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The De Ruyter Stone

The De Ruyter Stone, Freetown: The city has an excellent transportation network, which makes it easier for travelers to visit the several sites in and around the place.

This is Freetown’s oldest monument. It lies buried 6 feet underground, just above the high water mark at the King Jimmy Market, near the Connaught Hospital. Mentioned by early travellers in ships journals, it was covered by silt and was only re-discovered in 1923 when a concrete drain-off was being built to direct the waters of Peter’s Brook, beside the then new market building. The spring at this point was well known to all mariners on the West Coast of Africa as the best watering place in the region. It was then known as “King Jimmy Water” and is now called “Peter’s Brook”.

In 1664, during the Anglo-Dutch War, the famous Dutch Admiral De Ruyter sailed to Sierra Leone in order to destroy British settlements. He sacked Bunce Island and Tasso Island. He watered at King Jimmy and triumphantly recorded his visit by having his name and that of his second in command inscribed on a rock beside the clear brook, Peter’s Brook. The inscription on the syenite stone reads as follows:

“M.A. Ruyter. I. C. Mellon, Vice Admiralen, West Fries, Vant A.D. 1664”

The "De Ruyter Stone," as it's called in Sierra Leone, was uncovered early in the 20th century by workmen digging for a sewer line. Because the inscription is in the bedrock, it could not be removed, and was covered over again for its protection. The De Ruyter Stone is still covered today, though the Sierra Leone National Museum has put a wall around it to mark the spot. In the early 1960s, an American Peace Corps volunteer, named Gary Schulze, exposed the De Ruyter Stone for the first time in many years, and made a latex mould of the inscription. From that, he prepared a plaster cast which is now a permanent exhibit in the Sierra Leone National Museum. It's on display beneath a portrait of Admiral De Ruyter, Holland's greatest naval hero.

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