The Rev Charles Sutherland

FORMER fire service chaplain the Rev Charles Sutherland was given a fitting send off despite coronavirus restrictions when he was escorted to Semington Crematorium in style.

Mr Sutherland, who died on June 14 aged 89, was accorded full honours by the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Wiltshire Retired Firefighters Association in recognition of his service as chaplain.

His coffin was carried on a veteran fire engine that had seen active service in the Second World War and piper led the way.

He was born in very humble circumstances in a village near Inverness.

He began his working life as a joiner but then, as a young man, he had a spiritual experience and decided to train for the Baptist ministry, which he did at Rawdon Theological College, Yorkshire.

He began his long life of Christian ministry at churches in Darlington, Derby and Sheep Street, Devizes. In parallel with his church responsibilities he accepted chaplaincy appointments at acute and mental hospitals, and also an RAF V-Bomber base and for eight years he was the Chaplain to Wiltshire Fire Brigade.

Former Wiltshire fire chief John Craig said: “I had studied with New York Fire Department in 1987 and observed with envy and admiration the way that they used and greatly valued their chaplains.

“When the next vacancy for the Wiltshire Fire Brigade chaplaincy occurred, I approached Charlie.

“I was a deacon at Sheep Street BC at the time. I explained to Charlie what I had seen of chaplaincy work in New York and his enthusiasm was obvious. He readily agreed to do the job unpaid and to be mobilised to operational incidents 24/7 and 365 days of the year.

“His value at fires, road accidents etc soon became noted and welcomed by all of us in uniform and his wise words of comfort and support he extended to members of the other emergency services and members of the public.

“With great affection, the Wiltshire Firefighters began to refer to him as ‘Charlie the Chaplain’.”Charlie’s way of working was noted throughout the fire and rescue service nationally and he was invited to deliver a presentation to a seminar held for fire service chaplains at the Fire Service College.”

Mr Sutherland leaves a wife Christine, children Andrew, Iain and Graeme, father-in-law to Penny, Elen and Cheryl, grandchildren and great children as well as brother brother of James. A thanksgiving service will be held at St. James, Devizes at a later date.