So Victor finally succumbed to Ebola! What a great tragedy! What a great loss yet again to Salone!
Dr Willoughby has been a household name in Salone since the late 1970’s. As a great physician he had done so much in the field of medical practice and had achieved so many laurels that he had become a real legend. Coupled with his pleasant personality, humility and not seeming to be too concerned with just making money, he had endeared himself to lots of people by treating all with respect regardless of their circumstance; greatand small, young and old, poor and rich, stranger or acquaintance.
I have known Sir Wilo(this is how we called him fondly in class) for many years since we met in the 1966/67 lower sixth class at the POW( Prince of Wales School).
POW sixth form was the learning rendezvous so to speak for talented young science students from all over Salone in those years. He had come from the Methodist Boys High School and most of the other classmates were also from Freetown Schools. I, from CKC(Christ the King College, Bo) and Dr. Francis Kanu presently in the UK from St. Francis,Makeni were the only two provincials at the POW lower sixth science class that year.
I was in a different science stream than Sir Wilo, in the puremaths, applied maths, physics stream with Usu Boie Kamara,(now Hon. Minister of Trade), Cecil Conton, Christopher Adams (BBC) and Dennis Wright.
SirWilo and the others were in the other stream, (the medical stream, so to speak, who generally went on to become Medics), offering Botany, Zoology and Chemistry. Usu Boie and myself were offering Chemistry as well and this meant we interacted with Sir Wilo almost daily either at the Chemistry lectures or in the Lab. In the Lab, Victor was always adventurous, the bourgeoningreal clinical scientist in the making and, as a result, his trousers was often stained or with sizeable pinholes from the effect of chemicals he toyed with. We often teased him of deliberately soiling his clothes with chemicals for the‘girls’at Oshora and Convent to know he was a science sixth former at the PO, a highly respected and admired breed by these species at the time.
In sixth form in those days we were paid regular monthly allowance of Le.11 (eleven leones), even during school vacations. This was a very reasonable amount then for students and with it we could afford for a whole month a daily large loaf of breadfor lunch from Mammy Ashwoodstuffed with fried fish, akara,etc. and a pint of ginger beer with some left over to purchase other personal necessities.
Sir Wilo was always the first to know about and collect the allowance and once he did, he will come and announce to us, with the typical air of someone with privilege information, in a special way by simply saying “da tin don cam”, meaning the allowance was ready at the cashier’s office. Although the allowance was regular, its time of arrival at the end of the month was a bit uncertain but Sir Wilo was always the first to know and collect and inform the rest. As you could imagine this was a very valuable service for which we were very grateful to him. I never asked, nor do I think anyone ever asked how he knew; I suppose the hilarity on hearing the news and the speed with which we rushed to the cashier’s office killedany desire of ever enquiring as to Wilo’s source even from active and young inquiring minds of sixth formers.
Till his death last week, UsuBoie and myself especially used to refer to him fondly as “da tin don cam”and, in fact, called him like that most times. He will ask fondly “wae me yone?”Of course he did not expect anything in reality, it was just a joke.
His Kindness and Sense of Duty
In his professional life, he treated many a school or classmate and their relatives for free. Was it because he was getting so much from his lucrative medical retainershipsand could afford to dispense with other professional fees as Josephine Hazeley of the BBC said recently in her brief obituary on him? I really don’t think so, the man was just generous and caring. He was keenly aware of the poverty in the country and of the fact that most people could not afford the ‘true’cost of medical bills. This I believe was the reason why he treated some people for virtually free even thosehe knew could afford to pay and were willing to do so.
My first encounter with Sir Wilo, the Doctor, was in 1983 when I took my ailing father to him at his Clinic at Howe Street which he was then sharing with DrAboud.
We had not seen each other for some years and the welcome he gave me was rapturous. He spoke to the Pa about our PO days and the old man was very happy and felt reassured he was in safe hands. When I brought him a day or so later the result of the X-rayand other tests he had requested he told me frankly to prepare for the worse but that he would do his best. He advised obviously that I should not tell the Pa. The old man passed away a couple of months later in 1984. I am sure he was not always as frank like that with other people. But for a classmate he may have felt there was no need to hide the true status of my Dad from me. That was Sir Wilo, the true friend.
He was also the personal physician to other school or class mate and their relatives. I recall the case of Hon. Usu Boie’s father the late Pa Boie Kamara of Magazine Cut. He used to joke that anytime he visited the Pa at his residence Usu was asked out for a private audience with the Pa. He often teased Usu for this saying the Pa had more respect and confidence in him than for Usu.
A couple of months ago when news spread that UsuBoie was gravely ill and rumours were being spread on ‘WhatsApp’ that he was in fact dead (may God forbid), I did not have the courage to find out from his relatives, so I called Sir Wilo. He knew instinctively why I was calling and went straight to assure me “your brother is not dead”and that he was stable in the UK. How relieved I was after all the wicked rumours! And how devastated Hon. Usu Boie could have been on hearing the sad news!
The Humble Man
I started seeing Sir Wilo more often after 2002 mainly to treat my son who is a bit sickly.
Since the first introduction, he has been seeing him anytime he felt the need and without me even knowing and without paying the usual mandatory consultation fee.
I also don’t pay consultation fees and Sir Wilo never requested professional fees from me. He knew I could afford to pay but he never demanded. I believe he also told his staff not to demand consultation fees from me, my sons and even my staff for they never asked once I send anyone with a note. What is more,whenever I met medical students in his Clinic he would introduce me lavishly and say “this man from CKC always challenged us at PO”. I felt embarrassed sometimes and often told him there was no need for that. Afterwards I have come to see him and I needed his services. He would retort “no Sir, these students need to know who was who and how industrious and competitive we were in our school days”. What humility!
Sir Wilo never took cash from me, so occasionally I sent him a personal cheque of whatever. He would call back and say thanks and fondly add “Da tin don cam”.
How much I would have loved to visit him at his sick bed and whisper in his ears “Sir Wilo da tin don cam”! How much of a psychological palliative that could have been! With Ebola that was of course out of question. What a pity!
One advantage of being class mates is that even in later life one can take liberty to ask one another very personal questions which other acquaintances would hesitate to do.
Early this year I went over to Sir Wilo’s home which is a reasonable walking distance from mine. The welcome as always was nice and during our chat I asked him why he looked‘pulled down’somewhat. He confided in me but said it was not very serious. I told him he should obviously know better and wished him the very best. I have not seen him since although he sends greetings to me often through my son butwe sometimes talk on the phone.
Sir Wilo I cannot thank you more for the innumerable services rendered to me, my relatives and staff; your passing away is a big blow not only to your family but to countless others and an irreparable loss to Salone. Were it not for the Ebola scourge, thousands would have thronged to your funeral service to mourn and give you a befitting farewell. Nothing is sadder than the lonely manner in which an illustrious man of your stature has departed into the eerie loneliness of the grave. We wish however that you will have its peaceand for this I pray for you and your other departed colleagues in the language you often liked to hear from the boy from CKC”Requiem aeternamdonaeisDomine”ie”Grant them eternal rest, O Lord”
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.