Gambian social and political activism in pre-independence days had produced remarkable iconic and legendary figures.
Crispin Grey-Johnson, commonly called “Uncle Crispin” by the erstwhile youths such as our humble selves growing up in Bathurst/Banjul, was indisputably one of such great unforgettable titanic figures.
Passionate, committed, and courageous, his political and social activism was intertwined with an acute sense of national and civic duty, dedicated social and community service and deep religious convictions.
It was an activism that often times made the then powers that be ie the erstwhile British colonial administration very much uncomfortable and more often than not become repressive.
Uncle Crispin’s unblemished character, sense of decency, refined sensibility and unrelenting struggle for the advancement of the national interests of his fellow Gambians, notably the working class and throughout his most dynamic and well-invested life, would forever remain in the hearts and minds of his fellow Gambians.
In so being, he had been credited for having been the main architect of the then civil servants’ association for the defence of their rights and interests.
As a civil servant for many long years starting from 1924, he had worked in various government offices such as the Audit department, the colonial Police force, government Secretariat, Marine department until his voluntary retirement in 1954.
He later became a municipal Councillor in the then Bathurst Town Council where he was Deputy Chairman for some nine good years.
In such capacity, he welcomed the Duke of Edinburgh during the royal’s visit to Bathurst in 1957.
Besides, he was secretary and adviser to the Bathurst Cutter Owners Association, and a Gambia Democratic Party delegate at the inter-party pre-independence consultations in Bathurst with the British Government Uncle Crispin would always be remembered for his prominent role in the 1959 “Bread and Butter Demonstration” and for his inspirational leadership during the 1961 Gambia Workers Union and subsequent Docker’s Demonstration / Procession for which the requisite public order “permit” was not granted by the then colonial authorities.
As such, Uncle Crispin was always known as an enthusiastic and staunch Gambian who had always championed the cause of his fellow citizens, his community and his church.
Above all, he was the dedicated and caring family man, the faithful friend of all who was held in the highest esteem by all who were privileged to know him.
Indeed, he had always been his true self, the Grey-Johnson of the Uncle Crispin type, a gentleman to the core, always compassionate and always willing to go the extra mile.
In passing, Uncle Crispin joined the St. Mary’s Choir in 1912 and was first robed in 1914.
He had held the office of Choir Secretary several times and subsequently became Succentor of the Cathedral Choir until the time of his death.
He had also been People’s Warden, member of the Church body (PCC) and the Diocesan Council of The Gambia and the Rio Pongas.
Needless to mention that he had also served his God as the renowned religious musical director bringing untold joy through music to generations of worshippers in his Church where he undoubtedly became a legend and a fixture for many decades, playing for regular services, celebrations, weddings, funerals etc.
As a distinguished choirmaster for many years, he was a pioneer of other musical groups in the parish and Church which remained forever indebted to him.
In all truth, Uncle Crispin was one of those unsung hero activist who had helped, in no small measure, pave the way for the Gambia’s independence and nationhood.
But he had neither sought the limelight nor personal glory.
In actual fact, he had, in all humility, served humanity without seeking any personal or worldly rewards and had also always been known to advise others to work for the uplift of the marginalised segments of society.
In Uncle Crispin’s example, we learn that society respects and loves those who spend life with honesty and serve humanity without demanding any rewards or expecting any fame.
In short, with Uncle Crispin’s calm, unassuming demeanour and profound intellectual depth, he had been able to bring passion, care and humanity to the cause of social justice which he had continued to champion throughout his most fulfilled and exemplary life.
Indeed, he was an embodiment of unmatched integrity, love, kindness, selflessness and loyalty to the lofty and noble cause for justice, freedom, dignity and prosperity for his own people.
RIP (Rest In Peace), RIP (Rest In Power), our beloved Patriarch, Uncle Crispin Grey-Johnson, our champion and the people’s person.