Obituary: Sir Alexander Ross
Wednesday 20 April 1994
ALEXANDER ROSS left his native New Zealand in 1955 to come to England at the behest of John Gibson Jarvie whose United Dominions Trust board was in need of strengthening by someone with an impeccable banking background. Ross had joined the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, after an earlier banking career, at its inception in 1934 and had risen to be its Deputy Governor, no doubt with higher responsibilities in prospect. He was appointed chairman of UDT in 1963, a post he held until 1974.
As a young man in Auckland, where he was born in 1907, Alex Ross had distinguished himself as an oarsman and represented New Zealand in the 1930 Empire Games. Later he was a rowing selector for Olympic and Commonwealth New Zealand teams and managed the New Zealand team at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. Ross's commitment to the Commonwealth Games was a central interest and he devoted much of his time to his chairmanship of the Commonwealth Games Federation, from 1968 to 1982.
In addition to his task at UDT, Ross was a director and later chairman of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, then headquartered in London, from 1970 to 1975. This was a period requiring diplomatic skills as the bank was in the process of completing a merger with the only other London-based Australian bank and the management problems that needed resolving were centred in Australia. Ross's easy personality and familiarity with both hemispheres proved invaluable and helped prepare for the bank's change of domicile to Melbourne some years later.
Ross was also deputy chairman of Eagle Star Insurance and a Director of Whitbread Investment Trust. Both these connections gave him particular pleasure and he would never miss a meeting. These City associations and his interest in British exports to New Zealand and Eastern Europe assisted him in his vice-presidency of the British Export Houses Association. His tall, handsome figure, with his fine head of white hair, made him easily recognisable. He was knighted in 1971 for his services to exports.
Ross was a great supporter of youth, particularly in sport, and retained a youthful sparkle which endeared him to colleagues and friends of all ages. He was a skilled woodworker and produced immaculate inlay work from a small room in his flat. He and his first wife, Nora Burgess, who died in 1974, enjoyed a particularly happy marriage from which they had two sons and two daughters. He later married Cynthia Barton, with whom he left England on retirement to live very happily together in Australia.
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