OBITUARY:Sir Archibald Ross

Alan Campbell
Tuesday 06 February 1996 00:02 GMT

Archibald Ross ended a distinguished diplomatic career as ambassador first to Portugal, from 1961 to 1966, and then to Sweden, from 1966 to 1971. He was in many ways typical of the old style of diplomat but none the less effective for it.

His father had been in the Indian Civil Service and there was a strong family tradition of government service. Archie was a scholar of Winchester and of New College, Oxford, where he took Firsts in Mods and Greats and won the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse; he also won the Laming Travelling Fellowship at Queen's. When he took the pre-war Foreign Office examination in 1936, he passed in top.

His diplomatic career was somewhat narrow in the sense that he served always in the Foreign Office or in regular embassies abroad in Europe or the Middle East. He never served in a post involving multilateral diplomacy or in Washington or Paris, nor did he ever go further east than Iran. So he served successively at Stockholm, Tehran and Rome, with intervening periods in London in increasingly senior capacities until his appointment as ambassador to Lisbon at the age of 50. After five years there he was happy to spend his final five years as ambassador at Stockholm.

I served with and under Archie Ross in Rome 40 years ago. I could not have had a more agreeable and helpful colleague, generous in his support and available to give advice from his much greater experience. He could be counted on to carry out his instructions with care and accuracy and to promote British policies persuasively. Before coming to Rome as Minister (no 2) he had been head of the Eastern Department of the Foreign Office, a very demanding job at the time of our then difficulties with Iran. Rome was no doubt a reward for his success in that department and he and his wife, Mary, herself something of a paragon as ambassadress who preserved her good looks to an advanced age, enjoyed their time there, entertaining in an elegant little house overlooking the baths of Caracalla. Archie played a useful role over Trieste in the inter-regnum between Victor Mallet and Ashley Clarke. Later when he was an under-secretary at the Foreign Office he could chalk up a success over Cyprus in 1959.

Ross was regarded by some as ultra-conventional. He was indeed extremely correct in his demeanour and appearance on all official occasions. Nor did he fail to show all the minor old-fashioned courtesies which form part of diplomatic intercourse. But he was not without humour - sometimes concealed well beneath the surface - and he responded to teasing about his addiction to protocol.

I used to see Archie Ross at least once a year at the annual service of the Order of St Michael and St George in St Paul's Cathedral. His loud "Amen" after the prayer for members of the order reflected his own beliefs. I cannot imagine him enjoying any career other than service to the Crown. His sense of duty was immensely strong.

Alan Campbell

Archibald David Manisty Ross, diplomat: born 12 October 1911; HM Minister, Rome 1953-56; CMG 1953, KCMG 1961; Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1956-60; Ambassador to Portugal 1961-66; Ambassador to Sweden 1966-71; married 1939 Mary Macfadyen (one son, one daughter, and one son deceased); died 25 January 1996.

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