo then attacked him so ferociously on his chest, causing some serious injuries from which he never fully recovered until his death a few years later.
By this time the two girls were growing up nicely in the Congo. Christopher did contemplate sending them to Kossoh Town in Hastings near Freetown to be cared for by his sister before his death. But, when he suggested this idea to Fatoumata, she would not yield to him saying, ?over my dead body? as their tribal custom did not allow for children to be separated from their family.
With his very good persuasive skills, though, they agreed a compromise, and agreed that Lillian should be taken to Kossoh Town to live with her aunty. Beatrice remained in the Congo with Fatoumata at Quesso until she got married and moved to Pointe Noire. Fortuitously, Mr Thompson had planned to travel to Freetown, and he undertook to escort Lillian to Kossoh Town as a 12 year old girl who spoke only Lingala and Bakongo. She took along her birth certificate, Congolese passport, traditional clothes, and lots of money to help Mama Lillie with her costs. Her Congolese family did not see Lillian again until 1988 at a much delayed family reunion! One can imagine what this little girl felt on her arrival in Freetown; a strange land and speaking a strange language. Everybody called her ?Congo girl?. Her sick father, Christopher, died a year afterwards.
Mr I.T.A. Wallace-Johnson stayed in the Congo for a few years and had some children who had Congolese names, according to tradition. Luckily for me our Congolese family carried both the Christopher Williams and the Congolese names, which assisted me greatly in tracing them later. For example a cousin of mine is called Christopher Tamod Williams. Mr Thompson went back to the Congo and settled down, had children again carrying Congolese names. One of his sons is now Professor of Economics and Development in the University of Brazzaville. On a recent visit to Brazzaville I met them when they came to introduce themselves as having origins from Sierra Leone.
A son of a poor Creole family born in 1894, Wallace-Johnson became a British West African workers' leader, journalist, activist and politician after emerging as a natural leader in school. After attending the United Methodist Collegiate School, for just two years, he dropped out to take a job as an officer in the customs department in 1913. He lost this job in 1926, and left Sierra Leone to become a sailor, a decision that would take him to the Congo on that fateful voyage with Christopher. He joined a national seamen's union, and it is believed that he also joined the Communist Party, in 1930.
Within a few months of returning to Nigeria in1933, the authorities deported him because of his illicit trade union activities. He traveled to the Gold Coast, where he quickly established himself as a political activist and journalist. In 1935, Wallace-Johnson met Nnamdi Azikwe, the future nationalist President of Nigeria, in Accra. Azikiwe tried to dissociate himself from Wallace-Johnson's Marxist ideologies, as he believed his own ideas were not remotely compatible with those of his fellow politician. Both men believed that a renaissance needed to occur in Africa, but they disagreed over the methods of doing so. Each man believed that his own idea would prevail in the future. Azikiwe described his first meeting with Wallace-Johnson as such:
?We exchanged views and I said that while I thought that it would be practicable for Africans at this stage of development to experience an intellectual revolution, yet an extremist or leftist point of view would be dangerous, in view of the unpreparedness of the masses. He countered by pointing out the fate of Soviet Russia, where the masses were illiterate and impoverished, and yet when Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky sounded the clarion, they rallied round them and a new order emerged. I warned him that his analogy was false, because Russia was unlike West Africa; the political, social and economic situations were different. He told me point blank that if Africans depended upon intellectuals or leaders of thought, they would not get beyond the stage of producing orators and resolution-passers. It was necessary for doers or leaders of action to step on the scene and prove that the African has a revolutionary spirit in him.? - Nnamdi Azikiwe, My Odyssey: An Autobiography (1970). These were men of substance at a time of high intellectual standards in West Africa, and one felt proud to be alive then. Sadly, Africa, Sierra Leone seems to be still waiting for those doers or leaders of action to provide that elusive proof of our revolutionary spirit.
After meeting Nnamdi Azikwe in 1935, he formed the West African Youth League (WAYL), an organization dedicated to obtaining more liberties and privileges for the Gold Coast population. Wallace-Johnson and the WAYL entered the Gold Coast political scene by supporting Kojo Thompson in his successful candidacy in the Legislative Council elections of 1935.
He returned to Sierra Leone in 1938 and established a number of labor unions, a newspaper and a political movement. He remained a troublesome activist until his arrest on 1 September 1939 under the Emergency Act adopted at the start of World War 2 earlier that day. Wallace-Johnson was put on trial without a jury, and received a 12-month prison sentence, which he served on Sherbro Island before his release in1944. He returned to political activism, but found the WAYL in a state of disarray. He merged the league into the National Council of Sierra Leone, but left for Ghana just before their independence gained on 6th March 1957. He studied journalism, politics, and worked in Ghana for several years embracing Pan Africanism under President Kwame Nkruma with whom he had a very good political relationship. He enjoyed much love and affection in Ghana and had family there too. He had a son in Sierra Leone called E.B. Wallace-Johnson, a well known National Football Association referee; he also took part in Sierra Leone Athletics, and was later appointed Director of National Sports.
After many years in Ghana, Mr I.T.A. Wallace Johnson finally returned to Sierra Leone, and settled down at Wilberforce Village. He opened his own small press and edited his own newspaper. Added to that, he actively engaged in politics as a founding member of the United Progressive Party (U.P.P). He served as a delegate from Sierra Leone during independence talks in London in 1960. Also, as a member of the Board of Governors of the West African Methodist Collegiate School, our alma mater, he provided regular support and advice to the principal, Mr J.A. Garber. The Freetown based U.P.P's main campaigning idea claimed that Freetown belonged to the settlers freed from Slavery who returned home and settled in Freetown. A party with such ideas could not penetrate outside Freetown, and therefore could only win seats in Freetown local Council elections. Around that period, people like Bankole Bright, Columbus Thompson, J.A Galba-Bright, Alderman E.R.G Davies and many more from ?settler families? became councillors in Freetown.
Sadly, in May of 1965, I.T.A. Wallace Johnson died in a road accident in Ghana. The Government declared a period of National mourning. When Dr Kwame Nkrumah heard of his death he sent a beautiful gold-plated casket as a gift in recognition of his service to Ghana. At his state funeral held in his beloved Wilberforce Village, the undertakers draped his casket with the National Flag, and the Flag of the Collegiate School.
Finally, I sometimes wondered why we have such towns in and around Freetown, with names like Congo Town, Congo Cross, Congo Market. I often asked myself whether these towns were named as a result of Sierra Leoneans from the Congo coming back to settle in those areas or Congolese coming to Sierra Leone to settle. However, as we never hear any authentic Congolese names in these areas, I am forced to conclude this dates much further back to the 19th century when Americo Liberians immigrated to become founders of Liberia and other colonies along the coast in places that would become Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone.Later, these African Americans integrated 5,000 liberated Africans called Congos (descendants of former slaves from the Congo Basins who never made it to the Americas) and 346 Barbadian immigrants into the hegemony.