People on board
John Ross was born in Leith, Edinburgh on 7 October 1868 to Scottish parents, the fourth of five siblings. His parents, Robert and Margaret (née St. Clair) Ross had married in Midlothian, Scotland in 1859. Around 1870 the family moved to Warrenpoint, Co. Down. His father worked in the Royal Hotel. His mother died in 1874, his father re-married in 1877and in the 1880’s the family moved to Dublin where his father became proprietor of Ross’s Hotel on Eden Quay.
John was living at 4 Lower Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) where his sister Jane opened the Waverley Hotel and Restaurant. John married Agnes Jack, daughter of George Jack, a bacon curer, in the United Presbyterian Church on Abbey Street on 7 December 1892. They never had any children. The United Presbyterian Church of Scotland had started a mission to establish a church in Ireland in 1861 mainly aimed at Scots living in Dublin. Their Abbey Street church, later known as the Scots Church, was opened in 1869. The congregation became part of the United Free Church of Scotland in 1900 and all the Ross family appear to have been members.
Commercial directories list for the 1900s John Ross, a Purveyor & Pork Butcher, at 95 Great Britain Street (later Parnell Street), where John and Agnes initially lived before later moving to Dollymount.
It is possible that John may have developed a love of sailing while growing up in Warrenpoint. His sister was running the Waverley boarding house on Kitestown Road, Howth until her death in 1911, so John probably knew Howth well at that time. John Ross joined the Dublin Bay Sailing Club in Kingstown in 1910.
He was also elected as a member of Howth Sailing Club on 5 May 1910, where he became Captain of Class One cruisers in 1912 and was elected to the position of Hon. Secretary in 1914. His very neat handwriting can still be seen in the minute books. John had a very active sailing career as he was also a member of the Royal Alfred Yacht Club in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire), and the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club at Cultra on Belfast Lough.
He owned two boats, first in Kingstown and later moved to Howth, the 6-ton former champion Clyde 23 cutter ‘Klysma’ built by Fife & Son in Fairlie in 1895, and a Dublin Bay 25 cutter ‘Fodhla’ also built by Fife and previously owned by the Viceroy, Lord Dudley. ‘Fodhla’ was sold in 1914.
John Ross interacted with working class boys in the inner city, possibly as part of the outreach mission of the United Free Church of Scotland in Abbey Street. Having been appointed as Dublin Sea Scout Commissioner in February 1915, he was one of those in command of the Rally of Dublin Scouts inspected by the Chief Scout, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, at Lord Iveagh’s Grounds in August of that year. In the summer of 1916 he started a new troop, the 5th Port of Dublin, in the Gardiner Street area and made a clubroom available to the Scouts, possibly at his own Parnell Street premises. The Troop kept a boat at the Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club. The Troop closed in 1917 and the boys transferred to other troops.
From 16-19 March 1917 John Ross attended the first ever Commissioners’ Conference of the Boy Scouts Association in the Royal Hotel, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. A number of his contributions to the proceedings are on record. He spoke of the value of the recently introduced junior Wolf Cub section and advised the participants to look upon their voluntary work in the same way as their business.
He said “My work for ten years has been among the waifs and strays of Dublin. I have had to drop this work recently owing to my health, but I hope to go back and take it up again, for I would rather wear out than rust out. It is wonderful what you can do with these boys”. “I am a dissenter (Presbyterian) myself …I took the advice of Headquarters and formed a Troop of my own. I was too busy to run it myself but I managed to get it going and to find a Scoutmaster to run it. He is a Roman Catholic and he is one of the hopes for our Movement in Dublin”.
John Ross was on board the R.M.S. Leinster travelling to the second Commissioners’ Conference in London from 11-14 October 1918. The report of the Conference in the Headquarters Gazette states:
“It is true that one shadow was cast on the sunshiny week-end when the news reached the meeting that Mr John Ross, Sea Scout Commissioner for Dublin, had lost his LIFE on the Leinster on his way to the Conference. His loss will be greatly mourned by the Commissioners who remembered his cheery presence and helpful words at Matlock Bath.”
The Chief Scout, Sir Robert Baden-Powell sent the following telegram:
With thanks to Brian Meyer for sharing his extensive research.