May 4, 2011, 2:42 PM
This is to add my voice to the many tributes to Rev. Father Andrew Carrol an Irish missionary priest, a veteran spiritual leader and an educationist who transformed my life and that of many others. For me in particular, he contributed a lot towards the growth in my academic and social life. His death sent shock waves throughout the country and beyond.
In 1953, on leaving St. Augustine's High School, Father Andrew Carrol took me with him to Bwiam to be a Pupil Teacher at St. Edward's Primary School. We left for Bwiam from the Mission compound at Hagan Street. This was during the time of Rev. Father John Meehan CSSP. The Principal at St. Augustine's High School then was Rev. Father Farrel. The teachers were, the Late Gabriel Goddard, Gabriel George, Michael Touray, Solomon Njie, all of blessed memory and a few others. At the Primary School, the headmaster was the late Mr. Herbert Thomas and the teachers - J.B. Jarra, Lemou Sylva, Marie Blain, Caroline Joof, Joseph Marong and many others.
Father Carrol's journey with me from Banjul to Bwiam was a very difficult one. It took us over 18 hours due to bad roads and streams of water rushing over the road which we had to cross with our vehicle.
In Bwiam while I was a Pupil Teacher, I found other teachers there (those I can remember: Kebba Gomez, Joseph Dumbuya and Teacher Sambou. Subsequently, Father Carrol encouraged and motivated me to sit to the Yundum College Entrance Examinations. In the evenings he would coach me in English Language, whilst I in turn would teach him the Wollof. I successfully passed the College entrance examinations and entered Yundum College in 1954 and in 1955 I obtained the Primary Teachers Certificate (PTC). In 1956, I was posted back to Bwiam as Headmaster while Fr. Carrol was Parish Priest.
My first students - those I can remember - were John Jammeh, John Bojang, Momodou Drammeh, Kabbaa Jawara, Botor Kolley, the late Alfred Kujabi, Paul Bojang, and Baba Sanyang among others.
Fr. Carrol's hunger to give the needy and the poor quality and relevant education was demonstrated by his spiritual and educational activities in sensitizing villagers to improve their lives by building and improving the standards of many schools in the Fonis. Apart from Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Bwiam, he made frequent treks to other satellite villages to build schools; places like Kamfenda, Sangajor, Kaimor, Wassadou etc.
In 1961, I was posted to Kartong - St. Martin's Parish to work with Father Carrol again. I must confess, and as an eye witness, I have seen Father Carrol building Kartong Church and additional classroom blocks, single handed. He only needed me and a few other helping hands to pass him cement blocks for the building of the walls of the church, and rhun palms and corrugated iron sheets for the roofing. I was one of those who used to ring the school bell in the evenings for Catechism classes for the Christians and evening studies for non-Christians. He was also concerned about students' extra curricular activities like sports and school gardening.
Father Carrol expanded his work of evangelization by making frequent trips from Kartong to Darsilami, Berending, Sanyang, Siffo, Marakissa and Kunkujang supervising the cathechists there. He opened the schools at Darsilami and Berending during the time I was with him.
In 1999, I had cause to travel to Dublin to attend an international Conference of St. Vincent. I took the opportunity to go to Kimmage to visit Fr. Carrol. He was surprised and extremely delighted to see me after many years. We had a long chat and he insisted that I take a photograph with him.
Father Carrol's demise is a great loss to the entire Gambian population. He contributed a lot to the spiritual and educational development of The Gambia. We have lost a great family priest. He supported us well both academically and spiritually with much love and affection. He was sincere and always spoke the truth no mater what. He will always be remembered in this country especially in Bwiam, Kartong and environs and by his numerous friends.
May his soul rest in perfect peace - Amen.