By Gladys EO Strasser-King
“Now praise we great and famous men
Who graced their generation
Who helped the right and fought the wrong
And made our folk a nation”
These words written by William G. Tarrant can best summarise the characteristics of the man I am about to immortalise.
I came to know the veteran Prof and Mrs. Eldred Jones in 1974 when we returned, home and my husband was appointed Lecturer at the Geology Department at the Fourah Bay College (FBC). Our experience with this unique couple became very exciting when we started fellowshipping together at the College’s Chapel. Over the years the relationship grew as my husband climbed the Academic ladder. It is worth noting that this fine gentleman and family were very supportive of all our desires and aspirations, an attribute which characterises his impeccable nature. In those days we looked forward to enjoying the pump and pageantry of University Congregations usually held at the Adjai Crowther Amphitheatre. Such auspicious occasions were usually graced by the presence of Heads of State, Ministers of Government, Parliamentarians and Diplomats. Those were the days when Fourah Bay College was best described a citadel of learning as students came from every corner of Africa in pursuit of quality higher education.
The principalship of Prof. Eldred Durosimi Jones was an epitome of honesty, integrity and hard work; no wonder, on his retirement, he left footprints on the sands of time. The history of Fourah Bay College will never be complete if this household name is not mentioned.
Because of the compassionate and caring nature of this extraordinary gentleman, he was able to maintain his friends. The Late Ambassador C. P. Foray took over from him as Principal of Fourah Bay College to be followed in 1993 by my husband, Professor Victor Esehwanu Strasser-King. These three gentlemen worked hard to ensure that learning is still better than silver and gold.
At a period during the rebel war, Prof. Eldred Jones was magnanimous enough to accommodate his displaced colleagues in his residence. They included our family, Prof. Jonas Redwood-Sawyer and family, Ambassador C. P. Foray, Prof Strasser-King’s father (now late) and Gloria Newman-Smart (now late), He would then often say ‘’This is historic; three successive principals of Fourah Bay College under the same roof’’. Because of the insatiable desire of the learned Professor to impart knowledge he would organise lessons for the children of his colleagues, who were then also housed there, to keep them busy until such time when the situation would return to normalcy.
During my years of development in the private sector, Prof would always give me words of advice and encouragement. He was full of praises when you deserve it, unlike many of our compatriots who never sees anything good in others.
In his Memoire ‘’The Freetown Bond: A Life Under Two Flags’’ Martin Banhan, Emeritus Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies, University of Leeds, had this to say: ‘’Professor Eldred Jones had led a remarkable and distinguished life, the memoire not only covers Eldred Jones’ personal and professional life, but also social and educational development in Sierra Leone over the best part of a century’’
Professor Victor Strasser-King, launching the Memoire, said ‘’Neither age nor physical impairment has diminished Prof Eldred Jones’ appetite for writing. He has always inspired all of us, young and not so young, physically fit and physically challenged’’. These words poignantly describe who Prof Eldred Jones was.
Even though I often travel out of Sierra Leone with my family, the bond of friendship continued as we would exchange telephone calls on a regular basis. On our return home, we would pay regular visits to Prof and wife and we were always warmly welcomed.
We were in London in 2015 when news reached us of the passing of his devoted wife Majorie. We were shocked and lost for words as we all had one thing in mind: Who will take care of Prof? But I am again reminded of the words of Civilla D. Martyn “Be not dismayed, whatever be the tide God will take care of you, all you may need He will provide. No matter what will be the test, lean weary one upon His breast, God will take care of you”
My last encounter with this ‘Durham breed of scholars’, was on Sunday 1st March after service at the Church of Holy Trinity, Kissy Road. As usual, we were both very happy to exchange greetings. He held on to my right hand, shook it long and hard, as if he was saying goodbye. Later on, he tried to call me that same day but my phone was on silence. So long as the memories of certain beloved friends live in my heart I can say that life is good. “All the world’s a stage and all men and women, merely players, they have their exits and entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages”, William Shakespeare.
I was always fascinated by the contribution he made over the years to literature and scholarship in general. His written works shall continue to enrich knowledge throughout this and succeeding generations. These are his legacies for us.
Yes indeed, God took care of Professor, until he had his own home call on Saturday 21st March 2020 at the age of 95 years, nine days after my birthday on 12th March. What a faithful God we are serving.
I can hear Prof saying“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me, a CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS’’