Sat | Jul 4, 2020

Labourites in mourning as Gallimore joins Seaga

Published:Friday | May 29, 2020 | 12:34 AMRomario Scott, Carl Gilchrist and Edmond Campbell/Gleaner Writers

May 28 has, for the past two years, been a dreaded date on the calendar for the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

While members of the party were on Thursday preparing to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, a former education minister with deep political roots in the party also died.

He is Neville Gallimore.

“It is with much sadness that I learnt of the passing of our beloved Neville Gallimore, CD,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said on Thursday.

“Neville was a minister of government, a member of parliament, serving the constituency of South West St Ann for more than 30 years, and a dedicated member of the Jamaica Labour Party.”

Holness eulogised Gallimore as “a great Jamaican” and praised his love of God and church and commitment to his country.

Gallimore, 81, started his political career in 1967 when he was first elected to the House of Representatives as a 28-year-old, the youngest Jamaican parliamentarian at the time.

He served as parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs from 1969 to 1972; minister of state for foreign affairs and foreign trade between 1980 and 1984; minister of social security from 1984-1986, and as minister of education from 1986 to 1989.

Before, though, he was a medical doctor, having graduated from Pacific Union College in 1961.

A former student of Aabuthnott Gallimore High, named after Neville’s father, recalled that he played a major role in the development of the school and was a regular there in the 1990s.

“He would come to the school every Monday morning, and we all, as students, would look forward to him coming. Sometimes we would spot his vehicle coming into the schoolyard and we would know it is him,” the now-flight attendant recalled.

Olivia Grange, the culture minister, who had a close relationship with Gallimore, recalled him as being committed to nation-building.

Citing coronavirus restrictions, Grange said that Gallimore’s passing, in the United States, was especially sad at this time when “we are restricted as to how we can celebrate his life”.

Grange said when she spoke with Gallimore recently, the late former education minister told her that he knew his time had come.

According to Grange, the late JLP veteran had told her that he would “rather not be treated just to buy a couple more days and suffer the indignity of what the treatment would do to him. He would rather just go naturally because he is ready”, Grange told The Gleaner.

Recognising that he had a narrow window, Grange said that the former government minister reached out to those he cared for. “I was one of them, and I felt very honoured when he reached out to me two weeks ago,” said Grange.

South West St Ann MP Zavia Mayne and former MP Keith Walford have saluted the life and work of Gallimore.

Mayne said that Gallimore was actively involved in both his educational and political development.

“Jamaica certainly has lost one of its finest sons. He has been the longest-serving member of parliament for the constituency and would have spearheaded the majority of the infrastructural work in that constituency,” said Mayne, calling Gallimore “a father for South Western St Ann”.

Walford, who served as MP under the People’s National Party (PNP) administration from 2011 to 2015, said that Gallimore helped a lot of people during his tenure.

“Doc was a model person in the community. (That’s) why so many people are grateful for him,” Walford said.

Yesterday, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Philips expressed condolences to Gallimore’s immediate family on behalf of the PNP.

“[He] will always be remembered as a politician of wit who focused on nation-building and did all he could to serve the interests of the farmers and those who he represented,” Phillips said in a statement last night.