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FEATURE: The Bishop’s Candlesticks   
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Author’s Note – Though similar events happened in the St Augustine’s College, the story and characters in this book are all a product of the author’s imagination. Any offence is deeply regretted

The historical town of Cape Coast, founded by the Portuguese in the 15th century was the capital of Ghana before it was moved to Accra in 1877. The Cape Coast castle, a huge edifice of doom that sits with a royal elegance along the beech was where most slaves were held before their journey on the Middle Passage. Across the road from the castle was the Anglican Church. The road meandered between these two structures and dipped round mud huts inhabited by fishermen and dirt-littered beaches to the Victoria Park, complete with its bust of the famous queen. Along the beeches, the fishermen often sat smoking, mending their nets and singing the praises of the ninety-nine gods of Cape Coast. The odd fisherman you saw approaching rather surreptitiously from the seaside had probably visited the natural water closet, for in many places, the beeches were sadly, nothing more than glorified toilets.

From the Victoria Park, the road led to the yellow Town Hall, a miniature version of similar administrative centres in the United Kingdom. From here the road crawled over the Fosu Lagoon, home of the god of similar name. Fishermen walked through this lagoon, trailed by baskets attached to their waist and holding nets which they hurled every now and again into the water to harvest the popular tilapia which, when matched with etsew, was a delicacy in Cape Coast . The road then sat quite frighteningly by the sea, separated from it by a narrow strip of sand with tall coconut trees till it reached the St Augustine’s College.

Established by Irish catholic missionaries in 1930, it is but one of the several top secondary schools for which Cape Coast is famous. This all boy institution excelled in many things but had strong competition from bitter rivals and equally good schools like Mfantsipim and Adisadel College. And the girls, Holy Child School and Wesley Girls were not bad either. Because the St Augustine’s College and the Holy Child School were both catholic institutions, there seemed to be an unwritten agreement of friendship between them and indeed, the two schools co-operated in most things. A similar relationship existed between the two Methodist schools, Mfantsipim and Wesley Girls and so on. Every St. Augustine’s boy harboured a secret desire to have a girlfriend in Holy Child and vice versa.

Every Saturday, Augusco boys would troop in their numbers to Holy Child, all impeccably groomed. It did not matter if the shirt you wore or the nicely polished shoe was borrowed, you just had to be seen in Holy Child every now and again. Visit your sister; visit your aunt, your cousin or your niece. It did not matter. A visit was a visit, and you had to be seen. They would go, and when they had run out of things to say, would relate events in Augusco over the past week – who had stolen what and who had been suspended. Everything that happened in Augusco was news in Holy Child. However, surprisingly very little news ever travelled beyond the walls of Holy Child. The girls basically kept quiet and turned the boys into laughing stock.

There was the occasional scandal generated from childish trivia and testosterone-fuelled stupidity. Five students from Augusco had decided one night to go to Holy Child and teach some girls a lesson. One of them had jilted his girlfriend and to get her own back, the girl had written to his friends to say he suffered from premature ejaculation. The boys had crawled up through the forest around the hilly Holy Child at around 8 pm when the girls had been at prep. They had stolen quietly into the girls’ dormitory, lay on their beds and taken photos of themselves. They had then picked up souvenirs of panties and braziers and then, disguised in balaclavas, had headed for the classroom of the former girlfriend where they had forced the frightened screaming girls to stand on their tables and hold their ears. The nun on duty had heard the screams and run over but she had been overcome and forced to join the girls. After gesturing and posturing for a few minutes, they had bolted with their souvenirs. The girls had not been fooled. The authorities in Augusco had been alerted, an urgent roll call had been held and the five boys had gone back to school to find teachers waiting by their beds. Even long after they had been dismissed, they would sneak in every now and again to wild cheers and applause from admiring students. Thus were heroic status attained in Augusco in those days.

On your normal day, however, the relationship between the two schools was cordial and the Bishop’s Candlesticks, the school band of St Augustine’s, would often perform in Holy Child. This was an event everybody looked forward to. As the old St Augustine’s School bus bearing the famous musicians and their instruments laboured up the steep hills of Holy Child, leaving in its wake a thick fog of pungent smoke, the girls would run amidst wild feverish screams to meet them.

Ebo B!! B!! Ebo Ebo B!! Ebo B!!

This was Ebo Bentil’s day. The girls loved the shy, quietly spoken, tall handsome lead singer of the Candlesticks.

Ebo B!! B!!

The screams would continue as lesser men alighted and began unloading musical instruments.

Ebo B!! B!!

As the school prefect of Holy Child and a few senior girls would converge near the bus.

Ebo B!! B!!

As the great man would finally get down from the bus amidst deafening cheers, a broad but uneasy smile on his face, henchmen in tow. You had to be within the Ebo B circle of friends. I f you were a girl, you had to know somebody, who knew somebody who knew Ebo Bentil. He was monarch of all he surveyed.

Before the show began, the boys would go through the tiresome ritual of tuning their instruments. It would begin with the keyboards man playing one key after the other while the guitarist; neck craned and with a face contorted as if in pain would tune his guitar, stopping occasionally to gesture frantically to the over-enthusiastic drummer to quieten down. Sometimes the impatient girls would burst into song

“All we are saying don’t waste our time!”

To the melody of the John Lennon classic, Give Peace a Chance, to which the Augusco boys in the audience would respond;

Oooooooooh Saaaaas!!!!!!

Whatever that meant! But it was all good-natured fun, inspired by the intense anticipation, with no harm intended. Finally, silence! The drummer would roll, and the keyboards man would begin the melody to the Bob Marley hit,

One love, one heart, Let’s get together now Feel alright

And finally the great man would appear, and you would not hear a single line he sang. Sometimes, while he sang, screaming girls would lurch unto the stage, kiss him and slip passport pictures into his pocket with their names at the back. Back in school, Ebo Bentil would sit down with his friends and amidst jokes and laughter would go through the passport pictures and decide who Ebo should pursue. The rest would then be generously passed on to friends, henchmen and everyone else.

Look out for subsequent serialization of Papa Appiah’s forthcoming novel, The Bishop’s Candlesticks, in your popular Ghanaweb

[email protected]

Appiah, Papa
Source: Papa Appiah www.papaappiah.blogspot.com

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