Vivien Beatrice Sutherland ("Mammy")

This piece was written by June Sutherland at the request of Phyllis de Jersey for the occasion of the dedication of a room at St John's Anglican Church, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia, in recognition of V.B. Sutherland's contribution to its life and music.

V.B. Sutherland was born in 1888 at Sandy Bay, Hobart, Tasmania, the daughter of Clementina and Harry Constable Wetton. Her father was an Englishman and her mother was Tasmanian born. Vivien was brought up on Launceston where she met a young sea-captain, James Henry Sutherland.

They were married in Melbourne in about 1909 and went to Sydney to live at Hunters Hill. But in due course of time, Jim had to leave the sea because of his eyesight. At first he became his brother-law’s partner in an import and export firm in Sydney but business life was not for him and he studied for the Local Government exams, and was first appointed to Barraba , followed by Blayney and Gilgandra, until they came to Wagga Wagga in 1923, where Jim became the Mitchell Shire Clerk.

Jim and Vivien, with their sons, Alan and John, lived at first in Tarcutta Street but then moved to Wollundry Avenue, the first house built beyond Beckwith Street. They were scoffed at because Wagga would never grow so far! This remained Vivien’s home until her death. Here she indulged her love of gardening and music.

In 1937 she went to England for six months for the coronation of George VI and was fortunate enough to draw a viewing position along the route. She played on the organ at Westminster Abbey and no doubt in other places. Meantime Jim and the boys went to stay in a guest house in Johnson Street. She went to England and France again in 1954.

The family never owned a car and her means of transport was bicycle, mainly because she always suffered with her feet.

For many years she conducted a stall in front of St John’s Hall in Baylis Street in aid of the British and Foreign Bible Society. She would have made a top rate business woman. She had a feel for her customers and an ability to judge how and what she could sell. There was never anything brought home after the day with the stall.

When the decision was made not to repair the pipe organ and to do the modern thing and by an electric organ, she adjusted herself to the change, but with deep regret.

Her contribution to the standard of church music in Wagga Wagga was without equal, combing her deep faith and her love of music.

Vivien passed away in 1972 at the age of 84.

Memories of Mammy by My Children

Julia (b 1945)

Vivienne Beatrice Sutherland nee Wetten was my paternal grandmother – we called her Mammy. She was present in my life from the time my parents moved to Wagga Wagga when I was 18 months old. The family lived with her until I was five when we moved to a house at the Wagga Agricultural College. The contact with her continued every Saturday morning when we visited for morning tea.

My first memories of Mammy being involved with the Anglican Church in Wagga Wagga was when I was about five. It was seeing her get ready for a fundraising stall to raise money for the Bible society. And on one occasion while I was still primary age, I sat beside her on the organ bench while she played the old organ. I remember noticing how active she was while playing the music, the pedals being a long way down and her legs being short.

When I was older, I would stay with her on the weekend. It was a lovely change for me, as the house was so quiet – no other children! Of course, there was always church. We would walk up to St John’s from Wollundry Avenue, rather than riding the bicycle as Mammy did when she was on her own. (Anyone who remembers her feet would realise what a sacrifice this would have been for her, it has only just occurred to me ...) Often I sat and listened as she reviewed and practiced pieces she planned to play at the next service.

Though I know she had an active social life with musical evenings, chess games and maintaining a wide correspondence, my impression as a child was that her life in the Church was central to her. I would say that seeing her selfless work for St John’s and the ‘piccaninnies’ and ‘heathens’ showed me that doing food works was worthwhile.

There are odd connections. My husband’s mother can remember both my grandparents from St John’s (she is another stalwart of the church.) She was a teenager in the ‘30s, and remembers Mammy – always Mrs Sutherland to her – as being quite direct and always targeted on her tasks. There were continuing contacts between them later, and occasional contacts at St Luke’s when Mammy filling in to play the organ there. I seem to remember seeing her play there as well.

I really can’t remember Mammy apart from St John’s. This ended of course with her final contact at her funeral. Remembering her from my status as an adult, I can identify her quiet and controlled manner, her energy, and her cultivated life, as well as her deep Christian faith.

Steve (b 1947)

I don't really have lots to add to what Bill has already put (in terms of cups of tea and cinamon buns). Personal memories are probably not what the people at St Johns are looking for except to point out how close we were to Mam and what type of person she was.

Besides the regular visits we often spent some time trying to catch yabbies in the lagoon but always seemed to get frustrated by the large number of turtles that used to grab the bait.

While we visited Mam every week without fail, there were rooms in her house that I never went into while she was there. I don't know if that was a deliberate restriction imposed by her but anyway, it didn't really matter but I always spent a bit of time wondering what was behind the closed (dont know if they were locked) doors. The house always seemed to be a bit dark which added to the mistique.

I suppose one of the enduring memories of Mam was of her riding her bike. Must have ridden thousands of miles on it. I use to get lawn mowing jobs from her ( I think I got about 2 bob for doing the front and back grass with a push lawn mower). Mam used to complain that it didnt take long enough, the inference possibly being that I could have done a better job if I took more time.

Also have memories of helping prune the fruit (apple) tree in the garden. Mam would direct the whole thing, pointing at the spot she wanted the cut made with her gnarled fingers (how did she still play the organ????) She didnt take long to get stroppy if you made the cut anywhere else!

Mam had pretty selective hearing. If she didn't want to know she was deaf but if it was something else, she immediately developed acute hearing!!

I remember Mam was particular about pouring tea. Always add the milk first!!! Being a smart arse, I used to put the tea in first to see if she ever noticed. (Actually, scientifically controlled tests show that adding the milk first does indeed make a difference ) but I didn't know at the time.

Fortunately for me and Sue, Mam and Sue met, albiet after she went into the Haven. Mam took an immediate shine to Sue and asked her to promise not to let me grow another beard as I was handsome enough without one!! I suspect beards brought back bad memories of her having to kiss/hug hirsuite men when she was little, although that's supposition on my part.

Mam was a practical person and this was reflected in her wedding present to us, namely a pair of nice double blankets (given with a twinkle in the eyes). Also reflecting her practical nature was the regular production of soap made from animal fat (pig tallow usually I think). This soap worked ok but man-oh-man don't get it in your eyes!!

Mum might correct me on this but I think Mam bought Dad the marine plywood to make Katy-Loo, she clearly had a nose for the things that meant a lot to people.

Duncan (b 1949)

Saturday mornings drinking tea, mowing her lawn with a push mower, Mammy draining the milk bottle by lying it on its side, her aluminium whistling kettle, tea cake, feeding the geese in the lagoon, Water Rats in the lagoon, walking over to the shop to buy some lollies with our 2 shillings pocket money doled out by dad, Mammy padding her shoes up because of her bunions, (but the shoes were most of the problem), mail deliveries of "The Illustrated London News" with black and white photos of the young Queen Elizabeth, chess games with Mammy (she always won).

I was invited to sleep over at Mammy's place many times. She fussed alot because she was worried I would wet her bed, although I never did. Sleeping in the sleepout. She took me to Sunday school at the parish hall. I stayed at her place to go to scouts at 2nd Wagga Wagga Troop with Peter Gissing. Alan Grey was the Scout Master. Mammy gave me bananas to eat for lunch and told me to ensure that I chewed them up so I did not get indigestion. Walking to South Wagga Wagga Primary School from Mammy's place along the lagoon.

Maureen Gaston lived next door and Peter McDonald lived just up the Avenue. I was in school cadets with Peter.

I was once asked to read a Bible passage in St Johns. I remember Mammy playing the organ and being so proud of her skills and the quality of her playing. To me as a little kid the music took on an ethereal resonance, like music in heaven, when she played.

Janet (b 1954)

I have very similar memories as others, Saturday morning tea,feeding the ducks on the lagoon with the bread crusts and old toast she would have collected and saved over the week.

Mammy had an old plastic bag with odd pieces of soft dance foam wedges and pads, she took about 20minutes to put her shoes on and it was a major decision for the day.The men's slippers, she would have to put as side in exchange for the lace up shoes, were a well worn with holes cut out over her bunions. Her feet must have been very painful and the bunions very troublesome, they were a familiar topic of grumbling conversation from what I remember.

I loved to stay over night with her,you would always feel so very special and as Julia mentioned no other kids around. I Remember her deserts, rice pudding and baked custard with big raisins, yum.

I can visualise myself snuggled down in the spare room, the smell of the house and the sound of the floor boards creaking when there where footsteps. The street light shone through into the room illuminating the dressing table and creating some comfort from the dark. We had a night pot in the little cupboard beside the bed which was dutifully taken in the morning to be emptied, listening to the boinging sound the piddle made in the pot.

Bath time was intriguing as it appeared a complex ritual of lighting the gas heater with a wax tapper and then being very cautious of the boiling hot water pouring out . The smell of the gas and the bathroom is almost tangible to me now.

Saturday morning ritual of a cup of tea for Dad and Mum in her lovely big Shelly teacups. The cinnamon buns where so yummy, sliced about 1/4 inch thick and picking one with a big chunk of pink icing was a total bonus.

There was always the hot topic of the poplar roots from mrs Higgins garden getting in the drains and what to do about it. Mammy was always up for giving us a ride on her leg. she would sit on a kitchen chair with her leg crossed on the other , we would them sit on her ankle and then be flung quite vigorously by her into the air. What fun! those years of bike riding made a big difference?

As mentioned by others the church was a very important part of there life, weddings and funerals,collecting rags for the lepers ...

I would grasp at any little bit of left over from weddings, the white satin ribbons were just so dreamy.

My best memory was being taken the movies to see Zorro in the old Capitol Theatre (next door to the Woolworths super market in Gurward st) she had a thermos and a big cinnamon buns to share. Others must have come with us but I remember it being a really special time as she was as enthusiastic as we were I'm sure about the film.

I never felt there was any singling out between us all, I had a sense she was very fair.

Bill (b 1955)

My Grandmother (Mammy) was a significant part of my growing up, as I met up with her every Saturday morning when the family came into town. As regular as clock work we would arrive at her house for morning tea at 9.00am. My Dad (who only liked coffee!) had a cup of tea each Saturday morning.

The treat for the children was sliced up cinnamon buns in a metal tin. Staying at her house overnight when I had to attend scout meeting with 2nd Wagga Wagga scout troop developed a stronger bond with her. We always got together at Christmas time when she would have a lovely present for each on the children.

I marvelled at her ability to play the organ, while being so affected by arthritis in her hands. Her death was very upsetting for me, as my only grandparent, she had filled a special place in my life, as well being the first person who I had ever mourned for.

I didn't fully realise her association with St John's until later in my life, when I discovered the strong links that she and her husband James had with St John's. Much to my enjoyment, I discovered one day that the prayer desk used by the St Johns rector had been dedicated to my Grandfather James, who had been a lay preacher and leader of St John's.

Rene (b 1957)

My main memories of Mammy are her bunions on her feet; her dark, but intriguing house; her metal stool she sat on in her kitchen; always having cinnamon scrolls on Saturday mornings; and her waving good bye at the end of the back lane to her house: her arms waving above her head in sizzor formation like a signal to a landing plane.