As a form of greeting, the question was intriguing. Whenever Frank Olusola Macaulay asked, “How are you, today?” he laid an unmistakable stress on the word, “today.” That was his way of highlighting the reality of a new day, different from past days, filled with fresh possibilities. The greeting carried a spiritual import, saying to the recipient that the new day brought new grace, new hope, new strength, and new ideas, which could spark a new song and new joy. This unshakable conviction about the constant flux, conveyed through his emphasis on “today”, is a lesson for me.
This was the man who, in the 1970’s, took my younger brother, Olaolu, and I to see the old Lagos Prison in Broad Street, just before it was demolished, and asked us to write essays on our experience, promising to reward the better writer. We were in secondary school, and it was an eye-opener for us.
He earnestly believed that he would attain age 85, and always maintained that his faith was Bible-supported. “Ask, and you shall receive”, was his mantra whenever anyone questioned his projection of certainty about how long he would live. He celebrated every birthday by reminding his family and others of how many years he supposedly had left. But he died at age 83 on August 22, which was 24 days before his 84th birthday on September 16.
Macaulay was born in Lagos in 1929. His grandfather, Frank Gurney Venn Macaulay, who raised him, was the younger brother of Herbert Macaulay, the famous Nigerian nationalist. He straddled the country’s colonial and post-colonial eras and was, therefore, at a vantage to make comparisons. In this context, he often expressed his admiration of the English and wished that post-Independence Nigeria would not only sustain the positive developmental standards of the colonialists, but also improve on them.
He was born to a devout Christian family with a rich history of missionary work; his great grandfather was Rev. Thomas Babington Macaulay, founder and first principal of the CMS Grammar School, Lagos, the oldest secondary school in Nigeria, started in 1859; and his great grandmother, Abigail Macaulay, was the daughter of Rt. Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the acclaimed first African Bishop of the Church of England, and the first to translate the Bible into Yoruba.
This family background inspired Macaulay throughout his lifetime. He was proud of his roots and heritage without being pompous. His sense of family was exemplary, and he was passionate about the Crowther/Macaulay Descendants’ Union and its motto, “In Unity we stand, divided we fall.” He served enthusiastically as Secretary of the group for many years, and technically retained the position until his exit. He was always aware of the location of family members and their contact details, and was generally relied upon to play a linking role whenever there was a need for family gathering.
After his education in Lagos, he had a stint at Taylor Woodrow Company, before joining Shell in 1958. Two years later, in 1960, he married Eleanor Bodunrin Macaulay (nee Williams), his lifelong other half. It was at Shell that he bloomed, and he retired at a Senior Supervisory level after 30 years at the company. He was honoured with a long-service award during his career at Shell. As a Shell pensioner, he was a keen unofficial ambassador and projected a positive image of the company.
Macaulay placed a premium on education, and made sacrifices to ensure that his five children got a good education. He provided a stimulating home environment for informal learning, and made it easy for his household and, even outsiders, to keep abreast of the news by consistently ensuring a supply of newspapers and magazines. He also kept a useful library.
He was quality-conscious without being showy, and exuded contentment. This aspect of his personality was informed by a deep spirituality beyond the formal structures of organised religion. He regarded every man and woman as a brother or sister with whom he shared a common humanity, and was a loyal friend to those he bonded with. “Life is interesting, and we are here to learn,” he often said. He had admirable sartorial polish, and was generally regarded as a gentleman.
He loved church music and, at different stages, he was a band member and played the Euphonium at the Salvation Army Lagos Central Corps; and choir member at the First Baptist Church, Lagos. His tenor voice was a delight to listen to when he sang, and in his latter years he participated in the activities of a Sierra Leonean singing band in Lagos.
There was an adventurous side to him, and he was interested in sports, especially boxing, swimming and soccer. Natural medicine fascinated him, and he was constantly trying out various nature-based preparations. He was equally fascinated by the lives that Nature has, and kept pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits and birds; he also liked to tend plants, and took pleasure in gardening.
His parting shot, from his notes, would be this quotation: “How do you beautify the Earth? You do this by the Good Thought, which comes from you, by the assistance you give your brother-man to rise materially and spiritually, and by the assistance you give other life than man to be more beautiful than you met it – IN SHORT, SERVICE TO MANKIND IN LOVE.”
Baba Femi, I came through you; and I will always appreciate how you raised me. I owe you a debt of gratitude for your love, care and guidance. Peace to you, on the other side. Daddy, how are you, today?
Femi, son of the late departed Pa Macaulay, is a leader writer on the editorial board of The Nation
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