Shearman was the second son of Montagu Shearman, a solicitor, from Wimbledon, Surrey and his wife Mary née Catty. He was educated at Merchant Taylors School in the City of London, where he played association football, captaining the first XV in 1874–1875. He received a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford, graduating with a first class degree in Classical Moderations and in Literae Humaniores. He was a noted athlete, winning the one hundred yards race at the Oxford and Cambridge University Games in 1876, and was president of the Oxford University Athletics Club in 1878. He was also an accomplished rugby player, obtaining his "blue" as a forward and three-quarter in the university team from 1878 – 1880. In 1884 he married Louise Long of New York, and they had two sons.
Amateur Athletics Association
Shearman was one of the founder members of the association, and served as the first honorary secretary from 1880 to 1883, then as vice-president until 1910. In that year he succeeded Lord Alverstone as president of the AAA.
Shearman entered the Inner Temple as a student in 1877, and was called to the bar in 1881. He practised on the Midland Circuit for twenty-two years before "taking silk" to become a king's counsel in 1903. He was a specialist in common law and commercial cases.
In 1914 Shearman was appointed a judge of the King's Bench Division by the lord chancellor, Lord Haldane, and was knighted. Along with Lord Hardinge and Sir Mackenzie Chalmers he conducted an official inquiry into the origin and causes of the "Sinn Fein Rebellion" of 1916.
Notable cases at which Shearman presided were the trial of Harold Greenwood at Carmarthen in 1920, and of Bywaters and Thompson and of the murderers of General Henry Wilson at the Central Criminal Court in 1922.
His role in the Bywaters–Thompson trial, though, has been subject to controversy with regard to the guilty verdict for Edith Thompson. In his memoirs Beverley Baxter, the journalist and politician, referred to it as only being "in a nightmare that judicial killing was ever countenanced by a supposedly civilised people".
Confusingly, the Montague Shearman Collection, which contains such famous painters as Picasso, Dalí, Matisse, Utrillo, Sisley, Pissarro, Monet, Renoir, Lautrec, Rowlandson and many others, did not belong to Sir Montague Shearman but to his son, also called Montague Shearman (1886-1940). The Burlington Magazine noted that the collection focusses on "themes with a clear relationship to comfortable middle-class life .. the satirical element never becoming obtrusive, and in the Lautrec having a distinctly moralising tendency. One wonders whether there was a reason in Shearman's taste for preferring a Renoir landscape to a figure subject - did he dislike Renoir's fleshy and voluptuous types ? - and one's suspicions are strengthened on noticing that the little group of Etty nude-studies are all back-views !"
Resignation and death
In 1925 Shearman became seriously ill, partly due to an old injury acquired on the football field. Following a medical operation, his speech was impaired, although he returned to work. He retired in October 1929. He died at his London residence, Leigh House, 6 Eaton Gate, in January 1930, aged 72.
- Football: its History for Five Centuries (1885) with James Edmund Vincent
- Shearman, Montague (1887). Athletics and Football. London: Longmans, Green. Retrieved 17 January 2010. This book ran to five editions,and according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography "stood the test of time for its comprehensiveness and for the quality of its writing".
- "Obituary: Sir Montague Shearman, Judge And Athlete". The Times. 7 January 1930. p. 9.
- Theobald Mathew, rev. G. R. Rubin (2004). "Shearman, Sir Montague (1857–1930)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
- Cavallini, Rob (2005). The Wanderers F.C. –"Five times F.A. Cup winners". Dog N Duck Publications. p. 112. ISBN 0-9550496-0-1.
- "No. 28828". The London Gazette. 5 May 1914. p. 3660.
- "No. 29578". The London Gazette. 12 May 1916. p. 4694.
- Baxter, Beverley Strange Street, 1935, p. 154ff
- 'Mr. M. Shearman',The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Feb 06, 1940; pg. 10; Issue 48532.
- The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 76, No. 446, May 1940, p. 165f
- "No. 33546". The London Gazette. 25 October 1929. p. 6763.