Hugh Shearer

Hugh Lawson Shearer was born in Martha Brae, Trelawny, Jamaica on the 18th of May 1923 to parents James Shearer a World War One ex-serviceman and Esther Lindo, a dressmaker; he died on the 5th of July 2004. During his schools days he attended the Falmouth Primary School and won a scholarship to attend the St. Simon’s College because of his academic performance. St. Simon’s was a privately owned high school in Kingston. He graduated from St. Simon’s in 1940.


Hugh Shearer became the third Prime Minister of Jamaica. His first political endorsement came in 1943, when Sir Alexander Bustamante, founder of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), took over editorship of the paper and took Shearer under his faction. Shearer continued to get promotion after promotion within the union and acquired a Government Trade Union scholarship in 1947.


His term as Prime Minister was a prosperous one for Jamaica in those times, three new alumina refineries were built, along with three large tourist resorts. These buildings formed the basis of Jamaica’s mining and tourism industries, the two biggest earners for the country.


In 1948 Mr. Shearer attended a Colonial Development and Welfare Trade Union Scholarship course in Barbados. In the 1949 elections, Mr. Shearer contested the Western Kingston seat but was defeated by the PNP’s Ken Hill.


In the 1955 general elections he was elected to a seat in the House of Representatives even though the JLP lost the elections. He sat in the Opposition benches until he lost his seat in the 1959 elections.


A few more years passed and he was elected Vice-President of the BITU in 1960. He was second only to Sir Bustamante who was President General. In the 1967 elections Mr. Shearer being successful in winning the Clarendon seat which was formerly held by Mr. Bustamante before his retirement from active politics. He worked in his Southern Clarendon constituency until he eventually lost his seat in the 1993 general elections.


In the political turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, Shearer maintained a close relationship with Manley and was often said to be an important conduit through which information on sensitive issues could be channelled. Furthermore, even when he maintained an active involvement he appeared to always be above the scrimmage.


This was when he retired from the active public life. Mr. Shearer also played a leading role in the discussions and negotiations leading up to the establishment in 1980 of the Joint Trade Union Research Institute, the first of its kind in the Caribbean.


During his tenure as Prime Minister, Jamaica attained its highest ever-gross domestic product (GDP) per capita US$2,300 based on rapid growth in agriculture, mining and tourism.


He was also the main mastermind in starting a system of highways. The first one was the Kingston to Spanish Town Highway. He also laid the plans for other by-pass routes, which would remove bottlenecks in all major towns.


On the 14th of May 2009, the Bank of Jamaica announced a plan to issue a JA$5000 note with the portrait of Shearer on it, as was explained in detail on Monday 18 May 2009 by the Governor of Jamaica’s Central Bank Derrick Milton Latibeaudiere.


Hugh died on July 5, 2004 leaving wife Dr. Denise Eldemire Shearer; sons Howard and Lance; and daughters Hope Hillary and Heather.


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