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Alex Acquah | THE REVD. PHILIP QUAQUE, M.A. (Oxon)

Wed, 22 Feb, 2017

A chapter on the early history of the Anglican Church in Ghana could well be devoted to the work of Rev. Philip Quaque, M.A. (Oxon), the first African ordained into the ministry of the Church of England after the Reformation in 1765.

As a pioneer, Philip Quaque’s lot was inevitably not an easy one. Often he had to plough a lonely furrow under very trying circumstances. For example, it on record that, at one time, while serving as Chaplain to the garrison at Cape Coast, he was compelled on strong moral and religious grounds, and as a true servant of God, to disobey an order given by the merchant governor at the Castle, commanding him to take up arms in defence of the British Fort at Anomabu. Although this bold stand which he took as a matter of principle, led to his suspension, good sense ultimately prevailed and he was reinstated after appealing to the authorities in Britain.


Not much could be said about Quaque’s early life, quite apart from the fact that he is recorded as being the sole survivor among three lads from Cape Coast who were selected by Rev. Thomas Thompson, M.A. (Cantab) the first Anglican Missionary to West Africa, to be educated and trained in Britain for ministry in the Anglican Church.


The fact that he went through his education and training successfully to the extent of taking a master’s (M.A.) degree at Oxford is a testament to Philip Quaque's scholarly flair.He proved himself not only to be worthy of the high and noble calling of a Minister of the Gospel, but also capable of carrying the Message of Salvation - the Word of God - to his own people in his native land.


Philip Quaque’s pioneering ministerial work at Cape Coast served to attract other religious bodies into the mission field. The Basel Missionaries, Methodists and Bremen Evangelicals in this regard arrived in the country in succession,starting evangelical work in 1827,1835 and 1847 respectively.


This healthy development gave the desired fillip to missionary activities, resulting in the spread of Christianity and the establishment of schools in the country. Thus Philip Quaque “the Castle Chaplain and Schoolmaster” could be said to have started the process that led to the establishment of what has now come to be known as “the Christian Council of Ghana.” As a fellowship of the local Protestant Churches devoted to the strengthening of the spirit and essence of the Christian faith, this body represents a unifying force for good in the country.


Combining his ecclesiastical work with education at Cape Coast, Philip Quaque opened the first school in the country around 1788. This school was the nucleus of the Cape Coast Government Boys’ and Girls' Schools respectively. The two schools became famous for the scholars and cultured ladies they produced. Notable headmasters of the Government Boys’ School include Messrs J.A. Britton, a West Indian educationist of repute in former days; John Ayensu , I.S.O. and J.M.S. Pobee, who at one time was a tutor of Adisadel. Harriet Simons, M.B.E. and Mercy Quartey-Papafio, M.B.E. (later Mrs. Foulkes-Crabbe) Headmistress of the Government Girls’ School were among the few Ghanaian ladies who pioneered girl child education in the country.


It is a happy incidence of history that these two famous schools have been named after Philip Quaque and are now known as Philip Quaque Boys’ and Girls’ Schools respectively. The schools were handed over to the Anglican Church in 1957 and are under the Church’s educational unit.


Adisadel College, one of the finest fruits of Philip Quaque’s labour, has crystallized these historical events by naming one of the original three School Houses- “Quaque House” after this great Ghanaian priest. Every year on October 17, the anniversary of his death (Quaque died on October 17, 1816 at the age of 75) a Memorial Service is held at Adisadel in remembrance of him.


The occasion is also marked by a requiem mass at the Christ Church Cathedral, Cape Coast, where a tablet has been erected to his memory. Wreaths are laid on his grave at the Cape Coast Castle by the Church on the anniversary of his death each year.


Philip Quaque laboured almost single-handedly for over 50 years. The great zeal with which he laboured won many souls for Christ. Ghana is today an enlightened and progressive country enjoying the blessings of Christianity and education, at all levels, thanks to the fortitude and perseverance of this great man of God.


Naturally Adisadel College is immeasurably proud of Rev. Philip Quaque for his fruitful pioneering work in ecclesiastical and educational fields. The people of Cape Coast as a matter of fact, very much cherish his fragrant memory and are forever indebted to him for the enlightenment he brought to them and the town generally referred to as Abodzin Krom, a reference to the characteristic urbanity of the townsfolk.


The life and works of this great servant of God and son of the soil,would forever live in the hearts and minds of the people of Cape Coast in particular and Ghana in general, whose mental and spiritual upliftment he devoted all his working life to.


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