Days and Nights of Freetown – The Tragedy of York

We diverted one more time to take a look at one of the larger Krio villages called York.  It was the same grid iron pattern that several of the villages had around here but in the centre were a couple of artefacts.  The first was a memorial with an urn atop.  The inscription on one face said “The York Centenary Stone was carved by the York Village Community People in the year 1919 to mark the first 100 years of free slaves settlement created in the village by White/Europeans in 1918-1919.”

At the main crossroads was a more eclectic monument.  On a substantial concrete base were four more concrete blocks and hanging from a metal cage on top was a bell, sheltered from the elements by a rusty old corrugated iron pitch roof.

A father and child were sitting next to a plaque but we smiled at him and he moved aside to let us see this text.  It said “The Town Bell/Fire Bell – This bell was donated by the CMS Missionary to the York Community People Because (sic) of a fire disaster which destroy the entire community in those days and even any people in this community do occupy themselves on either fishing or farming and the fire disaster took place when the people were out of the village in search of their living without anything to alarm the incident this bell hang by one Mr George Pratt regardless of its weight to served as a symbol of notification for fire drawling and sudden death of any prominent person in the village.”

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York Stone

At the heart of that rambling, naive, difficult to follow plaque was a heart rending story of a tragedy that so many places must have experienced.  In most of Africa today, people leave their loved ones behind to go and tend in the fields or fish up on the sea, and when there are no other communication methods, if some disaster takes place there was no way of knowing till you returned.  I wondered how many times the bell had had to be sounded as an alarm since.

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The Fire Bell

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