Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ross, Andrew Hendry (1829–1910)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Andrew Hendry Ross (1829-1910), medical practitioner and politician, was born on 1 August 1829 at Carbello, Muirkirk, Ayrshire, Scotland, fourth son of David Ross, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Kerr. Educated at the local parish school and in Edinburgh, he studied medicine at the University of Glasgow (M.D., Ch.M., 1852). He practised in Muirkirk and London and became an assistant medical officer in West London. As an assistant sanitary inspector for the City of London he published several works on the housing of the poor. For a short time he was assistant surgeon in the 68th Cambridgeshire Militia. In 1857 he arrived in Sydney as medical officer of an immigrant ship and within a few months set up in practice in Molong where his brother William had been since 1847. On 29 June 1857 he was appointed district registrar for births, deaths and marriages and for much of the 1860s and 1870s was coroner, government medical adviser, medical officer and public vaccinator.

Ross gradually acquired 'considerable property' and identified with Molong's residents, winning their trust by his skill and humanity. A magistrate by 1861, Ross resigned from the bench on 9 July 1869 after a dispute and legal action with the local schoolmaster Lewis Chandler. In October 1872 Rev. J. D. Lang asked Henry Parkes to reinstate him on the bench: 'I have long had a strong interest in Dr. Ross … an able and most benevolent man whose excess of philanthropy had led him into difficulties from which he could not extricate himself & had therefore suffered most severely'. In 1873 Ross twice appealed to Parkes about it and later wrote to him on a separate electorate for Molong, the siting of the post office and, as honorary secretary of the Railway League, for the extension of the western line via the town. In December 1878 he urged Parkes in vain to include John Sutherland in his new ministry. An alderman on the Molong Municipal Council from 1881, Ross was mayor in 1882.

Defeating John Smith, Gamboola, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for the new seat of Molong in 1880 and held it until 1904. Although a convinced protectionist he supported Parkes in the interests of economic government and became 'a distinct personage in Parliament'; 'eccentric', Ross was accepted as 'honest and sincere … according to his lights'. He was the scourge of the Public Works Department 'in consequence of [its] neglect of portions of his constituency', and in 1896-1900 four times failed to carry a bill to suppress juvenile smoking. In 1889 and 1894 he wrote scathingly to the Australian Star on the 'political crisis—or the age of bungling and blundering'.

In 1895 Ross founded the Molong Argus but soon sold it. In his 1894 electoral address he had advocated retrenchment, the establishment of a national bank, liberal mining laws, an elective Upper House and both income and absentee landowners' taxes. Believing that Federation was premature, in the 1890s he criticized the draft Constitution bill as 'financially unworkable'. He strongly objected to equal representation in the senate and the 'inelastic and drastic' character of the Constitution. In January 1898 he petitioned the Australasian Federal Convention to keep the united colonies free of 'ribbons, stars and garters' and to give the Federal parliament impeachment powers to control fraud and corruption.

Ross contributed many articles to the New South Wales Medical Gazette, some of which he reprinted as pamphlets. In 1882 his paper, On the Influence of the Australian Climates and Pastures Upon the Growth of Wool (Sydney, 1883), won a prize of £25 from the Royal Society of New South Wales. An 'enthusiastic botanist' he contributed 'The Healing Medicinal Value of the Eucalyptus Foliage' to Mueller's Eucalyptographia … (1884). In 1887 he thanked Parkes for a copy of his poems and offered his 'candid opinion' on the work, although he had 'no claim to be considered as a “critic” of poetic worth only [of] such effusions as enlist the pathos and sentiments of my own heart and taste'.

A prominent Freemason and a high knight templar of the Knights of Malta, Ross died aged 81 at his house in Albion Street, Surry Hills, on 29 January 1910 and was buried with Presbyterian rites in Waverley cemetery. He was survived by his wife Frances Ann, née Genn (d.1923), whom he had married at Molong on 7 November 1881, and by their son and daughter. His estate was valued for probate at £6427.

Select Bibliography

  • Ex-M.L.A., Our Present Parliament, What it is Worth (Syd, c1886)
  • Echo (Sydney), 24 July 1883
  • Town and Country Journal, 26 Mar 1887
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Jan 1910
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Andrew Ross papers (National Library of Australia)
  • Colonial Secretary's in-letters (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Ross, Andrew Hendry (1829–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ross-andrew-hendry-4506/text7369, published in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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