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Cross, Sir Ronald Hibbert (1896–1968)

by Hilary Kent

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Sir Ronald Hibbert Cross (1896-1968), governor, was born on 9 May 1896 at Pendleton, Lancashire, England, son of James Carlton Cross, master cotton spinner, and his wife Marian Gertrude, née Hibbert. The Crosses were wealthy mill-owners. Educated at Ludgrove Preparatory School and at Eton, Ronald subsequently learned German as a commercial asset before taking up a career as a merchant banker. During World War I he served with the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry and as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps. On 7 January 1925 at St Peter's parish church, Pimlico, Middlesex, he married Louise Marion Green-Emmott; they were to have four daughters, and a son who died at the age of 2.

Embarking on a political career, in October 1931 Cross was elected to the House of Commons as Conservative member for Rossendale. His vigorous support of the cotton interest led to rapid promotion: he was a government whip (1935), junior lord of the treasury (1937), vice-chamberlain of the royal household (1937-38) and parliamentary secretary to the board of trade (1938-39). Appointed minister of economic warfare on 3 September 1939, he became well known for his efforts to bring about the economic isolation of Germany. Cross was sworn of the Privy Council on 7 June 1940 and became minister of shipping in Churchill's coalition government. Following press criticism of his performance, he was removed from his portfolio on 1 May 1941.

That year he succeeded Sir Geoffrey Whiskard as British high commissioner to Australia. Cross arrived in Sydney in July and immediately became embroiled in controversy. Because of his allegedly adverse remarks about the 'Russian system', he was censured by W. M. Hughes and some trade unionists demanded his recall. He was created baronet of Bolton-Le-Moors, Lancaster, on 15 August. More controversy with unionists occurred in October, yet, for the most part, Sir Ronald spent his term promoting the Empire's war effort. Questions about his prolonged absence prompted him to visit his Lancashire electorate in 1944 and again in May 1945, but he was unseated in the July general elections. After his Australian appointment was terminated by the Attlee Labour government, he became London chairman of the Australian Express Food Parcels Scheme.

In February 1950 Cross was again elected to the House of Commons. Appointed chairman of the public accounts committee, he resigned his Ormskirk seat a year later. In 1951 he was chosen as governor of Tasmania and began his term on 23 August. He was appointed K.C.V.O. (1954) and K.C.M.G. (1955). Following C. A. Bramich's resignation from the Labor Party, on 12 September 1956 the Cosgrove government was defeated in the House of Assembly. Arguing that the governor was bound to follow his advice, Cosgrove asked Cross to dissolve parliament. Although he did not accept that his discretion was either limited or affected by the deadlocks clause of the Constitution Amendment Act (1954), Cross nevertheless granted the dissolution because he believed it 'proper' that the electorate express its will.

Six ft 4 ins (193 cm) tall, 'blond, bony, dressy, charming', and addicted to 'fat cigarettes', Sir Ronald was essentially a family man. He enjoyed shooting and fishing, raced Beau Gene with the Tasmanian Racing Club and was a Freemason who belonged to Lodge Fidelity. Having presented his African hunting trophies to Government House, Cross retired on 4 June 1958 and returned to England. Survived by his wife and daughters, he died on 3 June 1968 at Westminster. Mount Ronald Cross in western Tasmania is named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. A. Townsley, The Government of Tasmania (Brisb, 1976)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Tasmania), (59), 1956
  • Mercury (Hobart), 10 May 1940, 12 Mar 1941, 13 Sept 1956, 5 June 1968
  • Argus (Melbourne), 18 July 1941, 2 Jan 1943, 26 May 1945
  • Age (Melbourne), 19 Feb 1944, 15 Nov 1952
  • Times (London), 4 June 1968.

Citation details

Hilary Kent, 'Cross, Sir Ronald Hibbert (1896–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cross-sir-ronald-hibbert-9870/text17465, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 15 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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