Rufus Myer Ross: 14 September 1924 – 11 December 2021
Rufus Ross was a polymath in the truest sense. Although he made his living from dentistry, he was also an academic, teacher, historian, philosopher, businessman, raconteur, humourist, sportsman, artist, politician, councillor and justice of the peace; but he didn’t let those descriptions define him as he was many other things too!
Rufus was born in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, at the family home opposite the Jewish Institute in South Portland Street. His father was Julius Ross (originally Roth) a general dealer, and his mother was Leah (née Monskall). His younger brother Stanley was born in 1930.
The family moved to Calder Street, Govanhill, where Rufus was enrolled at Annette Street Primary School in 1929. He subsequently went to many other schools as the family often moved home, indeed so frequently that little Rufus occasionally forgot which school he was supposed to be attending.
He later attended Giffnock Academy, but left school aged 14 to work in his father’s rag store in Cumberland Street. However, his mother’s sister Fanny Kleinglass encouraged Rufus, and her own daughter Pearl, to attend continuation classes at night school where they gained the necessary qualifications to apply for Anderson’s College to study dentistry. They attended Anderson’s and Glasgow Dental Hospital & School, and Rufus qualified LDS RFPSG in October 1947.
During the Second World War, Rufus was exempt from conscription as he was in a reserved occupation but after qualification he was ‘called-up’ and sent to RAF Dishworth in Yorkshire where he served as a dental officer 1948-1950. On returning to Glasgow, he worked for a short time in general practice in Partick, and then in partnership at a practice in Chisholm Street, Glasgow Cross.
In 1976, Rufus left general practice and joined the Community Dental Service. He was also teaching undergraduate dental students at Glasgow Dental Hospital & School and around this time he began lecturing in Oral and Facial Anatomy at Langside College, teaching Dental Nurses and Technicians to HNC level. In 1986 Rufus retired from clinical dentistry, but he continued lecturing and increased his own academic research and studies.
In addition to his LDS, Rufus gained no less than four other degrees later in life. In 1979, he graduated with a BA, then in 1987 upgraded it to a BA (Hons) in Science & Technology, both from the Open University. He was accepted as a postgraduate student by the Department of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow in 1989, and awarded a PhD in 1995 with a thesis on “The Development of Dentistry: A Scottish Perspective”.
Rufus studied law for three years (2007-09) at the Open University but narrowly missed progression to fourth year law study; his credits were transferred to the Scottish History Department at the University of Dundee and, in association with the Open University, he was awarded a BSc (Open) in December 2011, aged 87 – the oldest Open University graduate in Scotland!
As evidenced by his BSc and PhD, Rufus had a particular passion for history, especially in relation to dentistry. He was a founder member of the Glasgow based History of Dentistry Research Group in 1996; this was later renamed in honour of his late friend and co-founder Dr Henry Noble. He served as Secretary and Editor, then Chairman of the Group following Henry’s passing.
Rufus was appointed an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in History at Glasgow University (1965-2014). He was also a very diligent member of the Lindsay Society for the History of Dentistry, a national society named in honour of Lillian Lindsay, the first woman dental graduate in Britain and the first lady President of the British Dental Association. He presented papers and talks to medical and dental historical societies and had many articles and papers published. In 2015 (aged 91) the Lindsay Society honoured Rufus with the Lindsay Memorial Medal, the Society’s highest award!
Politics, law and order
Rufus was always interested in politics and favoured the middle ground, so joined the Liberal Party in the 1950s. In 1961 he was encouraged to stand for the Eastwood Ward of Renfrewshire County Council (now East Renfrewshire) and to everyone’s surprise, especially his own, he was elected! He was keen to improve things in the local area; for example it bothered him that his sons and other youngsters couldn’t simply go to play football at the local Huntly Park without advance booking. He therefore had the rules changed so that the park was freely open to all. From 1967-70, he served as chairman of the county council.
From 1965 until 1994, he served as a Justice of the Peace (JP) for the district of Eastwood. The appointment surprised some, perhaps even Rufus himself as he had a record of a previous offence – poaching! He had been fishing without a relevant licence. He also had been warned for illegal street trading, selling football souvenirs without a permit.
Rufus was a passionate supporter of Glasgow Celtic FC and bought his first season ticket at the age of 80, which culminated with him sitting in the middle of the ‘Celtic end’ during a cup semi-final at the age of 89. His aforementioned foray into unlicensed football souvenirs did ultimately result in his son Jonathan establishing a successful (and legal) business selling football scarves.
Rufus was also a keen bowler and as a past president of his bowling club was tasked with winding-up the club’s affairs at the age of 90 – no mean feat.
Rufus was an enthusiast for cinematography which long preceded the modern advantages of tape and digital video. Using a cine camera in the 1950s and 60s he made numerous home movies of his family. He also made a short film with synchronised sound starring his brother Stanley, which won a Scottish Film Festival award in 1963
He also had a talent for oil painting, a pastime to which he returned in his 90s. Although mainly for personal enjoyment, Rufus managed to sell a painting in his later years. His thirst for knowledge never left him and in his final years he was still reading and studying, including attempting to grapple with the concepts of quantum theory!
Amongst all the many facets in his life, by far the most important to Rufus was his family. He married Lily Katz in 1949, a union which would last almost 73 years. They had three sons: David an economist, Jonathan a businessman, and Alan who followed Rufus with a career in dentistry.
Rufus had a famously keen and quirky sense of humour which wasn’t shared by his wife Lily. Indeed when he was courting Lily, she once broke off their relationship because she thought he had NO sense of humour! The boys enjoyed mimicking their mother’s oft used exclamation: “Och Rufus!”.
Early in their marriage they lived in Harrogate, close to his RAF posting, then returned to Glasgow. Possibly because of his itinerant start in early life, Rufus and Lily remained in the same house in Giffnock for more than 65 years.
Rufus was a grandfather to eight and indeed a great-grandfather to eight. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and close friends, and feel sure they take comfort in the memory of his long, happy and fulfilled life.
Truly a man of many parts.