News

July 11, 2024

Abel Aboh, others, felicitate as Scotland’s first black Prof, Geof Palmer is honoured with Prestigious order

In a landmark event resonating deeply within global academic and social justice circles, Sir Professor Geoff Palmer has been inducted into the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s highest honour.

This historic ceremony, presided over by His Majesty King Charles III at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, marks the first time a Black individual has received this prestigious accolade, highlighting Professor Palmer’s significant contributions to academia and relentless advocacy for social justice.

Members of the Royal Family attended the Thistle service, with Queen Camilla and the Duke of Edinburgh formally appointed to Scotland’s highest order of chivalry. The Order of the Thistle recognises individuals who have made significant contributions to national life, and the recent inductees include anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black, lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy, and Sir Professor Geoff Palmer.

Abel Aboh, who was invited on the request of Sir Geoff Palmer, described the event as profoundly moving. “It was an honour to join Sir Professor Palmer, his family, friends, and associates on such a historic day,” Aboh remarked. He praised Professor Palmer’s unwavering support and insightful words, reinforcing the belief in education as a powerful tool against inequality and racism.

Dr. Reginald Agu echoed this sentiment, highlighting how Professor Palmer’s achievements inspire the Nigerian community and beyond. “His journey is a testament to the power of resilience and the impact one individual can have on society,” said Agu, who benefitted from Sir Geoff Palmer’s guidance as a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University.

The ceremony, held on July 3, 2024, was a spectacle of tradition and honour. Knights, dressed in distinctive green velvet robes and white plumed hats, participated in a procession from the city’s Signet Library to the Thistle Chapel at St Giles’ Cathedral. The chapel, hosting the order since 1911, is adorned with uniquely Scottish details, including angels playing bagpipes.

The event brought together a notable audience, including prominent members of the Nigerian diaspora. Abel Aboh, a leading Data and AI Leader, who works at the Bank of England, was congratulated by President Bola Tinubu last year, for his appointment as a board member of the Data Lab Scotland and on the Nomination Committee of The Law Society of Scotland, and Dr. Reginald Agu, a Research Scientist at the Scottish Whisky Research Institute and a visiting Professor at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, attended.

Their presence underscored the deep connection between Scotland and Nigeria, highlighting the strong contributions of Nigerians in the UK.

Professor Palmer’s journey from Jamaica to the heights of academia in the UK is a powerful narrative of resilience and determination. As a member of the Windrush generation, he joined his mother in the UK, balancing his studies with delivering newspapers to support his family. His pioneering research in cereal science and fervent advocacy against racism have earned him widespread respect. Notably, he has played a key role in re-evaluating the legacy of Henry Dundas, whose actions delayed the abolition of slavery.

Reflecting on the honour, Professor Palmer emphasised the critical role of education in combating racism and fostering equality. He credited his mother for instilling in him the values that have guided his illustrious career and expressed deep gratitude to all who have supported him.

The ceremony celebrated Professor Palmer’s numerous achievements and titles, including:

  • Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle
  • Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
    • Commander of the Order of Distinction Jamaica
    • Holder of the Canadian Forces Decoration
  • Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University

In a heartfelt prayer, Abel Aboh wished that Sir Professor Palmer and the other inductees dedicate themselves to the honour of God,“May they uphold the Order’s motto:”Nemo me impune lacessit” -“No one provokes me with impunity.” May they serve with honour, promoting God’s message, the King’s reign, and peace throughout the land,” he concluded.

The presence of Abel Aboh and Dr. Reginald Agu at this momentous occasion underscores the shared pride and unity within the Nigerian diaspora, celebrating a landmark achievement in the history of Scotland and beyond. This historic event not only recognizes the individual achievements of Sir Professor Geoff Palmer but also symbolises a significant step forward in acknowledging and addressing historical injustices, serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration for future generations.

About the Order of the Thistle

The Order of the Thistle, believed to be revived by King James VII of Scotland (James II), recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to national life. The distinctive green velvet robes and white plumed hats of the knights added to the grandeur of the event, which forms part of the royals’ Holyrood Week stay in Scotland.

This year’s Holyrood Week was shortened due to the UK general election which saw the new Labour Party government. Both the King and Queen attended an event celebrating the 900th anniversary of the City of Edinburgh on the day.