It is of great sadness to learn of the passing away of Mrs Peggy Appiah (nee Enid Margaret Cripps) on 11 February 2006, widow of one of Ghana's elder statesmen, Mr Joseph Appiah of UP (United Party) and “Ababase” (United National Convention) fame. The life and career of Mrs Peggy Appiah was just as fascinating as was remarkable. Peggy, a product of the cream of the English aristocracy, left all her comforts, riches and culture behind, after her marriage to Mr Joe Appiah in the 1950s, and followed her husband to the then Gold Coast to live and settle among her husband's people, the Ashantis, in Kumasi for the rest of her adult life. According to a release by the Centre for Intellectual Renewal, Ghana, Peggy was the daughter of an eminent British Labour politician, Sir Stafford Cripps and Lady Isobel Swithenbank. Sir Stafford Cripps was Britain's ambassador to Russia during the period of World War II and later in 1947-50 as British Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I still remember Peggy in my child's eyes. As a child we used to play football at an open park that was adjacent to her house at African Bungalow, where she lived with her husband Joe and family. We sometimes saw her standing at the balcony of her mansion. She was tall, beautiful and elegant. My father's house (Mbrom Castle), where I was living, was not very far from Peggy's house. As children we loved her. In death we still love her. We used to call her “Mrs Appiah”. The husband, Mr Joe Appiah, was referred to then as “pocket lawyer”. What that meant I did not know.
Peggy's love, selflessness, and commitment to her late husband and the Ashanti people and their culture and by extension to Ghana is beyond question. It is love and commitment to her marriage to Mr Joe Appiah that made her to leave all her riches, pleasures and good life in England, the land of her birth, to spend the rest of her life in Ghana among the Ashanti people. After marrying Joe and accompanying him to Ghana Peggy never looked back, in spite of some very difficult and hard political and economic times. Indeed her late husband Joe was at various times imprisoned by Ghana's first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah, under the disbanded Preventive Detention Act (PDA). During the times of her husband's imprisonment at the Nsawam Prisons Peggy never lost faith but continued to stay on for the release of her husband. Some women would have abandoned the husband and the country so as to return to their roots, but Peggy did not.
I remember as a child, in the days before Ghana's attainment of independence in March 1957, there was a lot of civil unrest in Kumasi, as a result of on going war between the two major political parties, the Convention Peoples' Party (CPP) and the United Party (UP), with frequent imposition of 6 PM to 6 AM curfews on the city. Those were trying and dangerous years. This did not break Peggy's heart either. She continued to stand by her husband and her husband's people, the Ashantis. She also did not abandon her husband and her adopted country during the times of Ghana's economic stress and political instability during most of the 1970s and 1980s. During this period quite a lot of people born and bred in Ghana fled the country for greener pastures elsewhere. Peggy still refused to return to her native country, England, even after the unfortunate loss of her beloved husband Mr Joe Appiah some fifteen years ago; nor did she abandon her husband and her adopted country when she was being threatened with deportation by a previous Government of Ghana.
This to me makes Peggy a true patriot of Ghana. She was also a true Christian. All her life, she remained faithful and loyal to her marriage vows and never at any stage abandoned her husband nor her adopted “tribe”, the Ashantis, and country, Ghana. Such love and commitment to marriage is a rare commodity these days.
Peggy's personal contribution to the documentation of Ashanti cultural heritage and the educational environment is invaluable. Peggy was a prolific writer of children's books. Some of her works are used as prescribed text not only in primary and secondary schools in Ghana but also in the sub-region of West Africa. Some of her best works include: A Smell of Onions, Tales of an Ashanti Father, and Bu Me Be: Akan Proverbs. Her last major work, Bu Me Be: Akan Proverbs, was a collection of over 7,000 Ashanti proverbs and wise sayings. And the Ashantis have a lot of that. In some of her works she was assisted by her children. Peggy's literary works, based on Akan folklore, and her enormous collection of traditional Ashanti brass scales used for weighing gold, clearly shows her mastery of Ashanti cultural heritage and usage.
I was happy to read from the Centre for Intellectual Renewal's statement on some of the honours that were bestowed on Peggy during her lifetime. These include the award of an honourary degree by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science of Technology in 2005 and the Queen's MBE award for her contribution to the development of Anglo-Ghanaian relations.
Peggy's selfless generosity and philanthropy saw the building of St George's Church in Kumasi and the establishment of the School for the Blind at Jachie. According to the statement by the Centre for Intellectual Renewal, it was through Peggy's philanthropy and generosity that made it possible for some of our fellow countrymen to have their secondary and university education.
Peggy, what a wonderful woman and great human being you were. Peggy was a true Ashanti, a true Ghanaian and by extension a true African. She was our true kith and kin. We thank God (and Mr Joe Appiah) for giving us such a wonderful and beloved person. Peggy was more Ashanti and Ghanaian than a lot of us who were born and bred in Kumasi.
May the soul of Mrs Peggy Appiah, our mother and our sister, forever rest in perpetual peace. May the souls of her beloved husband, Mr Joe Appiah, and that of her parents (Sir Stafford Cripps and Lady Isobel Swithenbank) also rest in perpetual peace. May those that she has left behind, especially, her children, Anthony, Ama, Adwoa, and Abena be blessed with long life, good health, peace and prosperity. Peggy, we salute you. “DA YIE” (literally Sleep Well in English). We love you.
May I take this opportunity to suggest that Mrs Peggy Appiah be given a state burial for her selfless and devoted services to Ghana and humanity. May I also suggest that some lasting memorial be erected or made in her honour to keep her memories alive for succeeding generations. Peggy's love, selflessness, commitment and generosity should be an excellent example for all to emulate.
Kwaku Amoo-Appau Canberra Australia. 19 February 2006.