Alan Ross

6 May 1922
14 Feb 2001
Offer Flowers
Light a Candle
Pray for the soul
Seek Blessings

Alan John Ross, (6 May 1922 – 14 February 2001), was a British poet, writer and editor. He was born in Calcutta, India, where he spent the first seven years of his life. When he was sent to be educated in Falmouth, England, Ross spoke better Hindustani than English.

Following preparatory school Ross boarded at Haileybury where, being both small for his age and a latecomer to his year, he initially suffered greatly from bullying—to his intense relief the bully was killed in a vacation cycling accident—but his stock quickly rose when he revealed a talent which matched his passion for cricket. With a hint of the debonair style that was to characterise his life, he avoided participation in the OTC and all study of mathematics and science, instead enjoying art, French poetry and racquet sports. As a senior boy he was caned for making an unlicensed visit to Wimbledon; it was his misfortune that he figured, smoking a cigarette, in a photograph of spectators carried in his headmaster’s newspaper the following morning.

In 1940 he went to read Modern Languages at St John’s College, Oxford, where he was a contemporary of Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis. Ross represented the university at both cricket and squash but did not complete his studies after joining the Royal Navy in 1941. Before doing so, he appeared in the annual match against Cambridge at Lord’s in 1941, but because of World War II the fixture was reduced to a single day and did not have first-class status.The same season he appeared in one one-day match for Northamptonshire.

During his first two years in the Royal Navy, Ross served on several destroyers escorting supply ships to the Soviet Union. On 30 December 1942 Ross was almost killed whilst serving aboard HMS Onslow (G17), the leading destroyer in a convoy assigned to fend off a strong flotilla of German capital ships intent on annihilating the arctic convoy JW 51B, at the Battle of the Barents Sea. He was ordered to take a turn controlling a fire below in the forward part of the ship and, to save the main body of the ship in the event of an explosion, sealed in for half an hour with a hose, armpit-deep in water, the bodies of two gun crews washing against him. The incident is vividly described in both his poem “J.W.51B a convoy” and his first volume of memoirs

After he was demobilised in 1946 Ross decided not to resume his studies at Oxford but instead try his hand at journalism. In 1946 his first poetry collection The Derelict Day was published; it contained poems he had written whilst in the Navy. The following year the publisher John Lehmann funded Ross and the artist John Minton to travel to Corsica to produce the travel book Time Was Away.

In 1949 Ross married Jennifer Fry, only daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fry, Bt. of the Frys who founded the chocolate company. He became a sports writer for The Observer in 1950 and became the paper’s cricket correspondent in 1953, the same year his son was born. Throughout the 1950s Ross was a regular contributor to Lehmann’s The London Magazine, before taking over as the title’s editor in 1961. He edited the monthly magazine under the trimmed title London Magazine until his death; during this period it was transformed from an academic literary review to a far more cutting-edge review of the arts.

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