Ross, Robert Dalrymple (DNB00)


ROSS, Sir ROBERT DALRYMPLE (1828–1887), speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly, born in 1828 at St. Vincent, West Indies, on one of his father's estates, was son of John Pemberton Ross, speaker of the House of Assembly at St. Vincent, by his wife, only daughter of Alexander Anderson [q. v.], the botanist. He was educated in England, and eventually entered the commissariat department of the army as a temporary clerk in May 1855, joining the Turkish contingent in the Crimea. On 1 April 1856 he was confirmed in the department, and at the close of the war he was thanked for his services and received the Turkish medal. Shortly afterwards he volunteered for service on the west coast of Africa, and was senior commissariat officer at Cape Coast Castle from August 1856 to October 1859, becoming deputy assistant commissary-general on 17 Sept. 1858. During this period he sat as a member of the legislative council for the Gold Coast Colony, and for a short time acted as colonial secretary; in the latter capacity he took the lead in putting down a serious rising of the natives. In 1860 he went on active service to China, and served through the war of that year.

In January 1862 he was ordered to South Australia, and for a short time in 1863 acted as aide-de-camp to Sir Dominic Daly; he already seems to have contemplated permanent settlement in the colony, and purchased the estate of Highercombe, Gumeracha. But in 1864, on hearing of the outbreak of the war in New Zealand, he obtained a transfer to that colony, and served through the campaign of 1864–5. From July 1865 till 1869 he was stationed chiefly in Victoria. In 1869, on his way to England, he was requested to go to India and discuss the question of providing in South Australia a remount service for the Indian cavalry. At the close of the same year he was attached to the flying columns which dealt with the fenian scare in Ireland; on 12 Feb. 1870 he became commissary-general and was placed in charge of the department of control at Manchester.

On 1 Jan. 1871 Ross retired from the service and returned to South Australia. After leading a comparatively secluded life for some time, carrying on experiments at Highercombe in the making of wine and cider, he came forward to encourage the opening of fresh markets for Australian produce. In 1875, after being defeated for his own district of Gumeracha, Ross entered the assembly as member for Wallaroo. From June 1876 to October 1877 he was treasurer in the Colton ministry. In 1880 he acted for some weeks as deputy-speaker, and on 2 June 1881 (sitting now for his own district, Gumeracha) was unanimously elected speaker of the assembly; he was re-elected session by session till his death, winning universal approbation by his firmness, courtesy, and good humour. He was knighted on 24 May 1886.

Ross was president of the Royal Agricultural Society of South Australia and a member of the council of the university of Adelaide, besides being chairman of the Adelaide Steamship Company and director of other commercial companies. He died at the private hospital, Adelaide, on 27 Dec. 1887, and was accorded a state funeral at St. George's cemetery, Woodforde, on 29 Dec.

Ross married, in 1864, a daughter of John Baker, a member of the South Australian assembly; his wife died in 1867, leaving one son and one daughter.

[Mennell's Dict. of Australasian Biogr.; South Australia Advertiser, 28 Dec. 1887; Adelaide Observer, 28 Dec. 1887; official information.]

C. A. H.