Scotsman obituary: Highland Games athlete Sandy Sutherland


Sandy Sutherland’s prowess with the wood-handled Scottish hammer was impressive

Sandy Sutherland was a prominent Highland Games athlete of the 1950s and 1960s who specialized in “heavy events”, the best known being the caber throw but which also includes the shot put, Scottish hammer handle. wooden (the Scottish hammer) and shot put for height and distance. He won the highly prized Scottish Heavy Events Championship in 1956 and 57 at his annual Crieff site and in 1959 he took third place, the title deciding the highest number of points awarded for individual disciplines.

A versatile talent, he was particularly known for shot put and hammer throw and without the advent in the late 1950s and early 1960s of two of the greatest “heavyweights” of all time – Bill Anderson and Arthur Rowe – Sandy may have collected more Scottish titles. After retiring from competition, he maintained his enthusiasm and affection for the Games as a heavy events judge at various venues, officiating as recently as 2019 in Durness.

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Not only was he the oldest Scottish champion still alive, he was the last of the old heavyweights to come out of their traditional farming hinterland. Farm and manual laborers historically tended to dominate at a time when natural strength enhanced by demanding physical labor underpinned the field prowess of the Games, when winter training, training and weightlifting were yet to come. .

Regarded as a professional as he competed for cash prizes, the world of amateur athletics was closed to him, but it is noteworthy that his winning shot in 1956 at Crieff of 45 ‘2 “would have won the test comfortably at the Scottish Amateur Track and Field Championships that year.

Sandy got involved in the throw almost by accident. One night, around 1949, while attending the Ardross Games dance near Alness, he noticed the shot put and Scottish hammer nearby which had been used earlier in competition and began to attempt to launch them. Encouraged by his efforts, he began to practice, first tying a length of string to an old hammerhead to practice on swings before finding a wooden handle to attach to the head to provide a tool. appropriate.

Scottish hammer throwing was a popular rural activity at the time, and Sandy recalled taking part in informal competitions with several others at Ardross Mains on summer evenings. Without coaching or systematic weightlifting, he continued to improve through his hard training.

After starting at the local Games, Sandy competed across Scotland and by the mid-1950s he was considered one of the best heavyweights on the circuit, among stiff competition from others like Lochearnhead Ewan hotelier Cameron, Sandy Gray of Alford, Jock McLellan of Alness and Jay Scott of Inchmurrin.

In 1956, after winning all the heavy events at the Aberlour Games, he had his first domestic success at Crieff, relegating 1954 champion Sandy Gray to second place by a clear margin. In doing so, he recorded three 1sts, in light and heavy putts and light hammer, while the 2nds in heavy hammer and caber helped secure the title. He took home the overall prize of £ 20 plus money from individual events, making a total of around £ 45, the equivalent of several weeks’ pay.

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A year later, after winning the light hammer and heavyweight throw, he retained the title, with 1953 champion Ewen Cameron second, while in 1959 he finished third behind Anderson and Gray.

For several years, he also enjoyed success at the prestigious Aboyne and Braemar Games, collecting numerous awards in all disciplines.

In 1964, he took part in a six-week tour of North America, presenting heavy event exhibits with fellow heavyweight Bill Anderson, Jock McColl, Louis McInnes, and Jay Scott. It was part of The Wonderful World of Sport traveling sports exhibition which took place in New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto and Philadelphia, among other destinations – a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Once retired from competition, as a man of integrity, Sandy became a highly regarded and popular judge at many Games in the North including Helmsdale, Durness, Dingwall, Dornoch and his favorite, Lochinver, where he held the light hammer record for many years. He joked that it had made its best weight-to-height ratio there, “13’6” plus two fish crates, “the aircraft having reached its maximum height by then.

Alexander Sutherland was born on a farm near Portmahomack to Easter Ross, the second eldest of six children of John, a grieving farmer, and Helen, née Mackenzie. As his mother passed away when he was quite young, Sandy moved to live with relatives on a farm in Ardross.

After completing his studies there, he began to work on local farms, through which he met the future wife Gerlinde Koenig.

Linde, as she was called, had come from southern Germany after the war to be an au pair on a farm and the couple got married in Dingwall in 1952. They lived 63 happy years together, during which they had their son David.

There were annual road trips to Germany to visit family, when Sandy took her Scottish hammer for training, regularly to the surprise of customs officials.

The family lived in Ardross for years, Sandy leaving farm work to drive heavy trucks before moving to Kildary near Invergordon in the 1990s, where he built his own home.

Away from his family and the Games, Sandy enjoyed stalking deer, especially on Wyvis’ estate, and was known to bring three deer down the hill on his own.

A modest and unpretentious individual who would help anyone, he was much appreciated and respected, variously described as a “gentle giant” and “solid as a rock”. He is survived by his son David and his grandchildren Georgina and Peter.

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