Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with Sutherland

On my recent trip to Asquith, I had to scan the train station boards to find the platform I needed. While doing this, I noticed that there was a train going south to Sutherland, New South Wales, and thought I should probably visit there at some point.

Also reminds me of Lynsey

My first stop was the library, because if I know one thing about Sutherland, it would be related to a huge love of books. If I was smarter, I would’ve taken over one of Lynsey’s books and popped it in the library and pretended it was there all along (and everyone would totally have believed it) but I’m not so I didn’t. Instead I tried to remember some authors she’d mentioned that she liked, but sadly not many of those had made it over to Australia. At least not on the library database I was searching. A few failed searches combining Lynsey, May and Sutherland in various forms almost left me exasperated (I decided F. Lin Sutherland’s book on gems just wasn’t glamorous enough for inclusion here) until I realised that a place of such learning obviously had some information on Sutherland.

Sutherland, it is believed by many, is named after Forbes “Forby” Sutherland. This man has the dubious honour of being the first white man to die in Australia. The 29-year-old left his home in Orkney to join James Cook’s voyage to the southern hemisphere where he became ill and eventually died. He possibly didn’t even make it to Australia alive, but he was definitely buried there. Cook’s ship was said to be remarkably free of scurvy and similar diseases because the Englishman was smart enough to pack a load of lime juice and fresh fruit (which not many ships did at the time). Sadly this wasn’t enough for our intrepid Scot, who probably didn’t eat any of it because there wasn’t a deep fat fryer on board. Sutherland is the only man to have died on this voyage (according to records) and he is even mentioned in Cook’s diary, if you ever get the chance to read it. (Apparently you have to go to Canberra and make an appointment to do this.)

There are others who believe that because of its location the name Sutherland came from ‘Southernland’, which later became ‘Southerland’ and then carelessly lost its ‘O’. This is plausible, I guess, but not nearly as romantic. The fact that Cook also marked a Point Sutherland near the burial spot of Forby on his map lends weight to the first (better) story, so that’s the one I’m believing.

Pedants may like to point out now that Forby Sutherland probably had roots in the Scottish region of the Sutherland (some historians argue that he probably came from there and not Orkney – if a man and a woman from the neighbouring areas of Sutherland and Forbes got married, they’d often give their first son the name Forbes Sutherland to appease all their relatives) but our eponymous hero claimed to be Orcadian and I’m happy to believe him. The Scotch area of Sutherland is up in the Highlands, so the Southerland theory seems out of kilter here at first, until you find out that it was given its name by some mental vikings. To them it was south and for a while it was called Sudrland, which you can probably verify if you go to that cool map shop on the Royal Mile.

So! Sutherland probably got its name from a Scot who’s biggest claim to fame is to die before any other European in a certain continent and his name probably comes from the viking name for Southernland. So who’s right? Everyone, I guess.

Learning about Sutherlands

What else did I learn about Sutherland? (Yes, there’s more, but this is probably interesting for at least one person.) Well, the motto of a Sutherlander is “Without fear” which, given the high number of dental practices I saw in the area, may still hold true. They also have three tartans – weathered old Sutherland, ancient old Sutherland and modern old Sutherland. Not that anyone’s trying to say that Sutherland’s old and creaky or anything.

The earldom remains the oldest extant in Britain, which is a bit cool. The fifth Earl of Sutherland, a chap named William, was married to Robert the Bruce’s daughter, Princess Margaret, and their son was the heir to the Scottish throne before he died of the plague. Just think! Sutherland as royalty!

Because of its location in the Highlands, there was much trouble with nearby Moray, and everyone knows that people who grow up in Moray are the bestest in the world, so there must’ve been something totally wrong with those in Sutherland. (Also, the fact that so many people in Moray called themselves Murray at the time, pretty much shows that is the correct way to pronounce it.)

These relations with Moray proved problematic for those in Sutherland, and it wasn’t always tri-tartan fashion shows and glamorous royal shindigs for them. The name Sutherland went through a huge dip in popularity from the end of the 15th century as some of the earls were relieved of their power (or their lives) so folk from more easterly provinces could be in control. One earl was named “unfit to maintain his own affairs” by someone who wanted those affairs, one was “mysteriously murdered” and another was relieved of his powers after “a charge of idiocy” was brought against him. Like all trends, retro is eventually cool and the name was revived and began to flourish so much so that in 1745, around the time of the Jacobite rebellion, the Sutherlands were again strong enough to join in the fighting and were very much a part of those famous battles in the Highlands. Patriotic Sutherlanders may be disappointed to find out that they actually fought against the Scotch uprising and even captured one of the main men, much to the disappointment of the Bonnie Prince (if he was still around at that time) that led to the end of those crusades.

All of this information came out of actual books, by the way. I can’t remember the last time I went into a library to take notes from books to learn about something. It’s so much more gratifying than Google/Wikipedia.

After the library I had lunch at Mr India because it promised me “good taste and flavour”, which are both things I like. I can’t say that they were completely lying, but I also can’t say I wholeheartedly agree with their statement. If they were completely lying, they’d probably have mentioned something about good service.

I spot two lies

I then took a stroll down to Sutherland Park (where someone had dumped a mattress, presumably for a sunshine nap), before going on a bit of a bushland walk (where there were disappointingly few animals, despite there being “wildlife crossing” signs) taking in a pretty river on the outskirts of Sutherland (complete with waterside houses with their own private boats – probably the long lost royal bloodline). I also saw Sutherland’s attempt to rival the Great Wall of China, but the Great Pipe of Sutherland just isn’t quite as monumental (I suspect).

The Great Pipe of Sutherland

The major difference between my visit to Sutherland and my trips to Asquith and Warburton was that Sutherland actually seemed like a place where people lived (and no one offered me a lift anywhere, only the opportunity to open my heart to God). While I saw one or two people here and there on my first couple of trips, Sutherland was bustling with activity and some of the people were actually young. It was quite incredible. An article I read in the library from 1968 stated hopes that Sutherland would soon become a city. This dream hasn’t been realised, but I could see where it stemmed from.

I think this is the end of this thrilling series of top notch travel writing for now, but if any viewers out there want to get in touch with suggested locations then I’ll certainly look into them.

Filed under: australia, ,

2 Responses

  1. Dave w says:

    Mr India’s tagline is in dire need of an exclamation mark. I saw a cafe today offering ‘Beautiful & Breakfast’ – maybe a misunderstanding of the term B&B, but hopefully not.

  2. Lynsey May says:

    I have always loved the Sutherland clan motto, and the pretty kitty on the crest.

    I think that your trip to Sutherland was clearly the most sophisticated of your namesake tour!

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