Friday, January 23, 2009


Edinburgh University

In combing through the post office directories for early Edinburgh, I stumbled across something interesting. It appears Thomas Sutherland's (1772-1850) eldest son and namesake, TS, Jr. (1797-1880) was undeniably less proficient at his father’s trade than his younger brother George (who would continue as a tailor in Canada). In the years 1825-1826 when the Sutherland family was residing at Drummond Street, a TS advertised himself as a writing master at their home address. It seems highly unlikely that this was the father, given his success as a merchant tailor. But imparting literacy (or penmanship) must not have been sufficiently lucrative or compelling; in 1827 and 1828 TS, Jr. was once again listed as residing at their home address. Occupation: tobacconist. The Canadian mythology about his life in Edinburgh, however, is far more romantic. Winning Pendergast recalls being told “that he was a highly educated gentleman, that he spoke seven languages, and had been a professor of languages at Edinburgh University.” There’s no evidence of any of this. But it is clear that TS the younger continued his literary endeavors in Canada, as there he earned the appellation “the poet of Moore.” This complements the occupation ascribed to him in the 1871 census: gentleman.

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