“If you weren’t in uniform you weren’t doing your part.” This was a quote from a veteran on Remembrance Day 2017.
My father, Donald Sutherland volunteered for service at the beginning of WWII but was twice rejected for medical reasons. He had to sit out the war working as an accountant and serving in the Blackwatch reserve.
“ Dear Mother, I had my medical test today. It went fairly satisfactorily except that as usual, my heart was a little fast and I have to go in again Thursday am to have a recheck. They do everything under the sun to you and it takes about an hour and a half. Everything else went well and I suppose I’ll be accepted if my heart steadies down next time. I am supposed to go to bed very early on Wednesday night to soothe my nerves. I just expected to have the interview today but they buzzed me right through the whole works, Love Don”
Donald graduated from McGill University in the spring of 1939. He had just turned 22 and he and all his classmates expected to find jobs and begin their adult lives but war was on the horizon. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, three days later Britain declared war on Germany, followed by Canada a week later. Personal lives were put on hold as young men volunteered for military service.
With his new commerce degree, my father had begun working for Ritchie Brown and Company as an auditor Once war was declared, he signed up for the McGill Canadian Officers Training Corp (C.O.T.C.). The McGill C.O.T.C. was quickly expanded from 125 to more than 1,400 cadets and 50 instructors. The need for a drill hall spurred the construction of the Arthur Currie Gymnasium. New recruits were trained in map reading, military law, organization, administration and upon completion sent to a branch of service in which they could best contribute their talents and skills.
In August of 1940, he registered with the Dominion of Canada National Registration Regulations expecting he would soon be in military service. He went in for his medical examination without a thought and was rejected. He later tried again.
Twice he received a certificate of rejection from the Canadian Army. The doctors said he was not able to do strenuous work because of his high blood pressure and mitral valve insufficiency. He also received a rejection notice from the Airforce because that application wasn’t completed.
With his second rejection letter from the army came an Applicant for Enlistment badge and card to identify him as an applicant who had failed to meet the minimum medical standards. The lapel badge was to be worn to show the public he had volunteered.
He served in the Black Watch Reserve to the end of the war. As a reservist, he was a part-time soldier while he continued at his day job. He trained raw recruits at camps in Mount Bruno and Farnham, Quebec and garnered high praise from his commanding officer. The battalion’s modified trooping of the colours was written up in the Montreal Gazette, pointing out Lt. D.N. Gatehouse and Lt. D. Sutherland, bearing the flags.
I can only imagine how my father felt, staying home, receiving letters from all his friends serving overseas, while he travelled in Canada auditing company books and marched in Montreal.
2017 was the 100th Anniversary of my father’s birth and in his memory, I wrote this story. This is a companion piece to my mother Dorothy Raguin’s war service https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/4470
Letter from Donald Sutherland to his mother Minnie Eagle Sutherland July 28, 1942.
Letter from Major D.L.Carstairs to Lt Gatehouse and Lt. Sutherland July 19, 1942.
Black Watch Stages Colourful Ceremony – The Gazette, Montreal July 20, 1942. The full trooping of the colours was not done in wartime. According to other newspaper clippings my grandmother saved, he marched in a number of parades and ceremonies.
Served under Lieut Col. H.A. Johnston 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Black Watch.
Donald and Isabella had not been well over the winter and of all the things they could do to improve their health, felt an ocean voyage would be the cure. Hopefully the salt air and a good long rest would improve their appetites.
In 1900, Donald Sutherland, my great grandfather, his sister Isabella Sutherland Rae and sister-in-law Jessie Johnston Sutherland traveled to New York from Toronto and sailed from there to Scotland aboard the Laurentian, a steamship of the Allen Line.
Food was not available twenty-four hours a day, as on a cruise ship today, but was plentiful and varied. Breakfast was porridge with fresh milk or maple syrup, Loch Fyne herring, or beefsteak and onions. Lunch, the main meal was roast veal with lemon sauce or roast goose with apple sauce along with potatoes, parsnips and sweets for dessert. Supper was lighter, with cold meats, preserved salmon, finnan haddie, not our family favourite, breads, cheese and jam.1 Donald wrote, “We had a fine sail for about four days and the rest of the voyage was not very fine but for the pitching and rolling and heaving we had yet none of us three were sea sick long enough to miss our meals.”2 I love this quote as it captures some of the essence of his character. I can just see them struggling up the stairs, not wanting to miss a meal they had paid for and hoped would improve their health.
Donald and Isabella were born in Canada to William Sutherland and Elizabeth Mowat. Jessie Johnston was born in Scotland and came to Canada as a child. She was married to William, Donald and Isabella’s older brother. They arrived in Glasgow and then went on to Edinburgh where Jessie was born. They had a wonderful time touring the area and Jessie remembered many landmarks from her childhood, including of course the castle.
The Sutherland’s father William, was from Tongue, in the very north of Scotland. He had left for Canada in 1845 and never went back. Isabella’s mother-in-law Hughina Sutherland Rae, who was also her father William’s sister, was still living in Tongue at the time, but they didn’t visit. I always thought this strange because as far as I know they had never even met. Here they were so close in distance, but when they had the choice of a trip north to Tongue or down to London, London won out! They couldn’t do both without more expense and time than they had available.
Donald had a book store in Toronto, Sutherland’s Dominion Book Store and was very interested in visiting the London book sellers. He wanted to spend time among the books. That city impressed them all and they would have loved to stay longer to see more.
On arriving back in Canada they figured the trip was a great success as they were all in good health and had gained weight. “However I got the benefit of the trip as I expected and I feel a great deal better now than I have been for a long time. I have gained over 9 lbs. after I got home and am still gaining.”3
They had great tales to tell of their trip and the funniest thing that happened in Dublin, but unfortunately these stories were to be told in person and were not put to paper.
2Letter from Donald Sutherland to his McIntosh Cousins. Dec 17, 1900. Original donated by Carol McIntosh Small to the Bruce County Historical Society.
I always thought that my grandfather, William Sutherland was one of three children. He and his brother Wilson died before I was born and his sister Mary when I was a baby, so I never heard any information first hand. There is a picture of the family with three children, parents and grandfather. I always assumed the baby sitting on Alice Dickson Sutherland’s lap was Wilson, until one day I realized the eyes were light coloured. Wilson the youngest son definitely had brown eyes confirmed in many other pictures.
Thinking this was a child who had died, I searched through the Ontario Birth, Marriage and Death indexes. I found a James Dickson Sutherland who died at fourteen months, in January 1886, of bronchial pneumonia and thought he was a possible match. This was confirmed in a letter from Alice to a cousin Jessie McIntosh, where she mentioned little James Dickson. “Baby is growing he is pretty plump but not so big and fat as Willie was when he was his age. We call him James Dickson, he has dark hair, blue eyes and a deep dimple in his chin.”
It was certainly not unusual for young children to die before the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines. In my search I had noticed a Mowat Sutherland, who had died of diphtheria in 1891. Unfortunately, Ontario death certificates don’t give the parents names. No one else in the family had been called Mowat, but that was my great great grandmother’s maiden name. Then a “Knowat” Sutherland age two, was found in the 1891 census living with my great grandfather’s brother William and his wife Jessie Sutherland.
There was also an Elizabeth Mowat Sutherland, who died in 1890. I thought she was probably Mowat’s sister but hadn’t found any birth record. Then, in the LDS database I found both Mowat, Elizabeth Mowat and James Dickson buried in Mount Pleasant cemetery, plot M5120 owned by my great great grandfather William Sutherland.
I kept looking through the records. I searched through the birth records putting in different parents names and then just Sutherland, as I knew the death date and age, 9 months. I finally found a record of the birth of an Elizabeth Maud Sutherland whose parents weren’t William and Jessie Sutherland but rather Donald Sutherland and Alice Dixon (Dickson). This little girl was my great great aunt. She was born July 26, 1888 and died of bronchial pneumonia, April 22, 1889.
Imagine, three babies buried in plot M 5120 with their grandparents, but then there were four. Recently a Dickson baby boy was found to be buried in this plot. He was still born and probably the son of Alice’s brother James Dickson.
Donald and Alice lost two children before the youngest, Wilson was born. As the baby of the family he was spoiled according to all sources. His mother babied him and the explanation was undoubtedly the two children she lost. It was said he never had to learn the value of money and would buy a newspaper every day!
There was one more baby who was never mentioned. My grandmother Minnie Eagle Sutherland and her sister Amy had another younger sister. Elizabeth Martha Eagle, known as Bessie was born October 1, 1886 and died July 18, 1887 of cholera . Her mother Eliza Jane Eagle said, “God knew she could only cope with two children and took Bessie to heaven.”
Are there other little children to find so they too will be remembered?
Ancestry.com. James Dickson Sutherland – Archives of Ontario. Registrations of Deaths, 1869-1938. MS 935, reels 1-615. Series: MS935; Reel: 45
Year: 1891; Census Place: St Johns Ward, Toronto City, Ontario; Roll: T-6371; Family No: 3.
Archives of Ontario. Registrations of Births and Stillbirths – 1869-1913. MS 929, reels 1-245. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6C-BDS : accessed 07 Mar 2014), Elizabeth Mowat Sutherland, 1889.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6C-FP9 : accessed 07 Mar 2014), Mowat Sutherland, 1891.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6H-378 : accessed 05 Apr 2014), Eliza M Eagle, 18 Jul 1887; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot T 94, line 11917, volume Volume 07, 1883-1891, Superintendent of Administrative Services; FHL microfilm 1617041.
Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/24MZ-7G5 : accessed 19 May 2014), Wm Sutherland in entry for Dickson, 05 Oct 1888; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot M 51 20, line 5000, volume Volume 01, 1876-1896, Superintendent of Administrative Services; FHL microfilm 1617049.
Personal communication with Elizabeth Sutherland Van Loben Sels. 2000.
Family letters from Carol MacIntosh Small. All the original letters were donated by Carol to the Bruce County Archives in Southampton, Ontario.
Letter from Alice Sutherland to Jessie McIntosh March 18, 1885.
The mention of Thanksgiving or Christmas always brings up thoughts and smells of roasting turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes covered with gravy, turnips, bright red cranberry sauce and fizzy cranberry drink with ginger-ale. There are also the family hors d’oeuvres; crackers, often Ritz, with cheese and an olive slice or just an anchovy. This is our traditional holiday dinner and apparently my ancestors also enjoyed turkey.
I am lucky to have a few letters written by my great grandparents, Donald and Alice Sutherland and funnily enough, most of them mentioned turkeys. They might have raised turkeys at one time, on their farm in Bruce County. William Sutherland obtained crown land in Carrick, Ontario in 1855. He and his family cleared the land and began farming but they later realized that farming wasn’t in their blood. Donald and some of his siblings had left for Toronto before William sold the farm in 1876 to his son William. Even this William preferred the big city and by 1879 the farm was sold again and all the Sutherlands were living in Toronto. They still had ties to the country as many cousins remained farmers in Bruce County. Although they preferred urban life, it seems they would rather have farm fresh produce on their table.
The first note written by Donald on January 6, 1899 said, “We received the butter and turkeys alright. They are very nice. We will forward the amount next week.”
On December 17th 1900, Donald writes a long letter about his trip to Scotland and London and in closing says, “I want to know if you can send us three or four good fat turkies for Christmas. If you can please ship them by express early on Saturday before Christmas and I think we will get them on Monday, address to store 288 Yonge Street. We will give whatever price is going.” One can just picture a crate of gobbling turkeys in the middle of the book store. Mail service must have been very reliable at the time! There was no haggling over the price.
The third letter was written by his wife Alice, December 19, 1901. Christmas was again approaching and and she wanted to know, “well what about turkeys if you have any to sell you might send us three or four, they were fine last year, if you have none to sell let us know as soon as you can.” She continues giving a little news about other family members and closes with“hoping you can let us have some turkey I remain your cousin Alice.” It seemed late to place a turkey order but they probably received them.
There was another letter in Carol’s book and of course it also mentioned turkeys. January 7, 1904, “Dear Cousins, I must apologize for delay in answering. The Turkeys came alright and was very acceptable. Thanks for same. We weighed the two largest ones but the smaller one was missed however as the two weighed 9 lbs each and the other not any more we will reckon 27 lbs @ 12 c = $3.24. You will find enclosed a P.O. Order for $3.25 to cover the three turkeys. If you have any more left and could send us other three we could use them. We never get beat eating Turkey although a little more expensive than ordinary meat yet they are good.”
When I received copies of the letters, I sent them on to my siblings. We all had a good laugh and this prompted, in many subsequent emails the mention of turkeys in every way shape and form. We thought these letters were really funny and have continued telling turkey jokes. It’s only a little thing but they bring the ancestors to life.
Small, Carol A. The McIntoshes of Inchverry. Denfield, Ont.: Maple Hurst, 2008. Print.
Sutherland, Donald. Letter to Gordon McIntosh. 06 Jan. 1899. MS. 204 Younge Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sutherland, Donald. Letter to McIntosh Cousins. 17 Dec. 1900. MS. 288 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sutherland, Alice. Letter to McIntosh Cousins. 19 Dec. 1901. MS 167 Seaton Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Sutherland, Donald. Letter to McIntosh Cousins. Jan 7, 1904. MS 167 Seaton Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Postcard: The Montreal Standard’s Christmas Greeting card No. 9 printed in Canada