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Georgina Scott Sutherland

Philanthropist.

Born November 28, 1918; Died: May 14, 2014

Georgina Scott Sutherland, who has died aged 95, was a virtually penniless wartime refugee who went on to marry one of Scotland's most successful businessmen and honour his spirit of philanthropy, which helped launch many a young architect's career.

As a member of the privileged colonial set in Hong Kong, the Glasgow-born Georgina found her life changed immeasurably with the outbreak of the Second World War, when she was evacuated to Australia carrying just one suitcase.

Seriously impoverished, and struggling to support the household, was an experience that galvanised her into becoming self-sufficient and by the time she met the Aberdeen architect and entrepreneur Tom Scott Sutherland she was secretary to the Governor of Hong Kong.

Although she never worked again after her marriage to the businessman, 20 years her senior, she became an enthusiastic supporter of the causes closest to his heart and spent decades engaged in charitable work for the Order of St John.

Georgina Scott Sutherland, latterly known as Ina, was born in Glasgow but grew up in Macau and Hong Kong, where her father had his own civil engineering consultancy.

The youngest of a family of three, she was educated at King George V Secondary in Kowloon and enjoyed a typically privileged lifestyle of the colonial era, attended to by servants and entertained by a round of dancing and tennis.

She had two older brothers, one of whom died serving his country whilst flying on a secret mission to Stonecutters Island, just north of Hong Kong, which had been captured by the Japanese in the first days of the fall of the colony. The other is thought to have settled in New York.

After the outbreak of war, her father managed to get Georgina and her mother out of Hong Kong on one of the last ships to sail for Australia. He stayed behind and died in internment in Stanley Prison.

In Australia, Georgina endured hardships she had never known. She had to work to support herself and her mother and there was often little money for food and clothes.

She ended up taking jobs in shops to finance a crash course in secretarial studies - a far cry from her life in the colony and a sobering experience.

She remained in Australia for the duration of the war and worked latterly for the government of Hong Kong in exile in Sydney. After the Allied victory in Japan, she returned to the colony and began working for the civil service, eventually being offered the post as secretary to Sir Alexander Grantham, the Governor of Hong Kong.

She was back on familiar territory and she loved the job, living in Kowloon and returning to the social life she had enjoyed in her youth.

She met divorcee Tom Scott Sutherland in 1948, on board a ship sailing back to Australia to see her mother. They married in 1950 and she gave up work to embrace her new role as the wife of a highly-successful architect, cinema tycoon, house builder and philanthropist.

Early in their married life they moved into Garthdee House, a stunning granite mansion on an estate overlooking the River Dee in Aberdeen. But it soon proved too big for the couple, who had no children, and three years after acquiring the property Scott Sutherland gifted it, along with a generous endowment, to the Aberdeen School of Architecture, where he had trained and which was later renamed in his honour.

Meanwhile, his wife became heavily involved in the Order of St John and was invested as a Serving Sister in the order in 1954, being made an officer of the order four years later. The couple had been married for little over a dozen years when Tom Scott Sutherland died, in the early 1960s.

In a widowhood that spanned the next half a century, Georgina Scott Sutherland continued to support the school of architecture and her name graces a library, now used as a study centre, on Robert Gordon University's Garthdee campus, land that was once the couple's estate.

For decades she also generously supported the Order of St John in Aberdeen, where her pioneering work helped to create the St John Nursing home in Albyn Place. She was one of those behind the establishment of the St John Mountain Rescue Team in Aberdeen and once volunteered her services, on a training exercise, as the "body" to be brought down off the mountain.

Her offer was declined on the grounds of her age and the fact it was snowing at the time. Though she had a straight-talking attitude, that feistiness in her was admired and she was not only well-liked by her friends but enormously proud to be made a Dame of St John in 1979.

Among her other interests were bridge, fine jewellery, art and Chinese culture and antiques. She was also an intrepid traveller, venturing happily to far-flung locations, including Chile, where she fearlessly ignored warnings about straying from the main roads and had to be escorted out of a tough area by a police officer worried for her safety.

About 10 years ago she returned to Hong Kong to search for her father's grave, which she discovered in Stanley Cemetery, and had visited Antarctica when she was almost 80.

She later gave a talk on her trip, South With Scott (Sutherland), illustrated with slides of her taking a dip in the Antarctic Ocean, bobbing about amongst the ice floes in her swimsuit and bathing cap.

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