Tribute to my oldest friend, Theresa Striggner Scott
“Scott House will always be there”, I had assured Theresa when I phoned to cancel our appointment to see the renovations she had made to her old home. She was clearly disappointed and said, “I hear, Scott House will always be there”. That was on August 28th.
I went to Scott House after September 4th. The renovations were admirable, but Auntie Theresa was not there! A handful of friends were there to mourn with Geta and pay their respects on Theresa’s passing.
Theresa always affirmed that the happiest years of her life were spent at Scott House with her husband, Kenneth Scott (Winky). The house had no inner walls and half-partitions divided the different areas. It was an open plan and symbolic of the Scott hospitality – an open house where all their friends were always welcome. Tuesday evenings at Scott House in the 70s and 80s were an institution – a wonderful gathering of friends to discuss every subject from Art to Politics over a good meal. There was the occasional gate-crasher whom Winky would greet with polite irony, “I’m sorry I forgot to invite you, but please leave your name”. The multiple coups in the eighties and their attendant curfews ended these refreshing Tuesdays.
My friendship with Theresa began long before Scott House. She attended Achimota School and was a classmate of my brother Johnny Quashie-Idun and his future wife Betty. We met in the late 1940s when we were students in the United Kingdom. Theresa’s mother, Auntie Catherine Katsina Botchwey, had visited London for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and we students, hungry for home cooking and mothering invaded her flat in North London where she lavished both on all of us. It is easy to see where the legacy of warmth and kindness began. Theresa, and indeed, her sister Ruth inherited these gifts from Auntie Catherine.
Though I was studying at Exeter and Theresa in London, our friendship grew with her visiting Exeter and I spending most of my holidays in London. When I left Exeter and moved to London, we discovered our common interest in the English Theatre and frequently went to see plays. On one occasion we waited outside the stage door to greet the famous actor, Sir John Gielgud after a performance of Hamlet and had a word from him when he discovered from the doorman that we were from the Gold Coast. In those days the Gold Coast was highly regarded as the model British Colony.
I must confess that not all our activities were artistic and cultural. An incident that revealed this was an encounter with a neighbourhood butcher when we looked after a friends’ flat. Meat was still being rationed and we preferred to buy bones, which were excellent for Ghanaian soup for the winter nights. The butcher noted our preference for bones and assuming we had a dog always added some meat to them. “What’s the name of your dog?”, he asked with kindled interest. “BODOM”, was our reply. “BOREDOM?”, he asked. “No, Bodom”, we repeated with a lilt of the head to indicate the inflexion – “It means a great dog, in our language”, we added. For many weeks after we had good bones with meat for our dog and the kind butcher always tilted his head upwards to get the correct inflexion for “Bodom”. We returned to our hostel and that was the end of our dog.
The Hospice where we stayed, was more of a home for students from all over the world; there were 25 young ladies, and Theresa was friendly with all of them. She had a great gift of friendship and had kept in touch with all of them, sending them greeting cards every Christmas, as long as they were alive.
Many people have described her as beautiful, elegant and dignified. She had always been all these and more. Even as a student, the most inexpensive attire would look designer-made when she wore them. It is easy to appreciate her personality and forget that her achievements were remarkable too. She was a High Court Judge of the Ghana Bench and became the first woman judge of any race to sit on the bench in Zimbabwe. She was appointed Ghana’s ambassador to France in 1986 with accreditation to Spain, Greece and the Vatican. She was a member of the commission appointed by the U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in 2004 to investigate reports of the violation of human rights in Darfur.
Theresa Scott was a very private person and seldom talked about herself, so her achievements were not trumpeted loudly for public acclamation. She was the epitome of service to home and country, and a perfect role model for succeeding generations. A model friend, she believed more in giving than receiving. She always celebrated my birthdays by taking me and my family out to lunch, and would often send us food either ordered or prepared by her on special occasions. But I do not remember her only by food or gifts but most importantly, I remember the love and care that flowed from her to all kinds of people around the world.
I shall miss her, my oldest friend. I shall miss our phone conversations. I shall miss the laughter and the tears we shared over the years. She is unforgettable, irreplaceable and will always be embedded in many hearts.
May our heavenly Father’s love and comfort enfold us all, particularly Geta and her family, and may He grant Auntie Theresa’s soul a peaceful rest.