7 March 1907, Freetown, Western Area, Sierra Leone
31 October 1995, Marylebone, City of Westminster, Greater London, London
Robert Benjamin Ageh Wellesley Cole (7 March 1907 – 31 October 1995), was a Sierra Leonean medical doctor who was the first West African to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Background and early life
Robert Benjamin Ageh Wellesley Cole was born at No. 15 Pownall Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Wilfred Sydney Wellesley Cole and his wife, Elizabeth Cole (née Okrafo-Smart). The Wellesley-Cole family had three other children including Dr. Irene Ighodaro who was the first West African woman to qualify as a medical doctor.
The Wellesley-Coles were a Sierra Leone Creole family of partial Caribbean origin who also descended from Wolof and Yoruba Liberated African ancestors. The Okrafo-Smart family was another prominent Creole family largely of Igbo Liberated African descent.
Wilfred Cole was a successful engineer who was the first Sierra Leonean to serve as an assistant for the Public Water Works Department in Freetown. The Wellesley-Cole family was a middle-class Creole family, and Robert Wellesley-Cole grew up in a household of relative comfort and privilege.
Wellesley-Cole was educated at the Government Model School in Freetown, Sierra Leone where he was taught by teachers such as William Campbell. Following the completion of his primary education, Wellesley-Cole was enrolled as the first student of the Government Model Secondary School, currently known as Prince of Wales Secondary School. Wellesley-Cole completed his studies at Prince of Wales and passed the Cambridge Entrance Certification in 1925.
Wellesley-Cole obtained upper-second class honours from Fourah Bay College and proceeded to attend Newcastle University Medical School.
Wellesley-Cole was the first West African to become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Due to discrimination in the West African Medical Service, Wellesley-Cole mainly practiced in the United Kingdom, although he did also practice in Ibadan, Nigeria and in his natal homeland of Sierra Leone.
Following Sierra Leone’s Independence on 27 April 1961, then Prime Minister Milton Margai offered Wellesley-Cole the position of senior medical officer.
- Kossoh Town Boy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960)
- An Innocent in Britain, or, The Missing Link: a documented autobiography (United Kingdom:Campbell Matthews, 1988)