Meeting The Prime Minister

We arrived in Sierra Leone shortly after the country had received its Independence from Great Britain. My roomates, Jim Sheahan and John Weinberg and I were all teaching at secondary schools in Freetown, the capitol city. One evening after school was over, we went to Lumley Beach for a swim.

The beach was empty except for some Ghanian fishermen pulling in their nets. A short time later, two vehicles pulled up and parked behind a group of tall palm trees. A group of people got out and began walking down the beach. There was a tall man in elegant robes carrying a walking staff, two women, and a shoeless elderly gentleman who needed a shave holding the hand of a little boy.  Jim said to us, "See the guy with the staff. I'll bet he's a Cabinet Minister. Let's introduce ourselves."

Jim told the man that we were Peace Corps Volunteers and the man responded saying he was a visitor from Nigeria. Jim then introduced himself to the two women and finally, to the old man.

"How do you do, Sir. I'm Jim Sheahan with the Peace Corps." The old man responded, "How do you do. I am the Prime Minister."

Our mouths dropped. Realizing our surprise, Sir Milton Margai chuckled and said, "I'm a humble man. We are a humble people." A short time later the group went back to their vehicles. They all got into a beaten up old Chevy and, with the Prime Minister behind the wheel, drove off in the direction of Freetown followed by a big black Rolls-Royce flying the flag of Sierra Leone driven by a uniformed chaueffer wearing white gloves.

We had just met Sir Milton Augustus Strieby Margai, the first Prime Minister of Independent Sierra Leone.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.