Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Robert Ross (1792–1862)

by G. L. Lockley

This article was published:

Robert Ross (1792-1862), Congregational minister, was born on 15 August 1792 at Leith, Scotland, the son of Robert Ross, candle manufacturer, and his first wife Johan, née Scott. After education at Heriot's Hospital, Edinburgh, he was employed by legal firms in 1806-14. In 1813 he began studies for the ministry and embarked on a medical course (M.D., 1818). He married Marina, daughter of John Haldon, on 26 January 1818. He was ordained to the ministry of the Church of Scotland next March and, under appointment with the Edinburgh (from 1819, the Scottish) Missionary Society, went to Russian Tartary. At Orenburg (1818-21) and Astrakhan (1821-25), he served with distinction and was specially commended as a medical practitioner and linguist. Political changes closed the mission in 1825 and Ross returned to Edinburgh. On 29 August 1827 he became minister of the Kidderminster Congregational Church, Worcestershire, and remained there for twelve years. His wife died on 3 November 1829, and in 1832 he married Sarah Grafton. During his pastorate he helped to form the Colonial Missionary Society in 1836 and was a director of the London Missionary Society in 1837-38.

In 1839 he was invited to Sydney as minister of the Pitt Street Congregational Church and as agent of both the Colonial and London Missionary Societies. On arrival in February 1840 he found that dissension had largely dispersed his congregation, but he soon gathered an influential group, erected a new chapel, and established the church firmly. Unfortunately the necessary concentration of his energies and his congregation's resources on the town chapel hindered an early expansion of Congregationalism in the colony. However, Ross won deserved repute, not only for a notable ministry and effective missionary agencies, but also for community service given through the Bible Society, the Religious Tract Society, the German Mission to Aborigines, the Infirmary, the Benevolent Asylum, the Australian School Society, and the Australian Subscription Library. In 1854 he suffered partial paralysis and resigned his pastorate, but continued to give his colleagues such assistance as he could until his death at Edgecliffe on 2 November 1862. He was survived by his wife, who died in 1878, and by their two children, and by four children of his first marriage.

Portraits in oils are held by the Kidderminster and the Pitt Street Churches.

Select Bibliography

  • Scottish Missionary Register, vols 1-5 (1820-25)
  • Congregational Magazine, 10 (1827), 12 (1829), 22 (1839)
  • Evangelical Magazine, 9 (1863)
  • Congregational Year Book, 1864
  • LMS archives (Westminster)
  • Colonial Missionary Society, reports (London)
  • Robert Ross papers, 1818-25 (privately held).

Additional Resources

Citation details

G. L. Lockley, 'Ross, Robert (1792–1862)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Robert Ross, 1856

Robert Ross, 1856

State Library of New South Wales, 897393

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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