He was born in St. John's, the son of Henry Shea, an Irish-born merchant, and Eleanor Ryan. Shea married Mary Corbett. He worked in his father's business. In 1827, Shea founded the Newfoundlander. The election of 1836 was declared void and Shea never sat in the assembly.
Around 1837, he moved to Cork in Ireland where he established himself in business. Shea became mayor of Cork in 1850.
- Smallwood, Joseph R (1994). Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. Vol. v. 5. p. 154. ISBN 0-9693422-5-X.