In Pepys’ Diary a few days ago commenter Pedro quoted Man of War by Ollard as follows:

Meanwhile [in late May 1664] on the West Coast of Africa…

At Anashan Holmes celebrates the King’s birthday with a dinner party on board the Jersey for the Danish Commanding Officer and the Dye of Foutou “with diverse others whom I caressed and very well presented to secure their friendship to the English.”

When I asked him about the “Dye of Foutou,” he said “This is around the time that Holmes is at Cape Coast Castle, and he seems to have been given this name by a John Cabissa the remarkable leader of the tribe at Kormantin” and in a subsequent comment “It looks like this may be the King of Fetu,” which gave me the hint I needed to find that Fetu (more properly known as Ef(f)utu or Afutu) was indeed a small kingdom on the Gold Coast in the 17th century; you can read about their history, legends, and matrilineal system here. But I’ve been unable to find any reference to anything resembling a “dye” either online or in my African history books. Any ideas?

Addendum (Sept. 2020). I thought I’d quote a bit from that last link, Kofi Akosah-Sarpong’s review of The Making of an African King: Patrilineal & Matrilineal Struggle Among the Effutu of Ghana by Anthony Ephirim-Donkor (Asmara: Africa World Press, 2000):

The Effutu emigrated from Timbucktu, after the fall of the Ghana empire and the subsequent rise of the Mali empire in the 14th century. They made their way through the Savana through the rain forest to the coast, and eventually to their present homeland, Winneba. The new settlers came with their structures of governance and their socio-religious beliefs intact. The Effutu journey to their present day homeland was strewn with dangers and pains but fired on by supernatural and by an unshakable sense of the sacred. One of the most painful episodes of their journey to Simpa (or Winneba) is the death of their king, Kwame Gyateh Ayirebe Gyan, before they could reach Winneba, who was the owner of the deity Kojo and several other sacred/supernatural objects of hierophany.


  1. A few hits for “Day of Fetu.”
    Lemme check some actual books…

  2. marie-lucie says

    At the time of early French colonization, Algeria was governed by a “Dey” and Tunisia by a “Bey”. Could the ruler of Foutou have been a “Dey”?

  3. dehye ‘royal person’?

  4. I thought of the Dey of Algiers, but that was a long way from the Guinea Coast, and how would a Turkish word for ‘maternal uncle’ have made its way down to Afutu?

  5. MMcM: Thanks, that’s got to be it! Akan dehye apparently means ‘royal person, royalty,’ which fits perfectly.

  6. marie-lucie says

    I thought of the Dey of Algiers, but that was a long way from the Guinea Coast, and how would a Turkish word for ‘maternal uncle’ have made its way down to Afutu?
    So that is what Dey meant originally! Then is Bey ‘paternal uncle’?. I guessed that they were probably Turkish words, as Algeria and Tunisia were part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. Were these terms supposed to be symbols of the “benevolent” Ottoman rule?
    As for making its way to Afutu, Dey could conceivably have crossed the Sahara with the caravans, as a high honorific rather than a kin term. But I agree that the Akan word is more probable.

  7. How? The Sahara, as you know, was highly crossable, and much crossed.
    For me, the word “foutou” has but a single meaning: the tasty mash made of plantains in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, and eaten with palm nut soup, or stewed fish in okra.
    I have consumed vast quantities of it this year.

  8. Oh, sure, I didn’t mean the Sahara was impassable, just that it seemed extremely unlikely that a very localized term for a governor of Algiers would make its way down the caravan routes (along with the salt and cowrie shells) to a tiny semi-independent kingdom on the Gulf of Guinea.
    m-l: No, bey (earlier beg) is a Turkish word for ‘prince, governor.’ (And the Turkish word borrowed as dey is actually dāi, so the resemblance isn’t that striking.)

  9. marie-lucie says

    Thank you, LH. But it is still very puzzling to me why one country should be ruled by a “prince, governor” and the next one by a “maternal uncle”! Or could the Turkish word beginning with d have been yet another, now lost word?

  10. Cum grano salis says

    Re: Corsairs of the Mediteranean Seas. They were happy to sail to Devon and Cornwall of the Isles of England in the 1600’s to get new cheap labour and a few wenches, so it would not create a big problem to sail south to the find new wealth, I do find it strange that documentation be scarse, but the local people may have records of visits of traders, long before the Portuguese found havens.
    Not every one put to print their secrets, knowing that it would not be a secret any more. The first person to put pen to paper may not be the first to find good use of that information. There still be secrets of potent mixtures that be not on file for sneaky ones to steal.
    So it be my thinking, the clues to meeting of diverse groups be in the seeding of foreign words into the local language, then comes along another language user whom aurally transcribes this word into his version, then on retelling, it gets aurally transcribed again.
    I not be an academic, but I have had fun listening to Suffolk, Essex, Welsh, Oxcam, Cockney , Scot[ch] and on and on and if I had to writ on paper wot I be ‘earing, I still nae be clear.
    An Englishman listening to me, believes that I be B***** ferener, as my ahs and ehs be in the wrong place.
    So enjoy playing detective.

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