On November 17, 1935, near Port Antonia, Portland, Lawrence Wilmot Sharp was born to Alva Sharp, a son of the soil, and Ettie his wife. On Lennox, the family farm, Alva grew bananas and coconuts, and Laurie, as he was called, ran unfettered through the land, ensnaring birds with calaban. This ensnaring of birds was very prophetic, as we shall discover.
At the age of six, his father put him on a train by himself, and sent him off to Williamsfield en route to DeCarteret Preparatory School in Mandeville, where, his parents believed, he would receive a quality foundation. He did.
In 1946 at age eleven, he was then sent to Munro College in St. Elizabeth, and there he thrived. He did well in his academic work, excelled in sports, and got into more than his fair share of mischief. He represented the school as a top sprinter in athletics, in hockey, and in cricket, football, and tennis. Tennis took him to Kingston representing Munro, and there, at a reception held for the teams, he met one Barbara Bird, and the Bird ensnaring prophecy was fulfilled, except that this time the bird caught him, for he had met his lifelong partner.
LW, as he was called at Munro, was successful in his Senior Cambridge examinations, and was accepted at Jamaica School of Agriculture at Hope in St. Andrew. There his passion from agriculture blossomed, and he obtained his Diploma, and in 1954 he was accepted at McDonald College, the prestigious agricultural arm of McGill University. The winters were harsh, but his social life included his friends from Munro – Jackie Minott, Collin Gentles, Don Parchment, and others. He graduated in 1959 with a B.Sc. in Agriculture.
In 1962, the year of independence, Laurie married Barbara Bird, settled in Kingston,
and they produced and nurtured two sons and a daughter – Richard, Sheridah and Jason.
He tried his hand at several sales jobs, but always yearned to be back in the fields practicing his true love, agriculture. The opportunity came in 1972, when he became Managing Director of Tropiculture Limited. The company became the largest ornamental plant nursery in the Caribbean and Central America, winning numerous national awards for Champion Exporter, even in the turbulent 1970’s. Tropiculture exported in quality and quantity to Europe, the United States, and Canada, showing the world that Jamaica was not a country of samples, but could produce quality products in volume.
During this period, Laurie was intrigued by the promise of the Michael Manley led PNP, believing it would start a national movement including all Jamaicans, and ultimately creating a first world nation. Accordingly, he sought election as a Councillor in the Fletcher’s Land division of Manley’s Kingston Central constituency, was elected, and served his constituents with distinction until 1976. By that time, he became disillusioned with the direction of the government, and did not seek re-election. He focused on his business, and it was not until 1995 that he again became interested in politics, finding attraction to the policies of the National Democratic Movement, and became an active foundation member.
In 1977, Laurie, his father-in-law Eustace Bird, and fellow Munronian Trevor Armstrong purchased a Coffee Estate called Clifton Mount in the Blue Mountains. It became a prestigious estate, renowned for its famous Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. With companion company Coffee Traders Limited, this family business exported coffee to most of the major markets around the world. By 1993 Laurie passed the baton to his sons Richard and Jason, who took over day to day management, and he remained as Chairman.
Service to Munro
He accepted the role as Chairman of the Munro College Board of Governors, succeeding Roy Hutchinson, who had guided the school through the structural adjustment drought years of the 1980’s. He came to the post to find the auditorium stagnated for many years at the stage of foundation, steel frame, and roof, but no walls. He agreed with the view that local labour could put up the walls, as the engineering part of the work was already complete. In about ten (10) weeks, the 4,000 blocks which remained after some 2,000 had been stolen, were used up. Approximately one-third of the work was completed using local labour. Laurie Sharp declared “we must not lose the momentum,” and by the year 2000, the Richard B. Roper Auditorium was officially opened.
The Windmill Project
He took up the invitation of Paul Stockhausen, an old boy and board member, who gave cash and did much research into a windmill project. This ended with a state-of-the-art, 225 KV Danish wind turbine at Miller Piece on the Munro property in 1996. It was the first of its kind in Jamaica. The good old Munro breeze was again turned to account, and the school’s power was sold to the JPS grid at a handsome profit. This was accomplished with the help of the Government of Canada, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, and the Multi-Care Foundation.
Under his Chairmanship..
During Laurie Sharp’s time as Board Chairman, there was dramatic improvement in many areas of school life. There was dramatic improvement in test results for Mathematics, English, and the Sciences, significant improvement in the school infrastructure, provision of an incentive programs for teachers, and a dramatic increase in the number of boys gaining academic scholarships. Computer competence was encouraged by the construction of a thirty (30) computer laboratory, and fifty (50) million dollars was secured from the International Development Bank for new buildings, including the Science lab and the Administration Block. A grant from the Trafalgar Development Bank was instrumental in transforming the farm operation, making Munro once again self-sufficient in beef, chicken, milk, and eggs.
The sports programme was enhanced by refurbishing of the infrastructure, including the tennis courts, football and cricket fields. Munro improved in all sports, especially athletics, football and cricket. For the first time in many years, Munro reached the Da Costa Cup finals, a graduate from his watch, Claston Bernard, won gold in the Heptathlon in the Commonwealth Games, and another, Chadwick Walton, was selected for the West Indies Cricket Team.
In 2001, the Ministry of Education overruled a disciplinary action taken by the Board, and the principled Laurie Sharp resigned as Chairman, and most of the Board followed in support.
For all the above reasons, Lawrence Wilmot “Laurie” Sharp was appreciatively inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.