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 it
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 all 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.