Thomas Sutherland: A Great Victorian

Written by Malcolm Sutherland
Review by Jane Hill

Thomas Sutherland was born in Scotland and had an austere childhood. Even his mother did not remember the date of his birthday. Thomas escaped to London, where at the age of 17 he became apprenticed to his uncle, a general agent, Thomas Webster, and began to learn about shipping. One year later he was promoted to junior clerk in P&O offices in London. From this small step, Thomas climbed to become Chairman and Managing Director of P&O. He was strongly in favour of the construction of a canal in Egypt to link the Mediterranean to the Red Sea (the Suez Canal). He forged bonds with de Lesseps, father and son, and played an important part gaining backing for the construction of the canal. Following the opening in 1869 there was an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade, and Sutherland proposed a second canal. In the end it was decided to widen the existing canal instead. The Anglo-French Suez Canal was a real ‘entente cordiale.’ This is an inspiring book for all those who possess the vision and determination to succeed against challenging odds.