WILLIAM SUTHERLAND
of Thurso and Aberdeen -
HIGHLAND DANCER

by Ewen McCann

William Sutherland

William Sutherland dominated Highland dancing in Scotland from 1900 to 1920. His record includes wins at Braemar and Aboyne, the Northern Meetings, for 18 consecutive years. He taught James L. McKenzie, who assumed his mantle, and who set up a line of quality Highland dancers in Canada. Colleen Rintamaki, undefeated World Champion Highland Dancer and winner of that title ten times at the Cowal Highland Gathering, is one example of Canadian quality. The current 2006 World Champion, Erin Rose, is also from Canada though the two dancers are not direct dancing descendents of McKenzie.
 
Mr Sutherland emigrated to New Zealand in 1923. This memoir of him treats his dancing record and his technique in the
  • Highland Fling
  • Sword Dance
  • Sean Truibhas
  • Highland Reel
  • Reel of Tulloch
He steadfastly opposed the New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing, started by Ian D. Cameron, and his ostracism by that body has influenced the Academy’s dealings with the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing for nearly 60 years. The ostracism is the root cause of the ban on New Zealand dancers that has been in place in Scotland for over 30 years.

The memoir
  • refutes Percy Geddes’ claim that the current New Zealand style of Highland dancing evolved uniquely from a special group of dancers who emigrated from Scotland
  • examines the role of certain pipers and of the New Zealand Piping and Dancing Association in contributing to New Zealand's being a pariah among Highland dancing nations.
William Sutherland, Thurso and Aberdeen. Dannevirke 1926