Sir Philip Manderson Sherlock (1902-2000) - The National Library of Jamaica

Sir Philip Manderson Sherlock (1902-2000)

Sir Philip Sherlock was born at Manchioneal, Portland, on February 25, 1902. He was the son of a Methodist minister, the Reverend Terence Manderson Sherlock and Adina Sherlock. He married Grace Marjorie Verity on December 2, 1942 and together they had three children.

Sir Philip was educated at Calabar High School. He began his teaching career at his alma mater at the age of 17 as a junior master. In 1927, by private study, he gained the degree of Bachelor of Arts from London University, in England, the first achievement in a long and distinguished career in education.

He also taught at Manchester High School for two years, followed by Wolmer’s Boys School in Kingston where he was the headmaster in 1932, making him the youngest in the island at the time.

Philip Sherlock worked for 20 years in the schoolroom before leaving the teaching profession to enter directly into the cultural mainstream of Jamaica. In 1938 he took up an appointment as Secretary of the Institute of Jamaica, the national centre for the promotion of Literature, Arts and Science. His years at the Institute were characterized by his desire to bring the institution to the service of the educational needs of Jamaica. Among his achievements were:

  1. the revival and development of the Science Programme
  2. the development of a lecture hall, art gallery, science museum and archives
  3. the opening of the Junior Centre at East Street in 1940 and a centre in Half-Way-Tree in 1941

Among his many experiments, Sir Philip describes as “the biggest course in education” he ever took was his tenure as Education Officer with the Jamaica Welfare Limited. This was a philanthropic organization he joined in 1945 on the invitation of National Hero, Norman Manley where he was able to work at the grassroots to develop leadership in the community.

His crowning achievement came in 1964 when he succeeded Sir Arthur Lewis as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, having previously served as Pro Vice-Chancellor. Under his brilliant leadership, the UWI grew in importance and prestige, and stands today as his lasting monument. In this capacity, Sir Philip had also brought with him several years of service to an institution that he had served since the time of its inception in 1948. He had been the first Director of Extra Mural Studies, Vice Principal and Acting Principal of the University College of the West Indies as it was called prior to 1962. He was the founding principal of the new campus at St. Augustine, Trinidad, and undertook the establishment of the Faculty of Engineering as well as transformed and incorporated the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture into that Campus.

Blessed with quiet dignity, wit and easy charm, Philip Sherlock also had the gifts of oratory and poetry, at both of which he excelled. He was internationally recognized as a leading Caribbean scholar, lecturer and author. His interest in the history, literature and folklore of the region made him the author of many publications.

Some of his publications include “West Indian Story”, “Land and People of the West¬† Indies” and “West Indian Folk Tales”. In 1976, he produced “Shout for Freedom”, a poetic tribute to Sam Sharpe, one of Jamaica’s National Heroes. He was also a regular contributor to the Gleaner with his articles of historical and cultural interest.

Sir Philip completed his life of scholarship with the writing of the epic work “The Story of the Jamaican People (1997) which he did in partnership with Dr. Hazel Bennett.

Sir Philip Sherlock died on December 4, 2000 at the age of 98.

Honours and Awards

  • The Order of CARICOM, 1998
  • Norman Washington Manley Award for Excellence in the field of Education, Social and Cultural Development, 1992
  • Pelican Award from the Guild of Graduates of the University of the West Indies, 1991
  • Order of Merit (O.M.). October 16, 1989. Bestowed on persons who have received international distinction
  • Government of Venezuela’s Band of Honour of the Order of Andres Bello, in recognition of the success of the Association of Caribbean Universities and Research Institution (UNICA) of which he was the General Secretary, 1978
  • Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Miami, 1971
  • Gold Musgrave Medal for his contribution in History and Literature, 1966
  • Knight of the British Empire in 1966
  • Commander of the British Empire (C.B.E.), 1956