Dr Neville Gallimore, a people's man and nice person

Dr Neville Gallimore, a people's man and nice person

Monday, June 01, 2020

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Last week the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), its supporters, and indeed the Government and Cabinet led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness had more than their fair share of grief.

First came news of the passing of the former Mayor of May Pen Mr Milton Brown. That was followed by the death of a former Cabinet minister of the 1980s, Dr Neville Gallimore, and then the incumbent Minister of Labour and Social Security Mrs Shahine Robinson.

It's been 23 years since Dr Gallimore represented the constituents of St Ann South Western in Parliament and 31 years since he served this country as Cabinet minister, so it's understandable that public response to his passing has been somewhat muted. The extraordinary distractions caused by the COVID-19 health emergency, of course, don't help.

However, it's important that younger Jamaicans know that Dr Gallimore was no ordinary politician or public servant.

He was only 28 years old when he entered Parliament in 1967, succeeding his colourful father Mr Gideon Whitfield Aabuthnott-Gallimore, in whose honour a high school is named.

Just in case the reader is wondering about the hyphenated surname of the elder Gallimore, reports suggest that 'Aabuthnott' was added by deed poll in the 1940s in order to get his name on the ballot paper first, in alphabetical order.

That aside, the son, Dr Gallimore, would retain the St Ann South Western seat for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) for 30 years unbroken. Having first won in 1967, he was again successful in 1972, 76, 80, 89, and 93 in the last case winning by just three votes.

A straightforward, generous, affable man, Dr Gallimore served the Cabinet of Prime Minister Edward Seaga in the 1980s as minister of social security 1984-86, and as minister of education 1986-89.

Two decades earlier, in the JLP Administration led by Mr Hugh Shearer, Dr Gallimore was parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs from 1969 to 1972. Immediately after the JLP swept to power in 1980 Dr Gallimore became minister of state for foreign affairs and foreign trade — a position he held until his elevation to the Cabinet.

Dr Gallimore will certainly be remembered for his supervision of social initiatives, as Cabinet minister, including the poverty alleviation Food Stamp Programme which preceded the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

Those close to him at that time remember his passion in ensuring the poorest Jamaicans were taken care of and not allowed to fall through the tracks. Also, he was one of those rare elected politicians who would not be sidetracked or distracted by the political biases real or imagined of the civil servants who worked with him.

We note several glowing tributes in memory of Dr Gallimore. Opposition Leader and People's National Party President Dr Peter Phillips remembers him as a “towering presence” in the JLP and a nation-builder who represented well the interests of farmers and other constituents.

Prime Minister Holness speaks of “a pioneer and a patriot” with “a passion for his God, his people, and his politics”.

All of those sentiments are the gospel truth.

But also, his loved ones should know that those who came in close contact with Dr Gallimore recognised a genuinely kind and extremely nice person who moved mountains to help others.

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