By Modou Modou, Washington DC, USA
The eminent 18th Century English playwright, William Shakespeare, once mused on the enigma of mortality in the timeless tragedy of Hamlet, contemplating the elusive nature of death with the iconic soliloquy, “To die, to sleep – To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub.” These profound words resonate deeply, capturing the very essence of our existence, our insatiable quest for knowledge, and the poignant inevitability of the inexorable march of time.
Dr. Henry D.R. Carrol, a polymath of extraordinary dimensions, graced our world as a Senior Oxford-Trained jurist, the esteemed Solicitor General Emeritus of The Gambia, and a Senior Law Lecturer at the University of The Gambia since the illustrious year of 2007. His untimely departure leaves a void in the realm of knowledge and scholarship, akin to the silence left in a grand sonnet without its final verses.
However, Dr. Carrol’s contributions extend far beyond the realms of jurisprudence and academia, transcending the confines of convention. He was not merely a lawyer, but a vigilant guardian of environmental and human rights, a dedicated custodian of nature’s sanctity. His advocacy was not mere theatrical performance but an unwavering commitment to preserving the sanctity of the environment and safeguarding the fundamental rights of humanity, reminiscent of the indefatigable guardians of nature extolled in the verses of Greek poets.
In the realm of literature, Dr. Carrol’s prose and poetry transcended the banalities of everyday life. His writings resonated with the poetic eloquence reminiscent of John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” and ventured into the profound landscapes akin to William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.” His literary works transcended mere compositions; they became symphonies of contemplation and linguistic virtuosity, weaving a tapestry of words inviting readers to embark on profound explorations of human emotions and the timeless beauty of the natural world.
As an educator, Dr. Carrol epitomized the values upheld by the philosophers of antiquity. Much like the Socratic tradition, he recognized knowledge as the cornerstone of societal progress. His role as a Senior Law Lecturer at the University of The Gambia was marked by unwavering dedication to nurturing the intellects of his students, fostering an environment that echoed the philosophical symposia of ancient Greece, where discourse thrived. Countless bright lawyers in The Gambia benefited from Dr. Carrol’s tutelage. Long before the Gambia Law School was conceived, Dr. Carrol was teaching law at the Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI), where many young budding lawyers cut their legal teeth before forging afield to become legal luminaries.
Deeply rooted in the humanist tradition, Dr. Carrol drew inspiration from the works of Desiderius Erasmus, the Renaissance humanist who championed the belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. He viewed compassion and empathy as transformative forces, capable of healing a world marked by turmoil, akin to the enduring ideals of British humanism that continue to inspire and illuminate.
As a public intellectual, Dr. Carrol was akin to the characters immortalized in the works of Voltaire. He was a fearless challenger of the status quo, championing reason, justice, and liberty, much like the Enlightenment thinkers who sought to cultivate the gardens of knowledge. His discourse mirrored Voltaire’s call to “cultivate our garden,” actively participating in the intellectual and societal dialogues of his time, thereby shaping and influencing the course of human progress.
Dr. Carrol was an epicurean dynamo, truly reflecting the ethos of the ancient philosopher Epicurus, who believed in the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain as the ultimate goals of human existence. Much like Epicurus, Dr. Carrol indulged in the sensory pleasures of life, whether it was through the delight of a well-cooked meal, the rich notes of a vintage wine, the soulful strains of a musical composition, or simply enjoying the myriad wonders that life had to offer.
His zest for life finds parallels in British literature, notably in the works of Oscar Wilde. In “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, Wilde’s protagonist Dorian pursues hedonistic pleasures, much like an epicurean. While Dorian’s journey might be a cautionary tale about unchecked indulgence, it also emphasizes the allure of sensory experiences. Dr. Carrol, however, balanced his pleasures with a profound sense of responsibility and purpose, ensuring that his epicureanism never swayed into the realms of excess.
Another fitting comparison might be with the character Charles Ryder from Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited”. Ryder, much like Dr. Carrol, had an appreciation for beauty, art, and the finer things in life. Throughout the novel, Ryder’s fond memories of Brideshead and its opulent surroundings emphasize the deep-seated human desire to seek and cherish beauty.
It is also worth noting that Dr. Carrol was a true patron of his community. He not only personally patronized numerous local restaurants and bars but also generously opened his purse strings to aid budding local entrepreneurs. His acts of kindness weren’t mere transactions but manifestations of his belief in community growth and prosperity. I vividly recall the year 2006, during the Miss Black USA Beauty Pageant held in The Gambia. Not only did Dr. Carrol grace the event with his esteemed presence, but he had also, prior to the grand occasion, generously provided monetary support to the hosts, ensuring its success. Such actions displayed his unwavering commitment to fostering local talents and celebrating the cultural tapestry of The Gambia.
His heart was akin to that of the ancient Greek king, Pericles of Athens. Much like Pericles, who was renowned not only for his leadership during Athens’ golden age but also for his magnanimity and patronage of the arts, Dr. Carrol too embraced the philosophy of supporting and uplifting his community. Pericles believed in the idea that fostering culture, arts, and community endeavors was pivotal to the growth of a civilization.
In a similar vein, Dr. Carrol’s actions reverberated with the same ethos of magnanimity and a profound commitment to societal upliftment. In a world often dominated by self-centered pursuits, figures like Dr. Carrol stand tall as beacons of generosity and community spirit, reminding us of the timeless virtues exemplified by great leaders of yore, like Pericles.
Yet, his most defining roles transcended that of an activist; he embodied the essence of a dedicated public servant. Dr. Carrol’s illustrious career included serving as the state legal officer under three successive administrations: the Jawara, Jammeh, and Barrow regimes. Throughout his tenure, he epitomized the highest standards of ethical conduct, serving with unwavering distinction. Never ensnared in the web of scandal or corrupt practices that plagued some of his peers, he stood as the quintessential model of an ethical public administrator.
In an era when many of his colleagues in the public sector succumbed to the temptation of amassing ill-gotten wealth at the expense of hardworking taxpayers, Dr. Carrol remained steadfast, impervious to the siren song of unrestrained acquisition. He understood the philosophy of living within one’s means, finding contentment in the modest comforts afforded by his salary. His principled stance served as a beacon of ethical governance in a landscape where moral integrity often wavered. Dr. Carrol’s unwavering commitment to public service, reminiscent of the Stoic ideals of self-discipline and ethical integrity, distinguished him as a paragon of ethical governance.
In the Stoic tradition, living a life of virtue and restraint was paramount, ideals that Dr. Carrol upheld throughout his tenure as a public servant. His steadfast dedication to ethical principles mirrored the timeless Stoic philosophy that extols the intrinsic value of moral rectitude above material gain. In his passing, we have lost a radiant luminary whose brilliance graced our world, much like the stars that adorn the firmament. Dr. Henry D.R. Carrol’s legacy serves as a testament to the boundless potential of the human spirit, much like the scientific discoveries that expand the horizons of human knowledge.
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My first encounter with this remarkable man dates back to 2001 when I was but a teenager navigating the corridors of Gambia High School. At the time, I had already embarked on a journey as a young reporter, contributing to prominent Gambian publications like the Daily Observer, The Point, and The Gambia Daily. The meeting, which etched an indelible memory in my heart, took place near McCarthy Square in Banjul, close to the Gambia National Lottery offices.
An old bookseller by the name of Ebou Gaye used to set up a humble bookstall where he peddled pre-loved books. It was there that I arrived, carrying textbooks from a prior academic year that had served their purpose and were now in search of a new home. To my delight, Dr. Carrol stood nearby, on his own quest to acquire a used book, a novel that had piqued his interest. His face was not unfamiliar to me, as I had often seen his image gracing the pages of local newspapers. Meeting him in the flesh was an honor I could scarcely contain.
We introduced ourselves, and the ensuing conversation revealed that he was well aware of my contributions as a student reporter. His words, expressing his enjoyment of my writing, left me deeply flattered, for I held him in high regard. Dr. Carrol was, without a doubt, one of the finest writers I had the privilege of reading. His command of the English language was impeccable, and his erudition shone through in his writings. His knowledge of Greek and Latin, languages he fluently wielded, added a distinctive flavor to his prose and poetry. He had a penchant for expansive lexicons and grandiloquent phrases, and he effortlessly weaved these linguistic gems into his compositions. Our initial encounter served as the inception of a friendship that would persist until his untimely passing.
After my graduation from high school, as I assumed the role of an editor, our connection deepened. Dr. Carrol extended numerous invitations to his office in Banjul, where we engaged in extensive conversations, exploring myriad topics. He frequently entrusted me with a trove of articles to be published in The Point newspaper, a responsibility I bore with great pride. Our interactions transcended the professional realm; they became philosophical symposia, reminiscent of those held in ancient Greece. Dr. Carrol, in his magnanimity, created an environment where profound intellectual discussions could flourish. These dialogues spilled into our weekend meetups, often taking place in West Field, a district pulsating with life and diversity. There was this little-known watering hole in West Field Area where we would while away the hours, enveloped in conversation and camaraderie.
I can vividly recall the day before my departure for the United States we had a ball. When I informed him of my impending journey, he insisted that we celebrate. He whisked me away in his car to the vibrant Senegambia area, a hub of culture and culinary delights. After an evening of gastronomic indulgence and heartfelt conversation, he presented me with an envelope containing pristine one-hundred dalasi notes. He handed it to me and jokingly said, “Take this, my very good friend, and use it as your pocket money.” His generosity knew no bounds, a testament to his kind and benevolent nature.
Despite the disparity in our ages, Dr. Carrol was much more than a mentor; he became a confidant, a godfather, a role model, and a friend. His wisdom and guidance were invaluable to me, shaping my intellectual and personal journey. To everyone who had the privilege of crossing paths with him, whether in The Gambia or beyond, Dr. Carrol was a torchbearer of knowledge, an individual of profound education, and a passionate advocate for change. His wisdom transcended the boundaries of the ordinary, reflecting a mind well-versed in Greek philosophy, literature, and classical thought.
In his memory, let us not dwell in sorrow but instead celebrate a life that illuminated our world with sagacity, benevolence, and brilliance. Dr. Henry D.R. Carrol was a modern Renaissance soul, a maestro of life whose legacy will continue to inspire and guide future generations. His spirit shall soar on the wings of knowledge and compassion, much like the timeless ideas that have shaped human civilization throughout the ages. Dr. Carrol’s passing has left a void, a silence in the narrative of our time, much like the unfinished sonnet that yearns for its final verses. As we remember this multifaceted luminary, let us pay homage to the enduring legacy of a man whose life was a harmonious blend of knowledge, compassion, and brilliance – a testament to the boundless potential of the human spirit. Until we meet again, rest in eternal peace, my good jolly friend Dr. Henry Darlington Richmond Carrol (MRG).