Tue, 09 Apr 2024 Feature Article

The Day The Sun Refused To Shine

The Day The Sun Refused To Shine

When I was ten years old, we heard rumours in my school that on a day in the coming May [20 May 1947] there would be “darkness” in the world in the daytime!

What? Yes. It was even announced to the whole school by the headmaster, who happened to be our class teacher. We didn’t take what he said seriously, for he was a very lazy teacher. In fact, `i don't remember anything he ever taught us, though I can almost recite verbatim, many of the things my Class `One teacher taught us,

In fact, my Class One teacher was so good that at the end of Class One, I was able to get 100 percent in all the papers he examined us in, and he therefore got me promoted to Class Three, without first going to Class Two!)

And in Class Three too, the teacher was extremely good and was so Appreciative of my exam results that he made me the Class Prefect. I got to loathe him after he made me Prefect.

He used to send me to the school store to cut a cane for him – with which he would beat the children who were not so bright as to repeat to him correctly the things he had taught us.

“Three times Nine!?” he would roar. And an unfortunate child would respond: “Twenty-two!” And psh–pah–pah!” would descend the teacher’s cane.

Now, I hated to be beaten, so I always made sure I had learnt “by heart”, all that the teacher had taught us or to master as “homework”. .

But when he asked me to go and cut a cane for him and I brought it, he used to beat me with the new cane, to `”test it” on me to see whether I had cut a “strong” enough cane or something that would break in his hand when he used it! He assumed that I wanted to save my classmates from his hands, although I had no such idea!.

I hated this bit of injustice – and resent it to this day. I am sure that psychologically, it created the basis upon which all my abhorrence of injustice in the world is based.

Well, we didn’t take the word of the head-teacher seriously when he announced that there would be “darkness`’ on the day in question. But we were happy when he said he would close the school after the morning session. We would troop to the River Supong and swim! (This was our usual pastime whenever we played truant from school.

I found, however, that in spite of the scepticism with which my classmates had initially received the news of the “darkness” about to come, none of them was prepared to go to the River Supong to swim, when the head-teacher actually closed the school at midday. Suddenly, everyone wanted to go home and be near their loved ones!

Was I to go to the River by myself? You bet not! I chose to go, instead, to the Queen Mother’s house. This was my second home, because my father was the Queen Mother’s “Kyeame” or spokesperson, and I was always there when I was free, in case something happened there that needed my father’s attention. When such an eventuality occurred, the Queen Mother would invariably call out, “Kwadwo, go and call your father!” And off I would run, to go and look for him, at his favourite palm-wine bar – or, sometimes – in the house of one of his female `’friends”

When I arrived at the Queen Mother’s house, I found that it was already packed with people. Her traditional drummers had all assembled, in fact, and they were playing bits of this and that on their instruments – as if to tune them. The mood was all Jocular then: I mean, “darkness in the early afternoon? Who had ever heard of such a thing?

But then, at around half-past midday, the sky began to appear “cloudy.” Gradually, the noisy hubbub in the place began to tone down.

The less light came from the sky, the more people speculated on what might happen.

But there was still enough light in the sky for all the speculations to be dismissed with na n laugh.

But a doubt had begun to creep into the talk: was it really possible that ESUM [darkness] would descend upon us at a time we usually saw broad daylight?

And then, something spectacular happened. First it looked as if some monster in the sky was taking tiny bites out of the sun; morsel by morsel. Next, the tiny bites turned the sun into a crescent-disc in the sky.

Finally, the sun disappeared altogether!
At this point, everyone under the age of, maybe fifteen, began to cry. Loudly and getting louder!

We were crying because we thought the world was coming to an end! As had been prophesied by fake prophets and all manner of soothsayers. We knew nothing about “eclipses”. All we knew was that the sun always rose and that it always set. Almost at the same time each day. But now, what was this?

Were the rumours true? Was the world really going to end? Would we go to heaven or to hell? Had we been good children or bad children? Would we go where we were going with our parents and siblings? Or would we be taken there separately, by ourselves?

We cried – ever louder – as such thoughts invaded our minds. We were making so much noise that the Queen Mother emerged from her bedroom – from where she hardly ever emerged – and ordered the drummers to beat their drums more loudly, “to cut out the cackling of the children” (she said). The drummers obeyed, of course. I haven’t heard drums beaten with as much vigour as was done that day!

Everybody’s fright was heightened by an observation we made that as the darkness had increased, all the chickens in the house had begun to come back from the streets, and were click-clucking and making their way straight to their usual roosting places. We interpreted this to mean that ghosts, dwarfs and goblins had taken over the streets and frightened the chickens enough to drive them home! “Animals can’t lie”! (we reasoned).

Through our own noise, we heard the bell of the Presbyterian church, tolling.

WHAAAT? This was frightening for that bell never tolled, except in the morning and evening – to summon school children to school in the morning, and church members to “evening prayers” or choir practice at night. Unless someone died and they had to hold a burial service for him or her.

It was all so weird; so eerie.
Things got really frightening when the Queen Mother came to sit with us and ordered her officials to stop drinking palm wine and engaging in wisecracks. “Beat the drums harder!” she ordered.

At about 2pm everyone was suddenly driven silent.

The sky had begun to really darken. And it continued to darken!

At this stage, the Queen Mother got scared. She barked out: Where is the River’s priestess?”

No-one knew where the priestess was.
We now began to wail louder.
Obviously, the priestess knew “something” was coming, and she had gone to hide! Meanwhile, the darkness increased in intensity.

Over at the Presbyterian church, they began to sing a hymn entitled:”Darkness Has Fallen upon the Earth!”

In the middle of the service, they saw the River’s priestess enter the church and take a seat. She had taken off all her usual talismans and juju beads. She became a Christian convert that day.

See what an eclipse can do? I wish I could be at Niagara Falls, where, I believe, some spectacular aspects of Nature were to be seen during the eclipse of Monday, 8 April 2024.

And I ask sadly: Where are all the people with whom I congregated in the Queen Mother’s House, on 20 May 1947?