Breaking News Community Based Tourism Destinations Tourism and Heritage

Ten Places Of Attraction On Janjanbureh/McCarthy Island

By Yunus Saliu

Being an island with every inch rich in history and culture, let us look at its historic sites ranging from the oldest Methodist Church in Africa, South of the Sahara, Armitage school which dates to 1927, the relics of the booming groundnuts trading firms of the 1920s and 1930s, the freedom tree where the first batch of liberated Africans, now called Aku were disembarked from Sierra Leone in 1830s.

On the side of the culture, the Tiyansita, and Kankurang Center among others make the island a major destination for tourists.

Methodist Church

Methodist Church built in 1835 on McCarthy Island (Janjanbureh) is the oldest Methodist Church in sub-Saharan Africa. The Methodist Pastor, Rev Father Morgan established the church to cater to the religious need of the Christian community on the island barely twenty years after the British occupation of McCarthy Island. This also coincided with the arrival of the liberated Africans on the Island so they had a sizeable Christian population on the Island living side by side with the other groups.

Father Morgan also established a school to cater to the educational need of the children on the Island where he will do the lesson in the morning and religion services in the evening. The Methodist School there is over 50 years and is the first school outside of Bathurst in The Gambia which is of great historic significance.

The church is reputed to be the oldest functioning Methodist Church in Black Africa. Much of the original building fabric such as the roof rafters and the stained glass window is still intact. The tables in the interior commemorate many important early settlers who held office in the church.


This island in the past has played a great important role in the history of The Gambia especially the riverside wharf which used to be the most important riverside port outside the Bathurst (Banjul) Ocean where moving vessels used to sail from Liverpool, Bordeaux, Malmore direct to McCarthy Island Port to carry groundnuts to Europe.
According to the archive, in 1923, one hundred years ago, 30,000 tons of groundnuts were evacuated from this port alone for direct export to Europe. This is proof of the significant role of this port in the economy of The Gambia.

The Gambia has no road network until 1970 thus the British thought the river is enough to cater to the communication needs, because of that “we depended on boats doing the weekly sail from Bathurst to Basse while the island remain major stop and starting point of Lady Denham – the first riverboat linking Bathurst to Basse for the disembark and embark passengers and goods,” Historian Ceesay attested.

Armitage Senior Secondary School

Armitage Senior Secondary School is over 90 years. It was built in 1927 as a school for district chiefs to educate them so that they would be able to aspire to go senior positions in district administrations as deputies to their fathers or as court clerks.

The school was part of the colonial agenda to such of perpetuate the power and privilege of the district chiefs of course in later years it was open to more purpose, but originally it was meant for chiefs and sons and it was also the place where many of the early educated elites from the provinces educated this include Sheriff Dibba, former Vice President, and Omar Mbakeh and many more. While in 1961, Armitage Senior Secondary School started enrolling the girl students, too, because it was the only boy school in the beginning and the only western boarding school in the country.

Governor’s Office and Residence

The Governor’s building is over 120 years it is a building where the commissioners lived then. At the same time, the island was McCarthy and later called McCarthy Island Division and now Central River Region. It is the headquarters of the office and lodging of the Commissioners.

The Island was a Centre of Administration and command, you have the administrative significance, and commercial significance of the island they all have their offices in the Governor’s office. The Commissioner(s) then was a busy man who took the most significant decision but also takes care of the daily affairs of all the offices. To date, if you visit the office, you will find a comprehensive list of the entire Governors who have served on this beautiful island.

Colonial Lamp Pole

Among other historical social amenities on the island which cannot find in other parts of the country is the colonial Lamp Pole dating back over 100 years ago still visible. McCarthy Island has public lighting system even before Bathurst and this Lamp Pole is a good example of a public lighting system. It was established as early as 1890 at the main intersections of the town to illuminate the environment at night. This was long before the era of electricity and there was a group of men whose main task was to light the kerosene lamp at 6:00 pm every evening, refill them with kerosene, and put them off at 6:00 am.

Fort George/Foroyaa Sooto known as Freedom Tree Monument

The fort is cited in European records as built by Captain Alexander Grant in 1823 to serve as a garrison for British soldiers. The fort is no longer visible but is memorialized by a concrete pillar within the precincts of Foroyaa Sooto, the site of the Freedom Tree and where it is believed that disembarked liberated African first gathered when they arrived in 1832.

Tinyansita Sacred Forest

Located on the southern outskirts of the Island town, Tinyansita is the site where circumcision ceremonies and other rituals associated with initiation to manhood take place. The forest, located in the swampy area, is profuse with vegetation such as baobab and camel foot trees. The latter provides the bark used in the costumes of the Kankurang masquerade.

The legendary baobab trees with their huge trunks, at times with large followers, are considered sacred. Prayers and offerings are often made in or around them. The baobab is also renowned for its multiple uses, and no part of the tree goes to waste.

The ritual of initiation associated with the Kankurang is a very important tradition in African culture. This is a period when boys and girls undergo the rites of passage from childhood to adulthood. One of the major aspects of this ritual is a retreat into the forest where the Kankurang plays a significant role as a guardian spirit that protects the young initiates from witchcraft and evil spirits.

The Wooden House

Aku Bod Ose known as Wooden House is a cabin-like wooden house typical of the Aku/Krio (Creole) with origins on the East Coast of the United States, Novo Scotia, and the Caribbean. They came to Janjanbureh with the arrival of the US Librated-slave settlers from Sierra Leone.

Colonial Cemetery/Grave Yard

The colonial cemetery is a relic of the European presence on McCarthy Island. For a very long period, they had the colonial civil servant working there, Africans who were divided into Wollof, Mandinka, and Creole, and because of the religious differences, the Europeans have a cemetery separated from where the Muslims are buried. The island has a very old history of racial coexistence.

Janjangbureh Kankurang Center/Museum

In 2005, Kankurang was inscribed as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage as UNESCO worked with the National Centre for Arts and Culture and assisted them in the establishment of the Centre to interpret the Kankurang and different types of Kankurang in the country, its significance and environmental aspect of it. That is why they have “Tinyansita,” a place where you have the Fara tree used for the tying of the Kankurang.


Yunus S Saliu

About Author

Leave a comment

You may also like

Breaking News

Gambia: President Barrow lays the foundation stone of US$100 million Radisson Blu Hotel

The President of The Gambia, His Excellency Adama Barrow has recently laid a foundation stone for Radisson Blu Hotel as
Tourism and Heritage

Top-rated Tourist Attractions in The Gambia

KuntaKinteh Island One of the famous islands in The Gambia is Kunta Kinteh Island formerly known as James Island. It