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Remembering: Paul Sutherland

... A memory for the children of yesterday and today.

QCYC Member, Sailor and Friend

by karin larson

On contemplating the impact Paul Sutherland had on many of our lives, I subconsciously flipped through a book that was hot off the press. The pages fell open at the song “Fiddlers’ Green,” and there, in my mind’s eye was Paul Sutherland.

Dressed in oil skins and jumper, big smile on his face and ukulele in hand, he was bellowing, along with hearties Al Rae Sr., Al Cox, Bob Norton, and a host of others, the words: “ . . . .Just tell me old shipmates, I’m takin’ a trip, mates, And I’ll see you someday in Fiddlers’ Green. . . Now Fiddlers’ Green is a place I’ve heard tell, Where fishermen go if they don’t go to Hell.., Where the weather is fair and the dolphin do play, And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away. ..” *

There’s some small comfort in that Paul took that trip surrounded by love--not only the love of hundreds of fellow sailors all over the lake, but also by millions of children all over the world. Over forty years three generations. in some 70 or more countries, have grown up watching and hearing, in their own languages, his television shows: Tales of the Riverbank, Once Upon a Hamster, and Hammy Times.

The many readers of GAM who have been among those children, and those who have been Paul’s sailing buddies, will appreciate knowing that he did not suffer long or unduly.He was active, visiting Portugal and launching his boat, and then, after cardiac surgery, fighting a short courageous battle before succumbing on the morning of May 12. Our sympathy is with Glenys, his wife, best friend and cherished companion, and their close knit family.

For a longer time than most, I have known Paul as a friend. We were at what is now Ryerson University together, he in Photography and I in Journalism. As did a number of Ryerson students he, now and then, visited my family’sIsland home at 74 Lakeshore. Here he especially enjoyed Mike Armour playing jazz on the piano and the Ward’s Islander’s Barber Shop Quartet. Occasionally, with the rest of the gang, Paul drifted across the lagoon bridge to join the fun at Queen City Yacht Club. That club became a lifetime love where he spent just about all of his spare time and made most of his friends after he joined it in 1963.

He was also taken by the Toronto Islands and, before the homes were torn down by the City, lived on Centre Island for two or three summers and a couple of winters. Also before joining QCYC, he one day invited me to go out on the boat he had built (I remember it as a 14 foot moulded plywood sailboat named, as were each of him many later vessels, Runcible, a nonsense designation for a pickle fork.) He needed to learn how to sail the craft, and I was his one friend who, at the time, knew how.

The weather was perfect and, from Cherry Beach, we had a glorious run of almost ten miles to the smoke stacks of Port Credit. By the time we got back Paul knew as much about sailing as I did.

Through the years since our graduation , we never made any attempt to keep in touch, yet we crossed paths on an average of about twice a year; at the club, at Boat Shows or near the Hammy studio in the film district of Queen Street East. Almost every time it would be an occasion for a coffee, or a bit of lunch, and a catch up on personal events.

He told me, early on, how he was able to survive by being prudent, for instance by planning so as not to waste a bit of film. Now and then he talked about shooting his little animals, and without realizing it, inadvertently took on their personalities as he spoke. Before violence was even thought of as a social issue, he determined not to have it, nor foul language, in his productions. On many occasions he said he was working on his last set of films, but each year he would insist that he was doing just one more series.

Mostly, though, when we met he showed so much interest in what I was doing that, carried away by his encouragement, I would forget my questions to him and too late feel I might have missed something special.. What seemed to matter to him was not the magnitude of our efforts, but that we were each being fulfilled doing our own thing in our own way--and that was part of the magic of Paul Sutherland.