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Capt. Norman Ross


Noted Mariner Sailed Many Seas
Commanded Some of Gloucester's Best Fishermen as Well as Private Yachts

Capt. Norman A. Ross, typical "Captain Courageous" and all that the name implies and a truly great Gloucesterman, died shortly after 10 o'clock last night at the Ross home, Edgewood road, following a lingering illness at the age of 68 years.  At his bedside were all the members of a fine family, including two sons, prominent in public life, Norman C. head coach of Gloucester High Athletic teams, and Alderman Donald J. Ross, member of the 1939 municipal council.

Capt. Ross had been in poor health since last October, but was up and around, although curtailed in his customary activities, until just before Christmas.  Last Thursday his illness took a turn for the worse.  Since then he has steadily failed and although suffering form an incurable ailment he maintained his rugged physique and strong determination, right up to the very end.

Very few of the intrepid mariners who have sailed over great waters in Gloucester ships can be classed as can Capt. "Norm" Ross.  He was typical of all the name skipper implies, resourceful, dependable, a man of determined character and successful in all that he undertook.   Schooled under some of the best teachers of the age of fast sailers, he came up form the bow of a dory to become a master while still in his early 20's.

Capt. Ross was born in Riverside, Guysboro county, N. S., son of Donald and Johanna (Barry) Ross, on December 15, 1870.  He came to this city in 1887, went as hand with Capt. Thomas Bohlin in the various types of market fishing of the day and also with Capt. "Sol" Jacobs, famed mackerel killer of 40 years ago where he learned all that could be learned of the mackerel seining branch.

Among his commands were some of the best known and fastest sailers of the Gloucester fleet.  They included the Monarch, Thomas S. Gorton, Volant, Lewis H. Giles, Golden Rod, Lottie G. Merchant, Richard Wainwright, Oriole, Norseman, Veda M. McKown, one of the first to install auxiliary power; Bay State, Benjamin A. Smith, Elise and Kineo, while of Capt. Tom Nicholson's Bucksport, Me. vessels he was at one time in command of the Judique and T. M. Nicholson.

The versatility of Capt. "Norm" was quite extraordinary because he could take a vessel to the Grand banks, halibuting, fit her out and take her seining with equal success.  During the height of the Newfoundland herring fisheries, he made a great name for himself with his daring passages from Newfoundland to Gloucester with heavy loads of both salt and frozen herring.  He was a big man physically, a man with unusual strength, but underneath was the kindliest individual, good-natured, generous.

For the past 14 years, Capt. Ross has been a yachting skipper.  For a number of ears he was in command of the Zodiac, owned by Robert W. Johnson and J. Seward Johnson, making a Labrador expedition in 1925, a world cruise, later and in 1928 taking the Zodiac in the King's cup ocean race to Spain.  In this race, the Zodiac finished third.  For the last eight years, he has commanded the sch.-yacht Blue Dolphin, owned by Amory Coolidge of Boston.

Like most men who followed the sea, the life of Capt. Norman Ross has been one filled with adventurous thrills.   Two of those experiences stood out like nightmares al his life.  One occurred on New Year's day on the Grand Banks while taking in sail.  He was out on the end of the main boom, when the foot rope broke with the heaving of the vessel and Capt. Ross went overboard.  The schooner was brought about as quickly as possible and he was sighted stiff afloat, buoyed up by his oilskins.  A dory was put over and Capt. Ross was finally picked up after being in the water for an hour and 40 minutes.

Another episode which always stood out in his memory happened the night the Portland was lost in 1898.   Capt. Ross was in the Dawsn City on LaHave bank.  He was out on the bowsprit reefing the jib.  As the vessel pitched the footrope broke and Capt. Ross dropped into the sea.  This time he managed to catch a rope as the vessel went by.   Although dragged along through the sea, he managed to hold on.  A dory was put over and slacked astern at the end of a long line.  He got into it and was pulled up tot he vessel to be rescued again from the jaws of death.  This incident took only 15 minutes, but it seemed like hours to the man in the water.

Last spring while bound home with the Blue Dolphin, Capt. Ross had a terrifying experience with the craft in a gale off the Florida coast, losing the masts.  With a jury rigged and auxiliary power, he managed to bring the craft into Gloucester.

Several years ago when some of the vessels that had gone to Newfoundland were caught in the ice at Bay of Islands and the Seminole was sent to aid them, Capt. Ross went along as pilot and guide.  He left the vessel at Port Aux Basque and took a train.  The train became stalled in the snow shortly afterwards, but the Gloucester skipper was not deterred from continuing his mission.  He tramped 144 miles through snow and storm to reach the men at Bay of Islands, and back again.  His knowledge of the country and early experience in the snows of the long winters there proved of great use to him on this occasion and later when he snowshoed 169 miles under similar circumstances.  He became an expert in the Newfoundland herring industry and besides freighting cargoes between Newfoundland and this port frequently had charge of the loading of the fleet at Newfoundland.  For a number of years, he was in charge of Newfoundland operations for Capt. T. M. Nicholson of Buckport, Me.

Capt. Ross was a member of Gloucester lodge of Elks, Gloucester Council, No. 215, Knights of Columbus, the Master Mariners' Association and the Inter Colonial Club of Boston.

In 1917 in mackerel seining,  Capt. Ross was one of the highliners, stocking $55,780 in sch. Monarch.   Capt. Lemuel R. Firth was high line of the fleet that year with $82,500.  These stocks were outstanding in the mackerel seining branch of the fishery.

He married Catherine F. Carroll, who survives with two sons, Alderman Donald J. Ross and Head Coach Norman C. Ross of Gloucester High; four daughters, Winifred E., Mrs. Mary, wife of Arthur S. Ryan; Dorothy E. and Kathryn M. Ross, all of this city; two sisters, Mrs. Sarah Hanlon of Canso, N. S., and  Mrs. Lillian, wife of John Seales of Riverside, N. S.; also two grandchildren.

The funeral will be held on Thursday morning at 8.15 o'clock from his late home, Edgewood road, and with a solemn requiem high mass at St. Ann's church at 9 o'clock.  Burial will be at Calvary cemetery.


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