Wednesday, 04 August 2021

Obituary: Co-founder who spent his life on the river

PETER SUTHERLAND was born on February 13, 1925 and grew up in Maidenhead with his parents Ethel and Douglas and

PETER SUTHERLAND was born on February 13, 1925 and grew up in Maidenhead with his parents Ethel and Douglas and his four sisters.

His father was captain of Maidenhead Rowing Club.

Peter attended Shrewsbury School in the late Thirties and stroked the school’s 1st eight at Henley, the first of a handful of appearances between the Forties and the Sixties.

He joined the army on his 18th birthday, signing up to the Royal Artillery. In 1943 he joined the battery at Dover Castle and was sent to Malaya, where he served as a captain in General William Slim’s 14th Army.

Mr Sutherland’s job was to help dislodge the Japanese from entrenched positions on islands in the South China Sea but on arrival he found that the defence had melted away due to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the Japanese surrender, he fought against the communists for control of south-east Asia and worked with civilians to re-establish local agriculture and farming.

When he was demobbed, Mr Sutherland took up a place at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, where he spent three years.

To graduate, he had to persuade the examination board to change their standard degree criteria as he failed to obtain the required marks.

In 1950, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis while at university, which meant he spent most of the year in hospital and his competitive rowing career was all but over.

After making a full recovery, he studied architecture at the University of London and worked as an architect for 50 years until his retirement. He first practised from his parents’ house in Maidenhead before moving to Henley in 1960 and opening offices there.

Mr Sutherland became a coach at Oxford University Boat Club in the late Fifties and coached the Great Britain eight at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He was captain of Leander Club from 1960 to 1962.

He met Diane, his wife-to-be, in 1959 when he went in to book a holiday at the Bond Street travel agent where she worked. They were married at Leander Club in 1962 and set up Upper Thames Rowing Club the following spring.

They had two children, Justin, who is the current club captain, and Belinda, who died from multiple sclerosis in 1994, aged 26.

Mr Sutherland continued to row into his mid-eighties, often going out twice a day. A keen supporter of junior rowing, he was made a Member of the British Empire for his services to the sport in 2008.

He became a patron of the Henley Regatta for the Disabled in 2010.

Mr Sutherland was also president of the Henley branch of the Conservatives for more than 50 years and London Mayor and former Henley MP Boris Johnson was guest of honour at the official opening of the club’s new boathouse in 2009.

More News:

POLL: Have your say