ROSS, Sir Robert Dalrymple (1828-1887)


ROSS, Sir Robert Dalrymple (1828-1887)
speaker, South Australian house of assembly
was born in the island of St Vincent in 1828. His father, John Pemberton Ross, had plantations in the West Indian islands, his mother, a daughter of Dr Alexander Anderson, was descended from Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, poet and statesman. Ross entered the British army and was a commissariat officer during the Crimean war. He returned to London in 1856, volunteered for service in West Africa, was appointed commissariat officer of Cape Coast Castle, and became acting colonial secretary in 1858. A native revolt broke out and Ross showed resource in organizing a military force of friendly natives. On leaving West Africa in 1859 he was presented with a eulogistic address from the native chiefs and the merchants of the district. During his stay he initiated proceedings which led to the acquisition by Britain of the Dutch settlements on the Gold Coast. On returning to England, after a short period of employment, he was sent to China, served under General Sir Hope Grant, and was then military accountant at Hong Kong. He was sent to South Australia in 1862 as head of the commissariat department, became aide-de-camp to Governor Daly, and subsequently his private secretary. He was at the New Zealand war in 1864-6, and then returned to Australia. He went to England in 1869 and in 1870 was sent to Ireland in command of a military flying column. He resigned from the army in 1871 and in 1872 went to South Australia, where he had already bought an estate.
Ross developed much interest in olive culture, fruit drying, viticulture and cider-making. In 1875 he was elected to the house of assembly for Wallaroo and in June 1876 became treasurer in the first Colton (q.v.) ministry, resigning with the ministry in October 1877. He was offered the agent-generalship in London but declined it, and in 1881 was elected speaker of the house of assembly in succession to Sir G. S. Kingston. He was knighted in May 1886 and died at Adelaide on 27 December 1887. He married in 1864 a daughter of John Baker and left a son and a daughter.
During his comparatively short career in politics Ross showed great faith in the future of Australia. He advocated the laying of a cable to Australia, and the building of a transcontinental railway to Darwin on the land grant system. His fine presence, decision and courtesy made him all excellent speaker, and as president of the Royal Agricultural Society for many years, as a governor of St Peter's school, and a member of the university council, he showed much interest in the life of the colony.
The South Australian Register and The South Australian Advertiser, 28 December 1887; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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