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Martha Brae's centenarian remembers August 6, 1962

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com
Thursday, August 02, 2012

MARTHA BRAE, Trelawny — At 102- years- old Geraldine Steele may not be able to participate in the slew of activities planned for Trelawny to commemorate the country's 50 anniversary as an independent nation.

But the Martha Brae native is grateful to be still alive, as the country gets ready to mark the milestone.

She vividly recalls the events that took place in her Martha Brae community on August 6, 1962, when the island gained Independence from Britain, and the involvement of former prime minister Hugh Lawson Shearer, who was also born in that rural community.

"There was a big street dance in the community during the day and Mr Shearer opened a community centre and a postal agency for us," Steele recalled.

She said funding for the community centre was provided by Shearer— who was at that time a member of the Senate and a trade unionist— as well as private citizens.

"On that day (August 6) we the citizens got a lot of flowers and spread it from the door of the community centre to the entrance of the property for him (Shearer) to walk on, so he could go and cut the ribbon to officially open the building," she noted.

" Mr Shearer was a little timid to walk on the flowers but because we could not get a carpet for him to walk on we had to use the flowers."

According to Steele, Shearer also donated a television set, a stove, pots and utensils to the centre which were to be used by community members.

She said during the opening ceremony for the facility there were much singing and merry making, as the residents expressed their appreciation for the much needed community centre.

Steele, who said that she was the president of the Martha Brae Community Council at that time, told the Observer West that the former prime was also instrumental in giving a facelift to the community.

" Mr Shearer sent paint and got someone to paint up all the old buildings in the community and replaced the roofs of several houses that were in a bad state. The place was really looking good because everywhere was clean and nice," she said, with a broad smile. "The opening of the postal agency was also well appreciated because we no longer had to travel to Falmouth, some two mile away, to get our mail. Mr Shearer really did us proud," said Steele.

She disclosed that she have fond memories of the former prime minister during their childhood days in the Martha Brae.

" As a child he was very jovial. He played cricket using sour orange as the ball and a bat made out of coconut limb, at his grandmother's (Jestina Lindo) yard," Steele told the Observer West, disclosing that she used to love to laugh at his jokes and watch his playing cricket.

Shearer was an outstanding labour leader with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union. He served as the country's third 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.

Meanwhile, Steele recalled that there were "a big, big" ceremony in the town of Falmouth to mark Independence Day.

She said, however, that she did not participate in those activities, as she opted to remain in her small community to celebrate.

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