The Ulster History Circle is a small voluntary not for profit organisation that places commemorative plaques in public places in towns and villages all over the Province in commemoration of men and women who have contributed to its culture, industry and history.

Blue Plaque for Dr. Raphael Ernest Grail Armattoe

From left: Carol O’Doherty, Alfred Abolarin, Philippa Robinson, Mark Durkan MP, Mayor Kevin Campbell, Simon Adeyinka, Sean Nolan, Stanley Armattoe, Esperanca Morier-Genoud, Garvan O’Doherty

 

 

 

Dr. Raphael Ernest Grail Armattoe

Dr Armattoe comes from the Ayivor family lineage (clan). The grand father was Chief Baku Ayivor II of Denu and the father, Glikpo ‘Armattoe’ Ayivor, an industrialist. Denu is part and parcel of Ghana. Dr Armattoe campaigned for Trans -Volta Togoland (TRUST TERRITORY) to be part of Togo but in a plebiscite in1956 they decided to be part of Ghana after he had long died.
Dr Armattoe was educated at Mfantsipim Secondary School with K.A. Busia, who became the prime Minister of Ghana in 1969. He was a member of the Ghana Congress Party, then headed by Justice Nii Amaa Ollennu and had people like Busia and Tawia Adamafio as members.

Raphael Ernest Grail Armattoe was born in August 1913 to a prominent family of the Ewe people in Denu , West Africa. He came to Europe at the age of 17 to continue his education. He studied in Germany, France and Britain; coming to Northern Ireland shortly after receiving a medical qualification in Edinburgh in 1938.
Besides practicing medicine in Derry, Raphael Armattoe made a unique contribution to the intellectual life of the city He gave talks on a variety of subjects, mainly medical and anthropological, to diverse groups such as the Great James? Street Women?s Guild, the Amateur Radio Club and the St John?s Ambulance Society. The doctor wrote articles for the Londonderry Sentinel as well as for academic journals such as Man, Nature and African Affairs.
From his base at Northland Rd, Armattoe wrote a book on The Golden Age Of West African Civilization (published in 1946) and issued numerous pamphlets. He also found time to give lectures and make presentations in Dublin and London and further afield. He spoke at the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England and the Scientific and Cultural Conference for World Peace in New York in 1949. At both of these major conferences, Dr Armattoe called for independence of the African colonies.
It is a sign of the esteem in which Armattoe was held, that members of both Stormont and D?il Eireann as well as three Westminster Members of Parliament nominated the doctor for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949.
In 1948 Dr. Armattoe received a grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation for anthropology research. The grant allowed him to return to West Africa for the first time in eighteen years. He returned to Derry half a year later to write up his reports. Most of the papers published as a result of this research trip were studies of Ewe physical anthropology, especially charting the distribution of blood groups, a field of study that was just emerging at the time. Armattoe also brought many botanical specimens back to Ireland with him, intending to study their curative properties.
Towards the end of 1950 Armattoe and his family settled in Kumasi, in what is now Ghana, where he set up a medical clinic and research centre. He now embarked on new adventures in poetry and politics. His two books of poetry, Between The Forest And The Sea and Deep Down In The Black Man?s Mind, are of continuing interest to students of African literature.
After the First World War, the former German colony of Togoland was divided into two mandates, one under French and the other under British rule. As the Togoland mandates and the Gold Coast colony were moving towards independence, Armattoe called for British and French Togoland to be reunited as a single country, rather than British Togoland becoming part of Ghana, as it eventually did become. Armattoe became active in both the pre-independence Ghana Congress Party, in opposition to Kwame Nkrumah; and the Joint Togoland Congress.
Dr Armattoe travelled to New York in 1953 to address a United Nations commission on the ?Eweland question? and Togoland unification. On his way back to Kumasi, he visited the British Isles and Germany. Taken sick en route, Armattoe was treated in hospital in Hamburg, where he died on 21 December 1953
Editors Note: Dr Armattoe discovered the Abochi drug that saved millions of lives in Africa in the 1940?s. It was very efficacious in treating water borne diseases, ring worms and other allied diseases. The Nigerian government bought the patent for thounsands of pounds and named it Abochi. His research company was known as Lomoshie Research Institute.

Rachel Naylor, based in the University of Ulster at Magee said that she had done quite a lot of work in the area where Armattoe was born. She was sure that people in that part of Ghana and across the border in Togo would be very proud that this honour had been given to a person from that area and she hoped that they would get to know about it.

Here are some photos of the event.

People gather for the plaque unveiling
Stanley Armattoe unveils his father’s plaque

Stanley Armattoe unveils his father?s plaque

After James King had read one of Dr Armattoe?s poems, Requiem, Stanley Armattoe thanked the Circle for this tribute to his father. He said the plaque was a remarkable acknowledgement of his father?s impact on the people of Derry and of the positive part played by African people in the life and culture of the City and of Northern Ireland.

Alfred Abolarin, Programme Manager, ACSONI

Alfred Abolarin, Manager of the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland, said that this was a significant and symbolic milestone in the history of the Irish African community in Northern Ireland. The life and work of Dr. Armattoe proved that Africans can and have contributed to civic society in the Province. For too long the perception of African people had been one of negativity. However, today the Ulster History Circle, by this plaque, was sending a different message; a message of equality and protection of human rights, a message of inclusivity, of hope and of positive change.

Elly Omondi Odhiambo said that his first encounter with the famous name of Armattoe was when he had been doing research at Magee and had difficulty finding anything about African people in the West of the province. There had been anti-slavery Africans who visited Ireland, such as Frederick Douglas and Olaudah Equiano. Armattoe was trying to defeat discrimination through his writing and his great book about West African civilisation in which he had set out to refute the Western view that African art and culture was simplistic. It was a pity that his work was not taken seriously because he died at such a young age. It was gratifying to note however that a lot of people were now interested in writing about him.

Rachel Naylor, based in the University of Ulster at Magee said that she had done quite a lot of work in the area where Armattoe was born. She was sure that people in that part of Ghana and across the border in Togo would be very proud that this honour had been given to a person from that area and she hoped that they would get to know about it.

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