Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 October 2020:
Born on 17th October 1920, Mr Mohamed Sallieu Thomas is one of Freetown’s oldest residents, and arguably the oldest in Aberdeen, West of Freetown, Sierra Leone. He is the patriarch of the Thomas family of Aberdeen – descendants of Liberated Africans slaves who founded and settled at the Aberdeen Creek in 1829.
A strong member of the Aku Krios of Freetown, the Thomas family of Aberdeen have long maintained their Muslim heritage which is believed to have come from the educated and liberated Yoruba’s of Abeokuta in south-western Nigeria.
Last Saturday, 17th October, the extended family members of Mr. Mohamed Sallieu Thomas – fondly referred to as Pa Salu, and hundreds of residents of Aberdeen village – including the Jamaat of the Aberdeen Mosque, converged at his home where they celebrated his 100th birthday with Muslim thanksgiving prayers.
The ceremony which was performed in typical Aku Mohamedan tradition, saw top Islamic scholars reciting the Holy Quran as the women prepared an enormous feast.
Behind the celebration lies an intriguing story of a man who survived the odds – transitioning between the colonial administration and Sierra Leone’s post-independence era, and made immense sacrifices for his family, his community, and his country.
Mohamed Sallieu Thomas was schooled by the colonial administration, but his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer was short-lived after he found himself in a clerical job, as an unpaid volunteer for the Electricity Unit of the Public Works Department (PWD).
That unit was located at Falcon Bridge in Freetown, and is still in use today.
The National Power Authority (NPA) or Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) as we know it today, was actually a very small unit at the Public Works Department.
As a volunteer clerk in the colonial PWD, Mr Thomas was one of the few Sierra Leonean professionals who successfully transitioned between the British colonial administration and the post independent Government of Sir Milton Margai.
As a result of his administrative prowess, dedication to duty and great work ethics, he was confirmed as permanent staff, after nearly five years of volunteering service.
Mr Thomas’ courage and tenacity to break new grounds, subsequently elevated him into the middle tier level of the works department. He then seized an opportunity to be among the first batch of civil servants to be trained at the Sierra Leone Civil Service Training College.
This singular move transformed Mr Mohamed Sallieu Thomas into a consummate civil servant, who served with unrivalled diligence in every district of the country.
One of the highpoints of his blistering career was his call to public duty, taking responsibility for overseeing and coordinating the launching of the Kailahun and Kabala power stations.
The launching of those two power stations, he said, was presided with great fanfare with the country’s Prime Minister – Sir Milton Margai in attendance.
Despite working in an era where the average salary of a middle level worker was Three Pounds Sterling, his zest to overcome every hurdle and a rock solid commitment to help lay the foundation of a modern Sierra Leone, left Mr Thomas far stronger to accomplish every task set before him.
In the 1960s, Pa Salu was the proud owner of the most famous and iconic Land Rover – the only one in Aberdeen village.
By the time he retired, he was already Chief Auditor in the Electricity Department, an enviable position at the time.
A proud and dedicated family man
A father of five children as well as several grandchildren, nieces, and nephews both in Sierra Leone and abroad, Mr. Mohamed Sallieu Thomas hails from a typical African extended family.
After his four brothers died, he was left to look after their children, and this proved a major challenge considering his meagre earnings at the time.
Incredibly, he was able to raise them well and treated them like his own biological children. Today, those nephews and nieces who have become quite successful, regard him as the centrifugal force and a strong pillar whose generosity and kindness have left indelible marks in their lives.
Philosophy About Life
Pa Salu Thomas’ philosophy about life is deeply rooted in respect for elders, and a positive attitude toward anything we come across in life. This, he believes has been a huge contributing factor to his good health and longevity, as well as the love and the respect he continues to enjoy from his family and members of the Aberdeen community.
“In our day, when we meet an elderly person carrying a heavy load, we take that load from him or her, and carry it for them…..This is one form of respect we gave to our elders, and I believe it is the blessings we received from them that enable us to live longer.”
While this may sound like a biblical allusion, it is not too difficult to understand that one of Freetown’s oldest residents would probably be with us much more longer to serve as an inspiration for those who believe in a life of purity, calmness, love and selflessness.
Indeed, the best way to celebrate and acknowledge these great accomplishments by a worthy patriot is when they are still here among us. And as Sir Albert Margai once said; “A life spent worthily is measured in deeds, not years”.
It indeed would not be out of place for the Freetown City Council, in keeping with its tradition of honouring the city’s centenarians, to acknowledge Mr Mohamed Sallieu Thomas of Aberdeen, who last Saturday celebrated his 100th birthday as the oldest citizen of Aberdeen and one of the oldest in the capital Freetown.
Another centenarian celebrates his birthday – Mr Sorie Sesay
Also, this week, saw the birthday celebration of another centenarian in Sierra Leone. He is Mr Sorie Sesay of Tengbeh Town in Freetown – the oldest and only remaining ex-World War Two veteran in Sierra Leone.
May God continue to bless both Mr Mohamed Sallieu Thomas and Mr Sorie Sesay, wishing them continuing good health and happiness.
Source Credit: Amin Kef Sesay.
Happy birthday Grandpa. May God guide you till your time of rest comes.
100 golden years – ten decades of ceaseless struggle and tears effortlessly interchanging positions with unbridled laughter, ecstatic joys, triumphs and victories, just like the moving hands of a clock, one steadily following the other. What a story of grandeur and hope! Pa Salu and Pa Sesay are like the rare Agave Ocahui (century plant)that flowers only once every 100 years. What a truly enviable highly favored life both warriors have lived! Blessings upon blessings, folks, that can be heard of only in wondrous fairy tales, that can be found in the comfort that comes only from divine providence, and unfailing protection from hands of the Master of Creation.
Now, if anyone is still out there seeking for authentic evidence of Almighty God’s beneficence, struggle no more: look no further in rain and thunder for this is the real deal. That great magnificent Tailor that sews with humor and unmatched skill, human souls and bodies tightly together, that knew if he blew the breath of longevity into the nostrils of these two great luminaries countless centuries ago that they will be able to walk for miles and not faint, run across the steepest hills, arid deserts and darkest valleys without staggering or losing steam, was anxious like a good father to give them a lasting blessing. Now to these two great men who grew strong like giant trees, who survived violent storms and hurricanes unscathed…A stargazer – SALUTES you with joy, humility and great reverence!
Great to see such a wonderful person.
Congratulations to Pa Salu Thomas, and Mr. Sorie Sesay. Both of these honourable gentlemen have dedicated their entire life to the service of their families and country. Their dedication to the service of country and flag can be an inspiration to all of us, and something worthy to aspire to. They are true sons of the soil. Maybe there is something in the “THOMAS” surname that can be defined as dedication to ones country’s development. Long may they live and enjoy a healthy life. God bless.
A very comforting and reassuring story. It shows that LIFE is not dependent on the acquisition of wealth alone – although it helps if one can afford the best health facilities around. At times a state of wellbeing and contentment can help too. Happy birthday Mr Salu Thomas and Mr Sorie Sesay. Many more to come.
I wish both Pa Thomas and Pa Sorie many more years with us. Only Allah can explain their longevity because they never asked for it. These are the people that should be recorded while they narrate their experiences – they are history books. I have missed golden opportunities to record certain people because I was too young to appreciate their importance. The first one was a man we called Pa Modu who was a frequent at the Freetown Golf Club where I was a caddy. He fought in World War Two in Burma, now called Mianma . He saved the life of a British Soldier by pushing him to the ground with his body weight just as the enemy was about to pull the trigger.
The second man was Pa Sorie; it could well be the Pa Sorie in the picture. He too saw action in World War Two. He probably was an intelligence officer but refused to disclose the nature of his work. Even when I tried to use the tribal route (Thaimne) to get him to tell me more he simply said “n’thorma gbepeh npar “ (namesake drop the subject).
The third man was a Krio man who was an engineer/journalist. He spoke for quite a while but what I remember the most was when he said “borbor if Sir Milton norbin die de tem way e die Salone for don go beefo, ardae feel sorry for wuna now way dai don school woek not dai. Me done for study nar England, nar dai den gee me woek nar ya”.
I cannot end this without pointing out the stark difference between the Western world and most of Africa: Pa Thomas, and others have not been dumped in a home somewhere and virtually forgotten. They are still surrounded by friends and family, which increases their will to continue living. May this part of who we are continue till the end of time.
“With mirth and laughter,let old wrinkles come”(William Shakespeare)Stargazer wishing
distinguished Centenarian Patriots Pa Salu Thomas and Veteran soldier Mr Sorie Sesay
countless more blessed,memorable,fulfilling birthdays to come…Old is pure Gold!ENJOY!