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Remembering Lady Mary Alexandrina Bankole-Jones of Sierra Leone
By Culled from her funeral Hymn Sheet
Jul 23, 2008, 12:07
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Lady Mary Alexandrina Bankole Jones

Her Early Life and Career

Lady Mary Alexandrina Bankole-Jones was born on the 15th of October, 1915, the eldest child and first of the four daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Stuart of Freetown. Her only brother, Arthur Jr. was the last child born to her parents.

Mary Stuart started her primary education at the Annie Walsh Memorial School, then went on to the Girls Vocational School founded by Mrs. Adelaide Casely-Hayford and then on to the Freetown Secondary School for Girls (FSSG), called at the time Osora School, after founder, Mrs. Maisie Ejesa Osora. Having gained her Cambridge School Certificate, at seventeen she went to the UK where she trained as a professional secretary.

On her return home, she was employed by the United Africa Company (UAC), and such were her efficiency and dedication to duty that she eventually rose to become Confidential Secretary to the General Manager. Years later, she took up another appointment as Secretary to the Bursar of Fourah Bay College and as a result, also grew in accounting and financial management.

Her British-style work ethics and experience of doing things in the proper way were of great benefit to the non-governmental organizations she served as her life went on. At various times, she served as Secretary to the Boards of Trustees of the FSSG, National President of the Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA), Chairman of the Board of Governors of the YWCA Vocational Institute, Chairman of the Board of Governors of St. Josephs Secondary School, Chairman of the FSSG Seventieth Anniversary Celebrations Committee, President, Sierra Leone Girl Guide Association and, in her old age, Chairman of the Board of the Melvine Edith Patricia Stuart (MEPS) Well-Woman Clinic and Convalescent Home.

Wife and Mother

In her late twenties, Mary Stuart met a dashing young barrister called Samuel Bankole-Jones whom she married on the 14th October 1942. She then spent many years as a full-time house wife. She later accompanied her husband to the UK where she gave birth to their first child, Clifford. John, born earlier to her husband, joined the family during this time. Soon after their return to Sierra Leone, her husband, Samuel was appointed a Magistrate which necessitated a temporary move to Bo. There followed more additions to the family-twins, Louis and Louise (sadly Louise did not survive early infancy), Jennifer and finally, Valerie who tragically predeceased her mother in 2005.

The Bankole-Joneses later moved into their family home at 8, Kingharman Road, Brookfields. That home provided love and shelter to various nieces and nephews who needed a temporary home and also welcomed the many friends of the Bankole-Jones children. Mary Bankole-Jones had such an affinity with people much younger than herself that some of those friends formed warm and lasting relationships with her. Hers was a convivial spirit and for many years, a tradition at 8, Kingharman Road was pepper soup and champagne after the watchnight service on New Years Eve.

As her husband rose to greater national prominence after Sierra Leone gained her independence, first as a Judge, then as Chief Justice and, even briefly, as acting Governor-General, Mary Bankole-Joness life included many more public engagements which she thoroughly enjoyed. This was crowned by their visit to Buckingham Palace where her husband was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. However, Lady Mary did not neglect her favourite past-time which was reading modern novels and womens magazines.

In September, 1981 Sir Samuel Bankole-Jones sadly passed away. They had been married for thirty-nine years. For the next twenty-six years, Lady Mary faithfully honoured his memory by cooking beans and other traditional dishes which she shared with close family and friends on the anniversary of his death.

The Twilight Years

Lady Mary gradually wound down her public activities and was thus able to give more time to supporting her children and their families. In her later years, this support became an actual responsibility after the severe blow of the untimely deaths in quick succession of her daughter Valeries husband, Walter Nicol in 2003 and Valerie herself in 2005. This was indeed a challenge, but she faced it with admirable courage and determination spending the rest of her life mothering Walter and Valeries three boys (Walter (Ditto), Frankie and Shaun), buoyed up, no doubt, by her strong Christian faith which was grounded in the Anglican tradition. Throughout her life, for as long as she was physically able to do so, Lady Mary attended Early Communion at St. Georges Cathedral and thus became a well loved member of the 7:30a.m. Cathedral family.

Lady Mary Bankole-Jones led an exemplary life of selfless and faithful service to her family, both immediate and extended, to her community, and to a wide circle or friends. She has now earned her rest. She will be fondly remembered and sadly missed. [Culled from her Funeral Hymn Sheet]

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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