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Riding to Barracks with Hugh Shearer
published: Sunday | July 18, 2004

- Photos by Herbert McKenis/Freelance Photographer
At left, Mayor of Falmouth Jonathan Bartley discusses with Geraldine Steele, a painting of the Falmouth 'Barracks' All age School where Hugh Shearer got his early education. At right, Two former schoolmates of Hugh Shearer, Geraldine Steel (left) and Olga Hammond, take time out to reminisce on the old days, during Friday's official opening of an exhibition staged in tribute to Mr. Shearer, at Arleigh House in Falmouth, Trelawny.

Erica James-King, Staff Reporter


LONG BEFORE Jamaicans heaped praise on Hugh Shearer, Olga Hammond was showering him with accolades.

The 78-year-old Ms. Hammond was a schoolmate of the former Prime Minister. She remembers Shearer as the boy with the long, spindly arms and legs from Martha Brae in Trelawny, and who was the object of much adulation as he rode in a buggy to school.

Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, Ms. Hammond recalled lighter moments with Mr. Shearer and his buggy trips to Falmouth 'Barracks' Elementary School, now Falmouth All-Age school.

Ms. Hammond's hair is totally grey with age, and the years have slowed her gait, but her memories of Mr. Shearer are vivid.

"My first recollections of Hugh are seeing him arriving at school in a buggy, a rare phenomenon in the town at that time. I don't think there were more than two buggies in Falmouth, so we liked seeing him in the buggy pulling up in front of the school," she reminisced. "When he arrived, you would think that it was Julius Caesar in his chariot. The cheers that greeted his arrival were both for himself and the buggy, as the boys would run after the buggy as it was leaving the school premises with great excitement. I would sometimes join in the cheers and claps."

She also remembers that the future trade union giant would walk to school sometimes. At that time Mr. Shearer was about 10 years old.

"Shearer was diligent with a keen sense of humour. These attributes enabled him to succeed academically and made him popular with both teachers and students," Ms. Hammond related to The Sunday Gleaner's news team.

Mr. Shearer got his early education under the tutelage of Ms. Hammond's parents ­ Ralph A. Hammond (headmaster) and Ruth Hammond (teacher); her mother helped him hone his music skills. It was while he was at Barracks school that he won a Trelawny Parish Scholarship to attend St. Simon's College, one of the early private secondary high schools in Kingston.

There was a glow about the bespectacled Ms. Hammond as she spoke about the life-long closeness between Hugh Shearer and her parents.

"On the death of my mother in 1971, he called us ­ he was then Prime Minister of Jamaica ­ and he advised us that he would be coming to the funeral. He requested that he be allowed to read a lesson at the funeral," Ms. Hammond disclosed.

It is Olga Hammond's respect for the former Prime Minister that prompted her to mount an exhibition of paintings and photos in his honour at 'Arleigh House' in Falmouth on Friday.


Ms. Hammond, who paints in her leisure time and collects photos and paintings on Falmouth, says that her tribute to Mr. Shearer would not be complete without mounting the exhibition in the town that shaped his adult life.

The exhibition captures stages of Mr. Shearer, including him and his grandmother, Jestina Lindo; his regular attendance at the William Knibb Baptist Church and Martha Brae Baptist Class House where his grandfather Sedrick Lindo was a deacon.

It also highlights his visits to Falmouth and Martha Brae as Prime Minister, and the register of persons who attended Barracks school between 1931-1935. Among the notable Jamaicans on that list are painter Albert Huie and National Dance Theatre Company founder and University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor, Rex Nettleford. Falmouth Councillor Jonathan Bartley who officially opened the exhibition, declared his respect for the former Prime Minister and welcomed the move by the past students of Falmouth All-Age to share their memories of Mr. Shearer with the public.

  • At peace in good company

    Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

    HUGH LAWSON Shearer makes the journey today for his final resting place at the National Heroes Park in Kingston. The former Prime Minister of Jamaica is the 11th person to be buried in the hallowed track and he will certainly not be short of good company.

    Shearer was an outstanding labour leader with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union. He served as Prime Minister from 1967 to 1972 and Deputy Prime Minister in the Jamaica Labour Party Government of the 1980s. He died on July 5 at his St. Andrew home. He was 81 years old.


    Shearer is the fourth Prime Minister to be buried at National Heroes Park. The others are Sir Alexander Bustamante, the country's first Prime Minister; Sir Donald Sangster, whom Shearer succeeded and Michael Manley, who was laid to rest there in 1997.

    Norman Washington Manley, a Premier under British rule, was buried at National Heroes Park (then known as George VI Memorial Park) in 1969 and is one of seven National Heroes there. The bodies of Manley, Bustamante and Marcus Garvey are enclosed in mausoleums.

    Maroon leader Nanny (who historians claim died in the 18th century); Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon, who all died in the 19th century, are enshrined.

    Garvey, one of the founders of the Pan-African movement, was interred at the park in October 1964. That year the Jamaican Government made him the country's first National Hero and brought his body back from London where he died, and was buried, in 1940.

    Ken Hill and Agnes 'Aggie Bernard' McLaughlin, two popular figures in pre-Independence Jamaica are buried in the park. Hill is widely recognised as one of this country's most effective politicians; he served the People's National Party and is still considered one of Kingston's best Mayor.

    Since the late 1930s, Ms. McLaughlin figured prominently in the labour movement that helped to mould Jamaica's fight for independence from Britain.

    The honour roll at National Heroes Park is completed by stage actor Ranny Williams, sculptor and Revival leader Mallica 'Kapo' Reynolds and reggae singer Dennis Brown. The latter was the last person to be buried there in August 1999.

    The Government has the ultimate say in who is buried at National Heroes Park. In the case of Williams, Reynolds and Brown, the Government's decision was questioned in some quarters.

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