Sadness and joy in The Gambia

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IN a twist of fate, Rosemary Le Messurier and husband Steve, who booked a trip to Egypt in 1997 - cancelled, due to the massacre of tourists at the Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor - visited The Gambia instead.
IN a twist of fate, Rosemary Le Messurier and husband Steve, who booked a trip to Egypt in 1997 - cancelled, due to the massacre of tourists at the Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor - visited The Gambia instead.

  • In Part 2 Andrew Atkinson talks to former Quesada-Rojales resident Rosemary Le Messurier – and her quest to find the lost Gambian family she befriended.

A VISIT to the village of Kunta  Kinteh was made by Rosemary, based on the well known slave, whose story was made famous in Literature by Alex Haley’s book ‘Roots’.

“No visit to The Gambia would  be complete, without visiting a  local school for young  children. Whilst education is  now available to all children,  there is still a shortage of  writing materials and books,” said Rosemary.

On a trip to a local woodcraft  market, schoolchildren pushed parts of cigarette packets through the windows – with their name and address written on the back.

“Two of these we kept. We made contact, on our return  home, and Kemo subsequently  made contact with both boys,  and we met on the beach.

“We told them we would come  again and would like to bring  them a personal gift. One told  us a briefcase, in which to  keep his schoolbooks, would  be useful.

“And, an alarm clock, as he had problems waking up in the  morning. The other wanted trainers, as he walked barefoot. “Imagine their joy, next time,  when we handed over these  items,” reflected Rosemary.  Today, both boys are in their  mid-thirties, married and with  at least one child of their own,  maybe more.

One followed an Academic life and travelled, before returning home to The Gambia; whilst the other took to manual work, assisting in his brother’s  garage for a while and now working in construction.

Rosemary purchased a property in 2002 in the Urbanisation of Monte Azul, Quesada, Rojales, and was told never to keep documents in the house, when unattended.

A handbag with many zip-up compartments was stolen and Rosemary lost €1,000 from credit and Bank cards, passports, driving licences, address book, mobile phone.

“None of it was recovered and financially we were not in a position to journey back to The Gambia to find our ‘lost’ friends – although they remained in our hearts,” said Rosemary.

SEE ALSO: From Quesada-Rojales to the Gambia

In the pursuing years, Rosemary received a friend request from one of the Gambian lads, then the other: “It occurred to me that our friend Kemo may be available, via social media, but despite a search, he seemed to have disappeared.

“I wrote to him, c/o the Atlantic Hotel, but never received a reply.  I was informed that the  new owners replaced all the  staff and guides.

“To this day, my search has  been unsuccessful, either for Kemo or members of his  family. Even our Gambia friends have tried to find him for us,” said Rosemary.

After 14 years in Spain, Rosemary and husband Steve returned to Guernsey.

Two years ago Rosemary went on holiday to The Gambia to find it had evolved into a modern, vibrant, and in parts, prosperous country, around the main towns, with markets as busy as ever.

“We are in touch with Malick and Foday, two schoolboys we met on our first trip.

“Kemo, and his wife Hawa lost their first child Ma-bintou, who as mentioned, died of malaria.

“Two sons were later born, Talibo in 2001 and Mohammed Lamin in 2003, whose compound was near Serrekunda,” said Rosemary, returning to the Gambia, Kotu, later this year.

“It is sad that we may never know what has happened to Kemo and his family.

“But can rejoice the two young lads, who thrust a piece of paper into our hands 20 years ago, have stayed our friends and are now living well”, said Rosemary.

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