ADISADEL ON THE HILL – THE STORY by Rev.
Professor John S. Pobee
Book Review by
President - African University College of Communications
March 9, 2010
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:
- Why is Cape Coast known as ‘Aboodzin Kurow Mu’ ?
- Who composed the School Ode ?
- What is the meaning of ‘homoing’ ?
- What is the origin of ‘Cement party’ ?
- How many students were admitted to the School on 4th January 1910 ?
- For how long was Mr. Orleans Pobee headmaster of Adisadel College ?
- What does Adisadel have in common with Kwabotwe ?
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
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
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 every
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
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
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
- 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
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
"Others have laboured and we share
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
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
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