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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Robert Ross (1792–1862)

Our readers will have observed in our notices of deaths the name of Dr. Ross–for more than sixteen years pastor of the Congregational Church, Pitt-street, and one of the most prominent, able, and respected of our public men. Dr. Ross brought to this country a reputation long established both for high intellectual attainments and moral worth. He had passed that period of life when the mind is subject to illusions, and understood thoroughly the position which he occupied and the duties he had to discharge. Without any ambition of distinction or love of popularity, it was by daily and uninterrupted toil that he left the deep impress of his personal character, as well as everywhere the sense of his lofty intelligence, sound judgment, and sober, but untiring zeal. As the centre of a large and influential circle, Dr. Ross was ever an example of dignity, firmness, and moderation, and with profound respect for the rights of men, he united the resolute maintenance of his own distinctive religious and political opinions.

Dr. Ross was educated in Edinburgh for the sacred ministry, and accepted a laborious and difficult sphere in the Russian Empire. To enable him to prosecute his missionary work with more success he passed the necessary course of medical training, and took his degree as a doctor in medicine. In this capacity, during the prevalence of cholera, he rendered services so highly appreciated by the Russian Government, as to draw towards him the special notice of the Emperor, who caused to be conveyed to him a valuable token of his approbation. In the prosecution of his missionary work he made himself master of the Russian and Turkish languages, so as to be able to address a congregation. Although no permanent organisation seems to have resulted from his labours, he contributed, with others, his coadjutors, to scatter the seeds of British civilisation among many who were likely to influence the minds of their countrymen.

Dr. Ross, on his return to Great Britain, after national and political causes had created impediments in the path of the mission, became pastor of the Congregational church at Kidderminster. From this he was withdrawn, after fifteen years' residence, by the strongest solicitations of his ministerial brethren, and accepted, with great reluctance, but with characteristic firmness and decision, an appointment to this colony, as well as the agency of the London Missionary Society. In what spirit this mission was accepted may be inferred from an address delivered in London prior to his departure, when he said:–"I know not the amount of money which would have purchased the transfer of my services from Kidderminster to Sydney. Neither do I cross the ocean for the purpose of cherishing or promoting a sectarian spirit. It is true I go out in connection with a particular body of Christians, but I carry not the torch of discord in my hand. I have never during the whole course of my ministerial life endeavoured to make a single proselyte from one Christian communion to another; and I shall not begin at Sydney. I would not go the length of any of your streets for the purpose of bringing a man from one Christian communion over to another, but I would go to the world's end to be the instrument of saving immortal souls. In my younger days I became an inhabitant of the wilds of Tartary for this purpose, and again I leave your country having the same object in view."

We believe that those who have enjoyed most intercourse with Dr. Ross never heard fall from his lips a single unkind expression towards the members of other Churches:–None of that sectarian depreciation which harmonises as little with charity as with the taste and feelings of a Christian gentleman.

Dr. Ross accepted and discharged for some years the office of honorary secretary to the Australian Library; and never was its business conducted with more vigour or satisfaction. In connection with the Infirmary and the Benevolent Asylum, his labours were abundant and unremitting, and by none will his memory be more cherished than by those who co-operated with him in those works of charity. Often when the difficulties of administration had divided the committees, and were warming almost into hostility, he interposed at the proper moment, and by some suggestion of irresistible force solved the difficulty and harmonised opinion.

Dr. Ross had charge of the establishments of the London Missionary Society in the South Seas, and in this capacity found scope for the display of those business qualities for which he was pre-eminently distinguished among his brethren.

It is but little to say that Dr. Ross, who possessed a sound mind in a sound body, and realized much of the happiness of common life, was a warm friend wherever he gave his confidence; that he was the delight of social re-unions; a lover of joyous sounds and happy faces–full of anecdote and rich in the lessons of experience; that he was trusted by young persons and thronged by children, who, with unerring instinct, detect the true friend. These are qualities which attract the hearts of the living and embalm the memory of the dead,–but they scarcely need enumeration, since they are the most ordinary characteristics of moral greatness.

Nearly nine years ago Dr. Ross was suddenly seized with an affliction which deprived him of the power to continue his pastoral duties, and which often affected his mental vigour. For the last two years the growing strength of his disease loosened the ties of life, until it ceased to be desirable. All that sympathy and love could do to soothe his last hours was of course supplied by his congregation and by his friends. Many times during the last few weeks, in the intervals of self-possession, his faith as a Christian and his affections and sympathies as a man resumed their wonted power and shed their gentle influence upon the circle about him. No man his gone down to the grave with a purer reputation, and around no man's last resting place will gather sweeter or warmer recollections. Dr. Ross had a work to do, assigned by his Master, and he performed it well. He lived the "three-score years and ten," and so long as the circle of which he was the ornament and chief shall survive he will be mentioned with the veneration due to the memory of the just.

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Citation details

'Ross, Robert (1792–1862)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 August, 1792
Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


2 November, 1862 (aged 70)
Edgecliff, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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