Sutherland, Sir Arthur Munro. Bart., KBE, DCL, JP, KG

WM shipbuilder and philanthropist known as ‘the Legend of Newcastle’ and ‘a Prince of Shipbuilders”. He was the grandson of a Thurso bootmaker, Benjamin Sutherland, whose family had moved to Newcastle upon Tyne, where they were converted by Methodist preachers on the quayside. His father, Benjamin John Sutherland, developed a virtual monopoly in grain as feed for quayside horse-drawn traffic before developing an export business of chemicals, flour and grain; he was elected Sheriff of Newcastle in 1891 and was an instigator in the erection of the Wesley monument on the quayside still extant in Wesley Square.

Arthur Sutherland rose from a junior clerk in a shipbuilding company to founding his Sutherland Steamship Company in 1896 and would become Chairman of seven shipping companies and a Director of four others. He was also involved in coal exporting and rope manufacture, was a millionaire by 1912 and was knighted in 1920.

Always suspicious of socialism, he was against strike action and nationalisation, yet worked amicably with Methodist trade unionists, whom he saw as ‘doughty and sporting opponents who said what they meant’ and who had ‘the intensity of pit-row chapel behind them’.

As a member of the Newcastle Methodist Coalfields Committee, he contributed to the easing of tensions between WM capitalists and PM trade unionists. He is credited with turning the Depression round in the North East by injecting £1million in 1935 into the building of 17 ships on the Tyne which set the then highest standards of crew accommodation and safety.

He always saw himself as ‘a chapel man – a good, forthright nonconformist’. He was a teetotaller, supporting Prohibition in the USA, was a great financial supporter of overseas missions and played the organ in local Methodist mission halls. As a result of his benefactions towards the Newcastle and Durham Dental and Medical Schools, he was granted a DCL (Durham) in 1948. His interest in art resulted in his financial sponsorship of statues of John and Charles Wesley at the New Room, Bristol; he collected paintings by Henry Perlee Parker and was painted three times by Frank O. Salisbury.

He was Lord Mayor of Newcastle 1918 and bequeathed his town house, ‘Thurso’, to the Newcastle Council as its Mansion House, a role it still fulfils. He is buried in the Nonconformist section of Newcastle’s Jesmond Old Cemetery.

  • Who’s Who in Methodism (1933)
  • Leonard Johnson, Tynesider (Northumberland Press, 1947)
  • Morgan, Alan. “A fine and private place. Jesmond Old Cemetery” (Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2000)