Trelawny welcomes decision to make Shearer's birthplace heritage site

Observer West reporter

Thursday, October 22, 2020

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MARTHA BRAE, Trelawny -Stakeholder s in Trelawny have expressed delight that the birthplace of former Jamaica Prime Minister Hugh Lawson Shearer in Martha Brae, the former capital of Trelawny, is to be declared as a heritage site, arguing that the move could strengthen the parish's tourism product.

The announcement was made on Sunday by Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister Olivia Grange during the National Heritage Week Church Service, held at the historic William Knibb Memorial Baptist Church in Falmouth— one of the main events to mark Trelawny's 250th anniversary.

“ Hugh Lawson Shearer, our third prime minister of Jamaica...born in Martha Brae and again l am very happy to announce that his birthplace will be declared a heritage site and his home restored,” Grange announced.

A three-bedroom house, located less than two miles from the historic town of Falmouth, sits on the roughly half- acre property where the former prime minister once lived.

It consists of a small verandah, kitchen, bathroom, and living area as well as three small bedrooms and is occupied by a family.

Member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern Tova Hamilton reacted with delight to the announcement.

“I am very heartened by the announcement by Minister Grange that the home of the late Prime Minister Hugh Lawson Shearer will be declared a national heritage site. It is important that we undertake deliberate preservation of our culture and history for the benefit of the current generation and generations to come,” the parliamentarian told the Jamaica Observer West.

She stressed that the preservation of tradition is of utmost relevance.

“There is evidence of our culture being lost especially within the constituency through the passing of our elders and the influence of social media. Our generation now is not benefiting enough from intra-generational cultural transmission and the fact that we do not have a formal system of retention, we are at risk of losing our identity,” she argued.

Mayor of Falmouth and chairman of the Trelawny Municipal Corporation Colin Gager said the municipality endorsed the impending declaration.

“It is long overdue. The Right Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer distinguished himself as a statesman and trade unionist. He has done the parish proud,” Gager said.

Tyrone Hilton, a native of Martha Brae, who also embraced the move to honour Shearer, remembered the former prime minister as a fun-loving individual.

“I knew Mr Shearer personally, he and my mother went to school. I remembered when he was prime minister and came to visit my mother right here (in Martha Brae) and my mother asked him if he is not afraid of the dogs and he answered that he is not afraid of any dogs,” Hilton recounted.

“Me know him good, good, when him a prime minister he came here in a helicopter which landed right there near his home and he walked from there and come up here suh,” Hilton said, gesturing to the former prime minister's home.

Hilton wants the heritage site to be a tourism attraction.

“It could be a tourist attraction... you will have lots of tourists visiting. Tourists on their way to Good Hope will stop. It could become a part of the tour. It will be good... probably some community members will get work there. They probably could also erect a statue of Shearer here,” Hilton argued.

Eight years ago, Geraldine Steele (now deceased), a then 102-year-old Martha Brae resident, agreed that the historic house could become an added tourist attraction in Trelawny.

According to her, the late prime minister had lived at the house with his grandmother Jestina Lindo and mother Esta Lindo.

She told the Observer West that Shearer left the community at about the age of 11, after he was awarded a scholarship which allowed him to continue his schooling in Kingston.

Steele disclosed that she has fond memories of the former prime minister during their childhood days at 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,” Steele told the Observer West, disclosing that she used to love to laugh at his jokes and watch him playing cricket.

Another Martha Brae native, Edward Wallace, was equally elated that Shearer's birthplace be declared as a heritage site, but he was not too keen on it becoming a tourism attraction.

“From the prospective of a national heritage site, for me it is not for tourism. I think it is for the actual heritage. Because a lot of youngsters within the community do not even know that a prime minister came out of here. I think just like [Usain] Bolt in Sherwood Content, it would add some more pride to the community,” Wallace said.

“It would do a lot in enhancing the idea that good things can come out of Martha Brae. We have long been saying that the greatest resource is its people and so there is no better demonstration of our resource being our people than the personalities that have come out of Martha Brae and now will be highlighted for all to see. When you look at it, Martha Brae has a man on the $5,000 bill. Hugh Lawson Shearer is definitely one of my heroes if not my biggest personal hero.”

Shearer was an outstanding labour leader with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and served as prime minister from 1967 to 1972 and deputy prime minister in the JLP Government of the 1980s. He died on July 5, 2004 at his St Andrew home. He was 81 years old.

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