Women of Substance

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Eulogy to a fallen Hero Dr. M K B   Faal, a friend and brother

By Ebraima   (Ebou) Manneh

When the news reached us that Dr Faal had passed away, the effect was a thunder clap, one of incredulity, one of shock and consternation. Jack the fighter was no more. He had fought against illness for some time   and he has finally lost the battle.  It   was in the Indian   hospital, to where he was taken for specialist treatment, that the sad event occurred and we who knew and cherished his company, his intellect, his candor and vivacity are worst off for it.

Dr.Faal was born Mbye Baboucar Faal, son of Kabba Faal and Isatou Ceesay on 14th     February, and 1942 in Banjul in a family of three  - Abby, Mbye and Pa Modou. Like all boys in Banjul, he   went through all the activities that all Ndongos did – street football, street tennis, and local games like bigims and fiong. He was at an early age very good in draughts, table tennis and snooker which we used to play at the King George V Hall on Allen Street. Mbye attended like most of us in the area, attended St Mary’s Primary School and proceeded to Methodist Boys High School in Dobson Street.

At the Darra of Serign Mamudou Cham, he excelled in quoranic memorization and the Arabic alphabet and soon became the youngest magi darra. This love for the Holy Book stayed with him throughout his life.  In adult life, he spent a lot of time doing research on the meaning of the Quran searching through the internet and would spend lots of resources downloading various excerpts of treatise on Quranic scholarship which he would always share with friends.

The name JACK, which has struck to him up to his death, was a nickname given to him by friends because of his short height resembling the little male long nosed doll of punch and Judy resemblance that popped up every time the lid of a box was opened.  It was called Jack in the Box. Thus the name was given to Mbye Faal.  His diminutive size elicited other nicknames and one that also lingered for some time was DINDING KEBBA -   small old man.

During the late forties and early fifties, there existed a multitude of youth clubs called Kompin in the various Wards of town. Mbye Faal and some friends had a cohesive and united group hailing from adjacent streets in Soldier Town covering Lancaster, Perseverance, Primet, Albion, Rankin and Allen Streets. Almost all of us attended the same schools – Albion, St. Mary’s and Boys High School. Some of us were even in the same classes in primary and secondary schools. At that time there were only four primary schools in Banjul. Jack went to Muhammadan School.

The name of our Club was the Silver Star which later metamorphosed   to Optimistic Youth Club.  The club was well organized and we inculcated discipline and orderliness in our members at an early age.  Both of these Clubs were based at Rankin street, the first at 5 Rankin under the tutelage of Ya Fatou Saine, mother of  Doudou Njie, one of our members. Later we moved to 2 Rankin Street under the tutelage of Ya Fatou Ceesay, my mother.

We met every Sunday and religiously paid subscriptions. We organized an annual dance and invited friends from other Kompins like Goudi Goudi later known as Los amigos. We nevertheless had some rivalry with other Kompins but it was all friendly and light hearted. Our Kompin was organized as a serious organization with a constitution, written minutes of meetings and yearly democratic elections. In all this, Jack served as the in fatigable President on many occasions alternating with Ebou Khan and Papa Cham. I served several times as Secretary.

One thing we were known for was the house dances we organized after our weekly meetings, we were   fortunate that our meeting places were endowed with a record player and we always danced before we dispersed. Once a year, we organized a dance and invite some members of our rival clubs - Inseparables and Los amigos. Indeed rivalry did take place but it was all generally light hearted and full of fun. Straddling our two  clubs were  members Pa   Faal, Mustapha Njie, Lamin  Marong  Ebou Manneh, Pa Drammeh, Papa Cham, Mbye Faal,  Ebou Khan, Prince Riley, Jack Faal, Ebou Jane, Doudou Njie, Zainou  Thomas, Pa Joof, Mamudou  Cole, Baba Jagne, Ebou khan, Omar Mbye Mbassu, Musa Bittaye, Pa  Sey, Bocar Sy, Harouna Savage,  Madani Taal, Baba Jagne, Colleh Saine, Sai Jahumpa, Amie Gaye, Ndey Jagne, Colleh Njie, Yameday Thomas (Renner),  Awa Corr, Jolleh Nyang, Fatou Njie, Souna Mbye, Ndey Njie, Ya Sai Njie, Aja Jallow, Louise Njie, Oumie Samba, Bin Corr

The life in our Kompin inculcated an intellectual bent in our lives and we, on our own adopted a life of organization, culture and discipline. This stood us in good stead when we went into another milieu anywhere in the world.  We look back and appreciate that this life is the best that would have happened to us and the benefits we are still reaping today.

The club continued until most of us had to go for further studies overseas in the early sixties and the club went into suspended animation

Outside the normal Kompin, we also sat together at our Rendezvous (VOUS) at 9 Allen Street. We would stay chatting and engaging in our ndoggoh pranks and still we were prudent enough to go home at the right time, do our school   home work and pass our exams. Our modest success in life as a group had much to do with those formative years that we spent together.

We grew up to be the tightly knit group always caring and sharing. We have continued to be together up to today, meeting regularly and sharing in and taking full charge at each other’s social occasions.  This fraternity that we built up never stopped. Our friendship even extended to Senegal where one of our initial members Bocar Sy who is Senegalese, brought his friends to visit us and we reciprocated. For over a decade they came in December and we went to Dakar in Easter.

For years, until a few months ago, we met at Jack’s house every Saturday ago, There we ate and drank tea, watch football and argued all afternoon inevitably over Manchester United’s supremacy in the Premier League. For the European League, Jack would back Barcelona with Messi his endearing hero.

Jack’s high school life was very rich. He was a member of Crowther House and played football and cricket for the House and for the school.  He was a member of Bathurst Literary Society whose joint MBHS - St. Augustine   cast performed, under the guidance of its founder G J Roberts, several Shakespeare plays   and several of Gabby’s own plays including    the Mandigerio duo. On passing the school certificate, Mbye went to the Sixth form and studied science subjects under Delphine Carroll, Messrs MacNaire, Kuye and Collier.

Our club mates left for further studies in various universities overseas and Mbye left for Legon University in Accra  and later he transferred to Ibadan University to continue his studies in medicine. Some of his Gambian university mates in Ibadan were Sydney Riley, Winston Joiner, Abdoulie Sallah and Adam Mboge. It was here that he was later to meet   his wife Hannah, Their matrimony was blessed with lovely and intelligent daughters – Mam Sallah, Nkoyo, Njilan and Jorjoh.

On graduation in 1970, he stayed on in Nigeria and worked at the university as a Registrar for   3 years before heading for the United Kingdom for his specialization in gynecology and obstetrics at the University of Newcastle and Edinburgh. He returned to Nigeria after successfully completing his post graduate studies and served as Lecturer/Consultant at the University of Benin Medical School and Teaching Hospital.  He also served in various positions in the West African College of Surgeons of which he is a Fellow, the West African Postgraduate Medical College and the National Postgraduate Medical College. He was on assignment particularly on reproductive health on several occasions with the West African Health Community and its successor the West African Health Organization. 

On Jack’s return to the Gambia, he worked for the Gambia Medical service particularly the Royal Victoria Hospital  and soon made a name as trusted “doctori jigainiye” (women’s doctor).  He knew his job and did it well.  Thousands of women in Gambia and I daresay in Senegal, were given a new lease of life with the Grace of God, by Jack when he successfully helped them in conception or in delivering. One lady, on learning of the death of Dr Faal, rang me and told me that if it was possible to make women treated by Jack to line up, the queue would stretch from Pipeline to Talinding. A bit long maybe but this remark represents the feelings of thousands whose happiness was brought to them by Mbye Faal. 

When Mbye decided to go into private practice, he went to work for some time with his mentor and lifelong friend Dr Sammy Palmer at his clinic at Westfield.  Even when he established his own consulting clinic   - the Banjul Clinic on Independence drive - with his devoted nurses Sally and Tofin – he continued to do all his operations at Westfield. His relations with Dr Palmer extended to all the Palmers. We all knew how close he was to Dr Ayo Palmer up to his last days.  At Banjul clinic, he built a clientele that continued to use his services and expertise through to his next project – the NDebaan Clinic

Dr Faal’s dream has always been to set up a modern well equipped and highly reliable clinic delivering relatively affordable medical service to the community. He told me once that he started thinking of this idea even before he graduated from Ibadan. His stint in government service was therefore a precursor and training ground for this grand scheme that he nourished.  He acquired a small place on the Bakau beach in front of the fishing centre and started his Nebaan Clinic, named after the big Baobab tree found in front of the clinic which in old times, it is said, was a meeting place for traditional ceremonies. This clinic however had issues related to the noise and smoke coming from the centre and after a protracted debate with government, particularly the Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries, an alternative site at the entrance of Bakau was allocated for the clinic.

Once Dr Faal had the land, he launched a campaign locally and overseas to procure funding for his clinic. Donations came from Holland and Scandinavia particularly was   forthcoming and the attractive and well structured hospital called again Nbebaan Clinic was built. It operated as one of the most efficiently run and highly regarded clinics in this country, a centre of excellence   in medical care  particularly  gynecology and obstetrics, attracting patients from all over the country as well as overseas. The clinic unfortunately, was lost to Dr Faal some three years ago.  The rest is history to be told in another context, in another forum.  Suffice it only to add that this Clinic was Dr Faal’s flagship, his dream come true, a dream which got broken on the way.   The services that that clinic rendered to us all makes us live with a lot of nostalgia. The nostalgia is now more overwhelming with the departure of Jack Faal forever.

Dr. FAAL was a brilliant, and learned medical practitioner who   showed the compassion   and skills expected of a comforter and healer of the sick.  Mbye Faal loved his country and was never hesitated to sacrifice his time, his resources, his energy and his knowledge to help others in need  his friends, religious leaders and of course women.  I have known him render medical services to people free quietly and discreetly. He did this without fanfare without ostentation believing that he was doing his duty to Allah. Following the 1981 attempted coup, he spent days and days at the hospital treating the wounded and injured.

Mbye’s life has been his family.  They were his pride and joy.  He adored his children and was very proud of them and their achievements.  I remember when his first grandson came with his mother Mam Sallah to visit, Jack was elated. He bought cots and toys and all types of baby’s paraphernalia. Somebody very important was coming home!  The joy of grand fatherhood just overwhelmed him.

Let us celebrate the life and works of this great man. He was larger than life. He has done his bit in this world and a lot of Gambians throughout the entire country are poorer by his death.  He was a man of firm principles and absolute rectitude in his dealings with his fellow humans. He refused to sacrifice or trade in his principles and would rather suffer for these principles. He has always had ingenious ideas and lofty plans and his death has taken him from us before these plans could mature. He was a good man.  He has been our companion, he was our brother. He was our friend and our inspiration in more ways than one. Our hearts are with his family, Hannah, the children and his former spouses Amie Faye and Amie Joof.

May Allah in his infinite mercy and grace grant him repose in Al Jana that I know he worked for in his lifetime. Ameen Ya Rabi