By Phil Barnard
The very sad news that Society member Dr Keith Ross had passed away at Compton Hospice on 21 April 2020 will have come as a great shock to those who knew him. Keith was a modest and unassuming member, but who was at the same time never happier than when talking about astronomy and passing on his knowledge and enthusiasm to others. It comes as no surprise to learn from his daughter Samantha that this included members of his own family, who clearly enjoyed spending time with him as he explained the wonders of the night sky when weather permitted.
He was also an active member, as evidenced by the included photograph, taken in March 2014 when he assisted the Society at an event organised during Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics week at Highfields School. Again showing Keith doing what he loved most, imparting his knowledge to a younger generation.
I had known Keith for many years, but although you can believe that you know a person from a long acquaintance, if like Keith that person is unassuming, it’s often only later you realise that what you know of them is only a small part of their life story. That Keith could be relied upon to have a safe and dependable pair of hands was no secret to me, and is the reason why I asked him to become one of the Society’s two Trustees. That became necessary following the retirement of the previous holders, Malcolm Astley and Roy Bagley. After I explained what the role entailed, he had no hesitation in accepting the post.
I had no knowledge, however, of his illustrious professional career as a paediatrician and his close association with New Cross Hospital. Our fellow member Phillippa Cooper often sat next to Keith at meetings and their conversations led to Phillippa’s knowledge of Keith’s professional work as a doctor, which Keith’s daughter Samantha has since confirmed. Keith became consultant paediatrician for the son of one of Phillippa’s former colleagues, for whom Keith was especially remembered as “The most amazing, caring and dedicated physician.”
Neither was I aware that Keith was a lover of steam locomotives, and in addition possessed an extensive ‘O’ gauge model railway, many items of which he had personally made, and had assembled to fill the purpose-built loft conversion of his home. Years ago that would have been an unattainable childhood dream for many. I’m not sure of the reason, but railway engineering and its history is an interest shared by many amateur and professional astronomers in the UK, as their library collection would show, Keith’s and mine included. I can now only regret those missed opportunities to share another interest.
Initially, I also had to thank Phillippa for providing that information. Keith’s interest in railway rolling stock came to Phillippa’s attention by chance, when she and her husband John had an unexpected meeting with Keith in Durham, discovering that they were all there for an intended visit to Shildon Railway Museum. The occasion was the ‘Great Goodbye’, in February 2014, the celebrated final get-together of the six surviving Nigel Gresley A4 ‘pacific’ steam locomotives, a subject that Keith knew very well, as Samantha was additionally able to confirm.
At the same time, it is pleasing and most important for us as an astronomical society to learn that Keith valued his membership so much, and was always looking forward to our next meeting.
Keith is survived by his much-loved wife Sandra; children Richard (married to Julie) and Samantha (married to Rob); and 5 adored grandchildren; William, Matthew, Justin, Adam and Eleanor.
Keith will be sadly missed, not only by his close family, but also by members of Wolverhampton Astronomical Society.
On behalf of Wolverhampton Astronomical Society, I would like to extend our sincere commiserations to Sandra and family.