Graham Ross

Businessman and Scotland rugby internationalist

Born: 5 July, 1928, in Edinburgh.

Died: 13 February, 2009, in Edinburgh, aged 80.

THE match report in The Scotsman of Graham Ross's first Scotland international match could be applied to many facets of his life: "He snatched his chances ... his handling was first-class ... and he was always looking for an opening."

Graham Ross, LVO, OBE, died last month aged 80, and news quickly filtered through the rugby community of the loss of the man, educated at George Watson's College, who was a past captain, stalwart and great supporter of the school and of Watsonian Football Club. He played in the Watsonians team that defeated an exceptional Cardiff side in 1953, and in a Scotland side that came within three points of registering the nation's first victory over New Zealand, in 1954.

Ross was a stand-off who could leave opponents clutching at thin air with his acceleration and all-round natural rugby ability. He won four caps, all in 1954, making his international debut against the All Blacks in that famous clash at Murrayfield on 13 February, 1954, which ended in a 3-0 defeat for the hosts.

Ross also played for Wasps, Co-optimists and Edinburgh, but he retired early after suffering a badly fractured cheekbone. Press comments at the time said he would be remembered not just for his exciting play but also for "his inherent sportsmanship and wise counsel on and off the field".

However, his ambition and dedication were equally clear away from the rugby field. After training at the Scottish Hotel school in Ross Hall, Glasgow, then gaining practical experience at London's Savoy Hotel and in Switzerland, in 1955 he became the third generation of the Ross family to join Macvitties Guest and Company, based in Princes Street, Edinburgh, where he took on the position of catering director.

When that company was taken over in 1963 by Rank Hovis MacDougall, Ross took over responsibility for its whole Scottish restaurant and catering business. He then branched out by setting up a new company, Ross Restaurants, in partnership with A A Laing Ltd and built up a chain of 40 self-service restaurants throughout Scotland.

That business was sold in 1975 to United Biscuits and Ross became managing director of the Crawford Catering Company, with around 200 restaurants throughout the UK. The company was the major outside catering specialist for Scotland and had the royal warrant to provide catering services to the Queen.

In 1981, Ross was seconded by United Biscuits as executive director to establish Scottish Business in the Community (ScotBIC). This company was the first in Scotland to promote the philosophy of corporate social responsibility, taking on the lead provided by the United States in the late 1970s.

Ross was faced with the task of convincing many sceptics as to the merits of the "business in the community" concept, but, according to colleagues' testimony, he "knocked on doors and won people over by sheer persistence; by the strength of his argument, and the sincerity of his conviction that this was something well worth doing".

He went on to set up 47 local enterprise trusts around Scotland to create jobs and partnership between the private and public sectors and they advised many thousands of clients in a venture that was the forerunner of Scottish Enterprise's establishment of the 1990s.

Ross also initiated the first enterprise ventures for major peripheral housing estates throughout Scotland, such as Easterhouse. The Prince of Wales became the president of ScotBIC in 1983 and Ross played key roles in setting up the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust and Work Wise, which provided training for disadvantaged young people at three training centres.

On retirement in 1990, he was awarded the OBE, having previously been appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order.

Although retired, Ross continued his involvement in national issues through chairmanship of the Edinburgh Old Town Charitable and Renewal Trusts, and provided business advice through various chairman, non-executive and trustee positions including with Leith School of Art, Crieff Hydro Hotel, Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, the Scottish Hotel & Catering Institute and Napier College.

Ross had a deep and quiet, but unshakeable faith. He found and made many opportunities to conduct youth work, particularly within the Oxgangs housing area, where for more than 30 years hundreds of children attended activities at Hunter's Tryst Sunday School and on the nearby football fields.

This, in turn, was paralleled with his work for more than 50 years with Gideons International, distributing Bibles and testaments in many places including schools, hotels, hospitals and homes for the elderly throughout Edinburgh, and for more than 25 years as a trustee for his work with the North Kasai Mission.

For Graham Ross, his family was of paramount importance. He is survived by his wife, Margot, their son, Kenneth, and daughter, Jenny.

DAVID FERGUSON