A British grandmother who became the first white woman in the world to be made a Ghanian chief has amazingly been crowned head — of her third tribe.
Aid worker Lynne Symonds, 50, was crowned ‘Chief of Enlightenment and Education’ for the Manprusis tribe in Ghana in 1996 as a thank you for her brave charitable efforts.
Farmer’s wife Lynne was stunned when she was awarded a second chiefdom – ‘Queen of philanthropists’ for the Gonjaland people – in 2003.
But amazingly, former teacher Lynne was made a tribal head for the third time when she was crowned ‘Chief of Peace’ of the Dagomba tribe this summer.
The ceremony saw Lynne wrapped in traditional cloth and included shooting rifles, sitting on animal skin, singing and dancing.
However, as chief Lynne has a number of bizarre rituals to adhere too including – keeping all her toenail and hair clippings – because they will be buried with her when she dies.
Her royal duties include travelling from village to village greeting people and sharing goodwill and love.
But bizarrely despite the 45 degree heat she is not allowed to drink in public and when she dies is expected to be buried in Ghana.
Former A level science teacher Lynne yesterday (Tues) said she feels “exceptionally honoured” to be made a chief for the third time.
The grandmother-of-four said: “Part of the ceremony involved the shooting of some very old rifles, a lot of music, horns and drums, and singing and dancing.
“They wrapped me around in traditional cloth, in my new chief’s attire. There are so many rules that you have to abide by as a chief.
“You have to walk slowly and behave regally which I find hard as I am the sort of person who is usually dashing around.
“I really do not like the idea of white people swanning around and helping people in the developing world for show.
“I said no to being made chief again at first, but the tribe said they wanted to thank me and it would help them draw attention to the problems in their country.
“I feel exceptionally honoured – it is a unique honour. It is the Wulugu Project that deserves the honour really.
“To be a woman chief is very unique – sometimes I forget that. I am never happy I always need to do more.
“I am very proud of the work our charity has done. We have quadrupled the amount of girls in primary school education.
“We do not get much funding as we are a small charity – we could do so much more if we have the money.”
Lynne, from Great Melton, Norfolk, first became interested in Africa in 1993 when she met two teachers from Ghana on a work trip in Japan.
They told her a child had recently died in their school and that the school had no books so Lynne began fundraising.
She collected books locally to send to Ghana and organised desks for a school there and in 1994 a library was set up in Northern Ghana called the Lynne Symmonds library.
Lynne was made a ‘Chief of Enlightenment and Education’ for Manprusis for her work on the library and setting up a hostel for school girls in 1996.
She received her second chiefdom ‘Queen of philanthropists’ for Gonjaland in 2003 for encouraging girls to take part in primary education.
This summer she received ‘Chief of Peace’ of the Dagomba for getting girls back into primary education by setting up another school and hostel in the region.
The chief ceremony, called ‘enskinment’, involves sitting on a pile of cushions and animal skins next to the headchief and his spearman.
As chief, Lynne has to travel from village to village greeting people and she is not allowed to drink in public – despite the 45 degree heat.
Tradition also dictates that Lynne must keep all her toenail and hair clippings to be buried with her when she dies.
But Lynne has admitted she has not stuck to that rule religiously.
She is also expected to be buried in Ghana.
Lynne has helped thousands of poverty stricken African children through her organisation, the Wulugu Project, which she set up in 1993.
She says she is motivated by her experience growing up in the North East of England where she lived in an upstairs flat alongside families who shared a flat and loo in the back yard.
The project has helped thousands of deprived children, quadrupling the number of girls in school in the remote north of Africa, and rescuing hundreds of older girls from slavery.
In Karaga it built a vocational school for 150 girls and the project is now finishing off a hostel for girls who live too far away from the school.
The project has also given girls who previously had no hope education in nutrition, health, family care as well as teaching them locally marketable skills.
She has set up a penpal project whereby hundreds of children at schools in Sunderland, where she is originally from, write to children in Ghana.