Davison Sutherland, my grandfather’s cousin’s life was entwined with the city of Toronto. He was born there, went to Jarvis Collegiate, obtained an engineering degree from the University of Toronto and then worked for the city his whole career.
“Dave Sutherland – born A.D. 1887 and still existent. Owing to the fact that a complete biography is being compiled against the day of his demise, further information is being withheld.”
This, his biography in the Torontoensis 1913, the University of Toronto Yearbook showed a quirky sense of humour.
Davison served in the military during World War One. He signed up in 1916 as a Lieutenant in the 208th Canadian Irish Battalion but later that year resigned his commission and sailed to England to join the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). He served in battle from Nieuport to Dixmude in Belgium and Arras to St Quentin in France with the 24th Squadron of the RFC, 14th wing. He was also an instructor in aerial fighting until 1918 and was discharged February 1919 with the rank of Captain.
He was the youngest surviving son of William Sutherland and Jessie Johnston. His father died in 1914 and his mother in 1916. He was then the man of the house, 21 Rose Street, Toronto. He lived there with his maiden sisters except during his service in WWI. Agnes died in 1920, Isabel in 1924 and Jessie left when she married Howard Reive in 1925. A fourth sister Annie, had moved to the United States as had his older brother William. Mowat, the youngest died as a baby.
Davison was 40 and finally free of family obligations when he married Edna Michel and soon had two children, Barbara and William Davison.
He worked for the city of Toronto as a roadway engineer, a city manager and from 1946 as deputy city engineer. His expertise was called upon when the rivers flooded and the roads and bridges were at risk or when water mains burst. He was known as a conscientious, faithful employee and one of the most reliable and respected civil servants. He would often get out of bed in the middle of the night to turn on the water for a pensioner or to help other people in distress.
In 1957 he was acting chief engineer. The Mayor, Nathan Phillips, did not want him promoted to Chief Engineer as he was due to retire in October, only six month away. The Mayor thought that an increase in salary and the resulting pension increase ( $15 per year) for a 40-year employee was unjustified. It would be a needless spending of taxpayers money. The board initially voted down the promotion and the Toronto Star said it was because of a vendetta between Mayor Nathan Phillips and Controller Jean Newman, with Davison, a pawn. He did though get promoted. Then in May 1957, all department chiefs got a 10% raise and it was recorded that Davison Sutherland’s salary went from $12,400 to $13,600. Concern about the extra cost of his pension to the city taxpayers became a moot point as he died before his retirement date.
His obituary in the paper July 7, 1957, was not very long and so, much information about Davison and his life is still being withheld.
“Eastern Ave. Crossings Called Most Dangerous.” Toronto Daily Star 12 Mar. 1957: 21. Print.
“Needless Spending of Taxpayer Money.” Toronto Daily Star 1 May 1957: 4. Print.
“Charge Philips Brand Vendetta against Jean Making Goat of Worker.” Toronto Daily Star 2 May 1957: 1. Print.
“Dave Sutherland City Engineer Dies.” Toronto Daily Star 8 July 1957: 8. Print.
“Davison Sutherland.” Roll of Service, University of Toronto Archives January 14, 1920.
Torontonensis 1913 Yearbook pg. 161 https://archive.org/details/torontonensis13univ