The sad death, on 19 August in hospital in The Gambia, of Mankamang Touray, a founder of the Marlborough Gunjur link will cause grief to his many friends and admirers in the Marlborough community.
For me personally, given that I had stayed with Mankamang, his wives Fatou Yai and Mbassibi and their children 70 times in the past 25 years, I feel I have lost a true brother. The family compound was always open to visitors from Marlborough and many will remember the generous reception and warmth always afforded to them.
It was significant that when in 1981 members of the Marlborough Brandt Group chose Gunjur as the community with which to form a partnership, thanks to the recommendation of Hon Abdoulie Bojang, the Gambian High Commissioner to UK, Mankamang was elected a member of the Gunjur Link Committee (GLC), later to become Chairman, to manage the partnership at the Gunjur end.
Mankamang’s commitment to the link was demonstrated when in 1984 he and his wife Fatou Yai hosted our first gap year student Sally Lovelace, sent to Gunjur to teach English in the Upper Basic School for a whole year between leaving St John’s school in Marlborough and going on to higher education. This was the first time that a family in the community of (then) 15,000 people had ever hosted a white person.
As Sally later wrote “Having now lived with the people and having what I consider to be my family in Gunjur, I know that the people we see on television are like us, not totally different and are happy with their lot. Gunjur will remain special to me and I was lucky to have such an excellent reception with the Link Committee’s support and the village’s commitment to the link”.
It was significant, and a real tribute to Sally, aged 18, that in recognition of her extraordinary ability to immerse herself in such a different community, Mankamang and Fatou Yai named their daughter Sally.
In 1986 Manky, as he was always known to his friends, was a member of the first group of 15 Gambians to spend one month living with different families in the community and working alongside young people from Marlborough on the construction of an adventure playground on the Portfield estate. Manky will be remembered for his great sense of fun and enjoyment of meeting all that was so different in the Marlborough community.
By 2010 the Gunjur link had seen an estimated 400 young Gambians from Gunjur visit Marlborough either in groups or as individuals coming for training in different skills and it was Mankamang, leading the GLC, who selected the people to come.
In 1990 Manky spent six months in Marlborough working with TH White, training in store management. He was later to become a senior member of NAWEC’s (National Water and Electricity Company) management team responsible for providing power and electricity and sewerage services to the people of The Gambia.
In 1997 Mankamang led the movement in Gunjur to encourage the Marlborough Brandt Group to recognise that, while the exchange of people between the two communities was clearly of benefit to all those involved, there were real problems facing the Gunjur community. Following an appraisal of these needs, in particular women’s literacy, access to clean water, early childhood education, health education and micro credit to enable young people to set up businesses, the non Governmental agency TARUD (Trust Agency for Rural Development) was formed with Mankamang as a trustee of the organisation which was to address these issues, with support from the Marlborough Brandt Group which continues to this day.
In his capacity as Chair of the GLC, Manky came with small groups to Marlborough and in 2007 accompanied by Sandang Bojang and Mbanding Jammeh he was present at a meeting in Marlborough House, headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat at which Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu launched a “Toolkit for Linking” designed to guide communities around the world considering the possibility of forming a partnership with a community in another continent/country.
The recommendations in the toolkit were to a large extent based on the, by that time, 25 years experience of the Gunjur Marlborough Link of which Mankamang had played such a key role and at the meeting with Archbishop Tutu, he and his Gambian colleagues were able to speak about the personal relationships that had developed across the link between Marlborough and the predominantly Muslim community of Gunjur, to which Archbishop Tutu responded by declaring “Listen! I have a hotline to God. And God says “Use the Toolkit!””
Manky’s last visit to Marlborough was in 2009 when he accompanied the Seyfo (Mayor) and Nyansimba (head of the women’s organisation in Gunjur) to Marlborough where they were greeted by Mayor Nick Fogg.
Manky will be remembered by all as a man of humour, compassion, high intelligence and with a passion for and total commitment to the partnership between our two communities and without whom the link would certainly not have flourished in the way that it did.
In a tribute to Mankamang my daughter Tory Pope writes:-
“I was so very saddened to hear of Mankamang’s death. He was a wonderful man and I feel as though he was a part of our family in Marlborough for many many years.
I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in Gunjur in 2005, staying in the Touray family compound whilst I did some reporting for the BBC Africa season. Mankamang was my host and guide throughout and gave so much time and energy to making sure I was well cared for and could access all the parts of village and people I needed to speak to.
He had a wonderful sense of humour, and many of his views and beliefs, whilst still quite different from my own, seemed very progressive. He’s clearly touched hundreds, if not thousands, of lives and helped bring about a huge amount of positive change, both for Gunjur and Marlborough.
I was always touched by what a great family man he was as well – he was so very proud of his wives, children and grandchildren, and seemed to take so much joy from spending time with them”.
As Gambian friends have written:-
“He was a man of the people, a community activist and a true citizen of Gunjur. He has been a towering figure when it comes to development issues in Gunjur and has positively impacted on many lives in Gunjur and beyond”.
“Mankamang played a key part in the establishment and success of Gunjur’s link with Marlborough that has had a lasting and positive impact on Gunjur and its citizens”.
“We pray that his soul will rest in eternal peace”.