February 28, 2011

Jim Sutherland, 1927-2011

James Sutherland, a major contributor to Canadian piping and drumming, died on January 31, 2011, in his eighty-fourth year. He led the Rob Roy Pipe Band organization of Kingston, Ontario, for more than 27 years, along the way teaching dozens of pipers.

James Shannon Sutherland was born on February 19, 1927, and worked at the Kingston Psychiatric Hospital as Director of Psychological Services from 1953 to 1984. He served on the executive of the then Eastern Branch of the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario for many years and was awarded a life membership to the organization in 2005.

Originally from Guelph, Ontario, he started piping in 1941 with the City of Guelph Pipe Band. After settling in Kingston, Sutherland helped to found the Rob Roy Pipe Band in 1957, taking on teaching, organizational and leadership duties, always expanding the band’s philosophy of education to further the piping and drumming arts, a tenet of the organization that continues today.

He worked to promote piping and drumming into other areas, and was a founding member of the Ontario Folk Arts Council, an organization that also bestowed upon him a life membership.

In an article in the March 2010 PPBSO Ottawa Branch newsletter, Peter Barbier wrote about Jim Sutherland:  

“He firmly believed that the organization could and should offer a home to pipers and drummers of all abilities and interest levels. This underlying philosophy called for a fine balance between the disciplined approach to competitive performances and the more relaxed, fun approach to other types of performance. This balance was evident in the band’s trips to the games. If the band had had a good day, members could count on a good dinner at a restaurant on the way home; the better the prize, the better the restaurant. And in keeping with the spirit of Rob Roy himself, the band did not arrive meekly: it announced itself with pipes playing, often marching right into the establishment, to the consternation of some of the more sedate patrons. This kind of brash approach made an impression on the younger members, who were inspired to try even harder the next time out. It was typical Sutherland style, and its combination of discipline and celebration made the group strong and cohesive. With the Sutherland family as the model of involvement, other families became integral to the band’s activities, resulting in a large and loyal base of supporters.”  

Jim Sutherland is survived by his wife of 60 years, Doris, five children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. An interment and memorial celebration will be held on June 3rd.

– Thanks to Roderick MacLean and Graeme Ogilvie for assistance with this article.




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