Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Annie Gladys ('Suttie') Sutcliffe (1900–1990)

by Pam Crichton

This article was published:

Annie Gladys Sutcliffe (1900-1990), lawn bowler, was born on 28 August 1900 at Tatura, Victoria, thirteenth of fifteen children of Victorian-born parents William Donaldson, farmer, and his wife Christina, née Collie. Raised in a devout Presbyterian family, Gladys attended the small rural Harston State School from 1908 to early 1915. On 18 March 1925 at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Tatura, Gladys married Percy Newell Sutcliffe, a farmer. They moved to Barmedman, near West Wyalong, in New South Wales, where they purchased a property, Woodlands, on which they grew wheat and ran a thousand sheep; they bought another property and rented a third. After selling at Barmedman in 1947, Percy and Gladys co-owned a property at Murrurundi with their son and daughter-in-law.

The elder Sutcliffes moved to Sydney. Gladys joined Manly Women’s Bowling Club at Quirk Street, Balgowlah, late in the 1940s as a novice, but found she had great talent. A member of this club for thirty-five years, she won the singles title sixteen times and was runner-up on eight occasions. The last time that she won the club title she was 78. Interested in new players, she took on the role of honorary coach. She also served as a selector, vice-president and treasurer for the club. Its No 1 green was named in her honour in 1969.

As well as her club success, ‘Suttie’, as she was always known, performed well in State championships. Singles champion six times in the 1950s and 1960s, she was part of the group that won the inaugural State triples title in the 1964-65 season. She was ‘champion of champions’ in New South Wales on five occasions. Between 1954 and 1970 she was selected to represent New South Wales in interstate Test matches fifteen times. In 1955 she won the Australian Women’s Bowling Carnival singles title and in 1967 she captained the team that won the Australian fours championship. She was awarded the BEM in 1976.

Proud of her Scottish heritage, Mrs Sutcliffe was an active parishioner at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Manly, and she supported their charities. Of medium height, she wore her long hair in a braid wrapped around her head. Regarded by some competitors as intimidating, she was seen by others as a ‘typical countrywoman’, outspoken but with a dry sense of humour. In 1979 a journalist, Peter Rheuben, found her to be ‘a most forthright, honest and charming lady’. The fact that she shared the month and year of her birth with Queen Elizabeth II’s mother led to the affectionate title of the Queen Mother of Bowls. Percy, who supported her bowling devotedly, died in 1978. After living at Harbord for more than thirty years, with failing eyesight Gladys moved to Queensland to be with her son and daughter-in-law; she went with them to Christchurch, New Zealand, early in the 1980s. Survived by her son, she died there on 14 April 1990 and was cremated. Sutcliffe Street in the Canberra suburb of Nicholls was named for her.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Shepherd, Encyclopedia of Australian Sport (1980)
  • Women’s Bowls News, Apr 1967, p 5, Oct 1967, p 36, Jan 1976, p 1
  • Manly Daily, 7 Jan 1976, p 32
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 23 Dec 1979, p 50
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Jan 1981, p 37
  • NSW Women’s Bowling Association (, accessed 16 Sept 2011, copy held on ADB file)
  • private information.

Citation details

Pam Crichton, 'Sutcliffe, Annie Gladys ('Suttie') (1900–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Donaldson, Annie

28 August, 1900
Tatura, Victoria, Australia


14 April, 1990 (aged 89)
Christchurch, New Zealand

Cultural Heritage

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Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.