Obituary: Peter Ross, post master

Born: 13 June, 1919, in Edinburgh. Died: 27 October, 2014, in Edinburgh, aged 95.
Edinburgh post master who kept a secret diary of his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war. Picture: ContributedEdinburgh post master who kept a secret diary of his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war. Picture: Contributed
Edinburgh post master who kept a secret diary of his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war. Picture: Contributed

Peter Ross was for many years a very well known and respected post master in the Restalrig/Leith area of Edinburgh, having taken over the business from his parents.

He was born at home in Leith Walk on Friday 13th of June, 1919, and the family soon moved to Restalrig, where he was brought up in the house behind the business with his elder brother Donald while their parents Colin and Annie Ross and aunt Miss Elizabeth Glen ran the post office.

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Educated at George Heriot’s School, he enjoyed a fit and happy childhood, a highlight of which was a flight around Turnhouse airport in an early biplane in the mid 1920s.

He spent a few years, post-school, working in the civil service based in Glasgow but with the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the Royal Signals and was soon posted to Singapore. The island fell to the Japanese within months of his arrival and he had the unhappy task of sending the signal of surrender.

The privations of three and a half years as a Japanese prisoner of war left an indelible mark on him and it was a defining period of his life which had long-lasting affects.

Unknown to his captors, he managed to keep a secret diary, written with a stub of pencil on sheets of rice paper detailing what he endured. It ultimately returned home with him and has recently been privately published.

Part of his captivity was spent in Japan itself and on his release, with the coming of the Americans to his camp, on 13 September, 1945, he remembered being in a train that stopped so the survivors could stretch their legs and survey from close quarters the devastation caused by the recently dropped nuclear bombs. Fortunately, this experience did not seem to have any health implications for him later.

Courage and resilience coupled with a determination to survive saw him return home eventually and later he went on to prosper.

His horrendous experience enabled him to put into context the inevitable peaks and troughs, trials and tribulations alongside the high points which marked his life in the years that followed.

He was always calm and polite but with an inner strength and purpose which marked him out as a true gentleman to those who knew him.

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After his release, he returned via some time in America where his strength was regained, to settle in Edinburgh and marry his sweetheart Mary Green in 1947, and there he proceeded to join the family business, becoming the second generation to run it.

A long, happy marriage ensued, bringing the birth of three children, Glenn, John and Anne. (John later becoming the third generation to run the business.)

While the family were still young they took on a second project, setting up and running the well respected and successful Marvin Guest House in Pilrig, which continued to also be their home until their later years.

In the year 2000, after being widowed, Peter downsized and in his 80s moved to a flat near Inverleith.

He continued to enjoy a full and busy life, pursuing numerous interests and getting good use of his bus pass, frequently being found in the local auction houses viewing sales, and enthusiastically enjoying exhibitions in the city’s art galleries.

A good deal of time was also spent keeping in contact with the many relatives spread around the world, mainly in the USA, and he was a constant source of family news.

After a fall in late 2013 his health slowly declined but he continued to display a lively interest in all aspects of daily life and was still a voracious reader until the end.