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Reclaiming our Notre Dame…

BY: Rodney's Potpourri
Rodney's Potpourri
Rodney's Potpourri

Last week, I got a friendly dressing-down over my article on the celebration of the National Chief Imam, with my statement that “there were no railways in the colony” around the same time the National Chief Imam was born, in 1919.

Clarification and apology

The Public Relations Office of the Ghana Railway Company sprang into action by sending me an email stating thus;
‘The construction of the railways actually started in Sekondi in 1898. By 1901, railway lines had been constructed from Sekondi to Tarkwa, a distance of 66km. By 1903, the final section of the construction had reached Kumasi, after passing through Obuasi in 1902.

This, together, rounded up the construction of the western line.

After the construction, the British started using that stretch of the western line. And in 1912, the first section of the Eastern Line from Accra to Mangoase was opened. However, it was not until 1923 that the Eastern stretch was completed from Accra to Kumasi.’

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Then as if to assuage my hurt feelings, the PRO kindly massaged my fragile ego and courted me this thus;
‘Inasmuch as we admire how informative and knowledgeable the writer is, we also believe this error could have been avoided.

It is, however, the hope of the management of Ghana Railway Company Limited that the writer will help us through your informative column to propagate the enormous benefits the railway provides to the nation and also help Ghana Railway Company Limited in educating Ghanaians on the history of this national asset.’
Of course, I wrote back to apologise most profusely for my error, and decided that I would publish the correction as the first item of business today in this column and to apologise to you, dear reader, for the error, perhaps almost a hanging offence, given that I grew up in the railway town of Tarkwa.

 The old Parliament House

The Notre Dame fire

Interestingly, the concluding part of the PRO’s email set me thinking all over again about an issue I had wanted to write about last week, before learning of the National Chief Imam’s visit to the Christ The King Parish and what it symbolised.

You see, having had the chance to visit Paris and the Notre Dame Cathedral a few times, I was rather struck by the recent fire at the cathedral which made news headlines across the world.

The collective national angst at the loss was seen not from a Christian church building perspective, but from the prism of a national heritage monument, with its magnificent Gothic architecture that defined a certain era of French, and by extension, European civilisation, as well as its significance in French history as host to several French presidential funerals and the coronation of Emperor Napoloen I.

I was, therefore, not surprised to learn that some wealthy people had clubbed together to raise huge amounts of money for the repairs, even if some citizens were outraged that individual citizens had decided to donate their own money to this cause, whilst people in other parts of the world starved.

I thought that was extremely weak logic, but it is another subject for another time.

Preserving our heritage

And then my thoughts floated home. I recall that the old Parliament House, which housed our first Parliament and had so much history, was pulled down a few years ago without much public murmur in favour of some ghastly modernist buildings simply with the excuse that it had been damaged by fire.

On our coastlines, our forts, particularly, stand at the mercy of the weather, crumbling into the sea and we seem not to care. We cannot go on like this.

I would, for instance, love to visit a railway museum featuring some of the fascinating items and photographs especially of the industry’s bygone, golden age in this country.

We must begin to take the preservation of our history and heritage seriously.

We cannot and must not adopt a philistine approach to these monuments by sacrificing them at the altar of bread and butter. They do matter too.

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)