The Ulster History Circle have unveiled a blue plaque in Derry in honour of a West African doctor, poet and Nobel Prize nominee who lived in the city in the 1940s.
Dr Raphael Ernest Grail Armattoe lived and carried on his practice as a GP at 7 Northland Road from 1939 to 1945.
The plaque was unveiled by his son, Stanley Armattoe, who is travelled from London for the ceremony. Representatives from many African organisations in Ireland were among those at today’s ceremony.
Raphael Armattoe was born in August 1913 to a prominent family of the Ewe people in Togoland, West Africa.
He came to Europe at the age of 17 to continue his education. He studied in Germany, France and Britain; coming to Northern Ireland shortly after receiving a medical qualification in Edinburgh in 1938.
Besides practicing medicine in Derry, Raphael Armattoe made a unique contribution to the intellectual life of the city.
He gave talks on a variety of subjects, mainly medical and anthropological, to diverse groups such as the Great James’ Street Women’s Guild, the Amateur Radio Club and the St John’s Ambulance Society.
The doctor wrote articles for local newspapers as well as for academic journals such as “Man, Nature and African Affairs.”
From his base at Northland Road, Armattoe wrote a book on ‘The Golden Age Of West African Civilization’ (published in 1946) and issued numerous pamphlets.
He also found time to give lectures and make presentations in Dublin and London and further afield.
It is a sign of the esteem in which Armattoe was held that members of both Stormont and Dáil Eireann, as well as three Westminster MPs, nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949.
In 1948, Dr. Armattoe received a grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation for anthropology research. The grant allowed him to return to West Africa for the first time in eighteen years.
He returned to Derry half a year later to write up his reports.
Towards the end of 1950 Armattoe and his family settled in Kumasi, in what is now Ghana, where he set up a medical clinic and research centre.
Dr Armattoe travelled to New York in 1953 to address a United Nations commission and, en route home to Kumasi, took ill and died in a German hospital just before Christmas.