ADISADEL ON THE HILL – THE STORY  by  Rev.  Professor John S. Pobee
Book Review by 
Kojo Yankah 
President - African University College of Communications
March 9, 2010  





Kojo Yankah

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Chairman and members of the Adisadel College Centenary Planning Committee; Celebrated Former Headmasters and Current Headmaster of Adisadel College; Proud Old, Latter-day and current Santaclausians; Friends of Adisadel College; Distinguished Invited Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen:

For some reason that will be apparent in my effort to meet the expectations of the Centenary Planning Committee, I wish the organizers had introduced a Quizz competition tonight, and made it a condition for all those desired to enter this hall to answer correctly five basic questions related to Adisadel on the Hill. And considering that my one time House prefect in Canterbury House, the late Dr Kofi Frimpong, who was the first host on GBC’s programme WHAT DO YOU KNOW is no longer with us, I would have claimed the right as his fag in 1960 to pose the following questions:

  1. Why is Cape Coast known as ‘Aboodzin Kurow Mu’ ?
  2. Who composed the School Ode ?
  3. What is the meaning of ‘homoing’ ?
  4. What is the origin of ‘Cement party’ ?
  5. How many students were admitted to the School on 4th January 1910 ?
  6. For how long was Mr. Orleans Pobee headmaster of Adisadel College ?
  7. What does Adisadel have in common with Kwabotwe ?

Adisadel On the Hill - front coverLadies and gentlemen, I have read the book, Adisadel on the Hill – The Story as told by an Old Boy, the Rev. Professor John S. Pobee. The book is 230 pages long, spanning 16 chapters, with 13 pages illustrated with both familiar and unfamiliar pictures. The Foreword is written by Justice Akrofi, the Archbishop and Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa; and the Preface is by the author himself. Guided by part of the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, (8-9), and being a theologian himself, well brought up by Adisadel College, John S. Pobee, does not depart from the assignment given him by the management Board of Adisadel, i.e. to write an official history of Adisadel College – the Story. He admonished himself rather quickly with the biblical guidance: all things may be lawful, but not all things are expedient.

Hundred years history of any school, any country, any family – cannot be captured in 230 pages, no matter what choice of lettering is permitted. JS Pobee was highly selective; he chose what he considered was ‘expedient’, very selective in topics he dealt with, but very detailed in his investigation of already known facts. This is the story of someone born in Cape Coast, a theologian by profession; proud Santaclausian (form 1-6); kinsman of the celebrated headmaster Robert Thompson Orleans-Pobee; son of JMS Pobee who taught at Adisadel 1948-1953; an insider, as he aptly describes himself. He has published extensively: 21 monographs, edited 21 books, contributed 113 chapters in books and 115 articles to journals. These are the credentials of the story-teller which speak volumes about the seriousness and the scientific depth which the book has attracted to itself. For the records, let me state that this is not the only ‘story’ of Adisadel College. Earlier books/brochures published have also coincided with special birthdays of Adisadel College:

  • Sixty(60) years of Adisadel 1910-1970 (a brochure);
  • Reminiscences of Adisadel – A Short Historical Sketch of Adisadel College
    by George Mclean Amissah, Afram Publications, 1980
  • Adisadel on the Hill 1910-2000 (brochure);
  • Adisadel College 1910-2005, Anniversary Brochure, March 2005.

But this is the most comprehensive, highly researched, scholarly and eminently readable version one can find anywhere on Adisadel College. Significantly, JS Pobee is modest enough to note that the book we are launching today is essentially part of the story of the Great School and that readers are invited “to also attempt to write their experiences of the school as pamphlets at least, if not books, in the hope that another generation will come to write a further fuller story to supplement my humble efforts.”

Mr. Chairman, Fellow Santaclausians, Friends of Adisadel College, let me promise that I am not going to give you synopsis of what everyAdisadel On The Hill - Back cover chapter of the book contains. The closest I will do is to assure you that John S Pobee has spent a copious amount of time detailing the reasons for positioning Adisadel on a hill, the religious foundations of early missionaries in the Gold Coast, the Anglican, beyond the mere Christian Foundation, the Grammar School differentiation, and the unique selling qualities of Adisadel College. Why were subjects like Classics, Latin and Greek part of the Adisadel tradition; and why did T.J. Drury find it desirable to expand the curriculum of the School by promoting the study of the various branches of Science in place of Greek, for example ?

JS Pobee writes brilliantly, particularly when he has to lace religious philosophical thoughts with his personal experiences. In one chapter he affably titles GOD WRITES STRAIGHT ON CROOKED LINES, Pobee proposes the thesis that ‘history is the arena of the Supreme Being working out the Devine purpose, the actual form of which may not always look consistent with what is believed to be the way of God’. He argues that although Adisadel College may be a Christian foundation, its record on the ground did not always seem immediately to reflect the Christian ethos. And this despite the fact that Adisadel College is a great school.

Listen carefully to JS Pobee’s own story :

“In the Anglican tradition it is customary to go to confession before Easter and at Advent. Having gone to Adisadel before the age of 13, I was hard put to knowing what to confess. In those days, part of our religious-spiritual equipment was the Centenary Prayer Book. I consulted it and some other fellow students who knew more of these things than myself. They instructed me to confess, inter alia, to adultery. I duly went ahead to confess it in my religious zeal. To my surprise the chaplain stopped me in my tracks, saying I did not know what I was confessing to at my very young, innocent, tender age.”

JS Pobee sees from this episode that some of his contemporaries, probably more mature in age than he was, were mischievous and audacious; but he concludes, undeniably, that “the characterization of Santaclausians as ‘rough’ was a signal of an Adisadel spirit which, in his words, was marked by vitality, youthful exuberance, and audacity.”

Compare that experience to one part of the Rites of Passage that qualifies you to be a Santaclausian, commonly called Homoing, the process of making a man out of the fresh student. Consider JS Pobee, a mama’s baby at Adisadel at the age of 12, whose father was also on the staff of the school; being asked to kneel in gravel to pray. What he recalls vividly was like this :

‘The rubbing of a homo’s face was sometimes painful, especially when it came from oldish ones who, having worked hard at home, had developed rather tough and rough palms. The experience of such palms could be rather tough on a well-nigh toddler of a homo.’

The rites of passage for the young Adisco student does not end with Homoing. It continues through Speech and Prize-Giving Day, Founder’s day, Installation of the Head Prefect and the Valedictory Service, which experiences JS Pobee remembers with nostalgia.

  • What is behind the Symbols of Santaclausian Identity - the School Crest and the School Ode ?
  • What is there in a name that you did not know ?
  • How did a School become a College, and why ?
  • What is the relationship between the Gulf of Guinea and Adisadel Hill ?
  • Why did Adisadel students join the Strike of 1948 ?
  • Who are the great headmasters who have taken Adisadel this far ?
  •  What are the landmarks of the unique Adisadel School System ?
  • What is the ‘truth’ behind the Adisadel College – Mfantsipim School rivalry ?
  • And why does the author refer to it in such detail ?
  • And, for that matter, what truly constitutes the Adisadel Spirit, which must be enhanced in the next hundred years ?

You should read ‘the Symbols of Santaclausian Identity’ to capture the richness of JS Pobee’s linguistic prowess heavily affected by classical and scholarly exposure. Listen to this paragraph :

“For those of us in the academy beholden to the Enlightenment model and ideology of scholarship, we are captivated by the propositional style of describing reality. (Think of the appropriate précis for this piece). But reality is not only rational propositions; it is as well, and perhaps more importantly, feeling and emotion. The symbols of Adisadel identity enable us to be ensouled with the emotion and feelings that enable renewal to take place”. (any attempt at précis ? Where are our English teachers ? Mr. Jonah ?)

JS Pobee concludes that chapter rather poetically and emotionally :

“In these symbols (by which JS Pobee means the Crest and the School Ode) the identity of Santaclausians and the mother school on the hill in Cape Coast is refurbished, making them proud to be part of a drama of life and a school. They further foster the bonding of Santaclausians of all generations and thus foster the unity of Santaclausians.”

Mr. Chairman, Fellow Santaclausians, you end up reading JS Pobee’s ADISADEL ON THE HILL understanding much better who you are, and what Adisadel College contributed to your formation. He challenges you to an exercise in soul-searching and self-identification. There are lots of historical accounts where the author does the reader a great service by introducing facts behind the facts. JS Pobee makes his intentions clear at the beginning and drives the reader with him to blend with the conclusions at the end of the last page. There is so much information that readers will be fed with, but even more importantly all of us will be proud to pass on this ‘memorial’ to our children and our children’s children.

In the last chapter of this great book, JS Pobee reminds his readers :

“The move from Topp Yard to Adisadel and the building of the present premises was a drama of the Santaclausian spirit of SELF-HELP. In an age when government resources are strained, the spirit of self help and self-reliance come into their own”.

Both the Adisadel College Management Board and the author intended this book for a wider reading community – Santaclausians and non-Santaclausians alike, students of every subject everywhere, those looking for inspirational guidance and a spirit of self-help and self-reliance. It is a must-read for all ages. ADISADEL ON THE HILL – THE STORY of JS Pobee is a challenge to self-reflection, recalling the forebears, their words of wisdom and their exemplary works, their great and selfless lives as well as their suffering and sacrifices. When remembrance is taken seriously, we will come to agree with JS Pobee that there will be ‘recognition, repentance, confession and orientation to the people’s and values that made Adisadel Great ‘!

The concluding view of JS Pobee, which we are bound to share, is that The Adisadel School Ode expresses theological ideas summed up in memorial when it says :

"Others have laboured and we share the glory

Ours to do exploits and add to their gain

Those who come after will take up our story

May it be worthy of singing again.”


Thank you !


Webmasters Note: The book "Adisadel on The Hill - The Story" is available for sale at the Adisadel College Secretariat in Accra, Ghana. Contact:  Jameel Nettey by phone 0302-255153 or 0244-504947 or Email:

Santaclausians in the USA and Canada, can purchase the book for minimum $25.00 (includes postage) as part of the AOBA-NA centenary fund raising effort. Please order your copies now by contacting:

George Arthur:
Sammy Jacobs Abbey:  571-337-9185,
George Gyamfi:  301-442-7852

Cheques should be made payable to:
Adisadel Old Boys Association
P.O. Box 4608 Silver Spring, MD 20914