Many people have asked the questions, "Who is Hugh Sutherland?" or "Why is the school called Hugh Sutherland?" The following was provided by his family and hopefully by the end you will know who he is and why the school was named after him!
Hugh Sutherland was born in Sutherland, Brora, Scotland in 1884 and passed away in Carstairs, AB in 1963.
The Carstairs elementary school was named after Hugh Sutherland in 1964 for his devoted work as a janitor from the mid 40’s to the mid 50’s. The School Board of the day decided on the name with input from the teachers. In 1973 when the schools were joined by a new addition of library, offices and science rooms, the whole school took on the name of Hugh Sutherland School.
Teachers of his times say that he earned the right to have the school named after him.
The school was his life while he was janitor.
He really enjoyed his work as custodian. He did his job with pride. Sometimes his wife Jean helped him with the work. Children willingly helped him with chores too. They tried not to make messes for him to clean up.
When he saw a need, he filled it whether it was a big job such as building shelves for boots or a small item such as hanging pictures for teachers.
He collected and framed large pictures to hang on the walls. Some recall pictures of the queen and a railroad scene.
The children had to cross the busy main highway #2 where he saw the need for a crossing guard so the children could cross safely. He helped them across by stopping the traffic. This highway became #2A after 1957 when the new highway was built 3 miles east.
He did his work cheerfully but he made the children obey the rules and he wouldn’t stand for vandalism of any kind.
Teachers remember his way with children:
- He had a smile for everyone. He was a real sweetheart of a person who was kind to everyone. He was a lovable old gentleman.
- He talked to children and encouraged them.
- Children liked him and flocked to him. They took his hand and often walked with him.
- Sometimes he had a little joke for the children.
- In the classroom he picked up pencils and erasers and put them back into children’s desks instead of sweeping them away.
- He said that in summer holidays the school was the loneliest place to be when there were no children around.
- On cold winter days he was there early at 5:00 a.m. to stoke up the big furnace in the basement of the old brick school as well as the two room white school and one room building that used to be the Scout Hall. He made sure the rooms were warm when he children came at 9:00 a.m.
- On cold days he spent most of his days at school to keep the furnaces stoked up with coal because the furnace needed a lot of attention.
- Teachers just had to ask and he would do any job for them. He was there when they needed him. He would bend over backwards for anyone.
- He filled the big stone water fountain every morning from the hand pump in the school yard. You can see this water jug in our local museum.
- He built a big box to put boots and shoes into if children left them scattered on the floors. We still have lost and found boxes at school today.
- At Christmas time he set up trees for the elementary classes.
- The teachers gave him a big turkey every year for Christmas. One year the teachers played a trick on him and cleaned a skinny pigeon and filled the box with coal and gave that to him first! Later they gave him the real turkey.
Hugh Sutherland retired from his work when he developed glaucoma and could not see well. After a short illness he suffered a stroke and passed away in 1963 at the age of 79. A year later the school was named after him.
Living just west of town at the Silver Willow Farm are his descendants: daughter-Bessie Day, grandson-Donald Day (and his wife Gwen) and great-grandchildren Chantal, Joshua and Andrea Day.
Now you know who Hugh Sutherland is and why the school was named after him!