Obituary: Patricia Ross

Tributes have been paid to Patricia Ross (Diploma Dramatic Arts 1979), following her death earlier in 2019. Fellow graduate Grant Cathro (Diploma Dramatic Arts 1979) has written an obituary celebrating Patricia’s life.


Born and raised in Edinburgh, Patricia Ross arrived at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in September, 1976.

From the beginning, Pat showed a great love and understanding of the English language. Her speaking of poetry in particular singled her out as a powerful force among that year’s intake on the three-year Acting Course.

She revealed herself as a gifted improviser, too her work in this field marked by a rich, high-flying imagination and by her uncanny ability to capture and project almost instantly the essence of a character.

Even in the earliest student productions, Pat excelled as a complex and gutsy Andromache in The Trojan Women directed by Grace Matchett, then, with Eric Jones at the helm, as the scheming Mrs Cheveley in Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband an almost unnervingly subtle and sophisticated performance.

In Paul Foster’s mid-sixties experimental drama Tom Paine Pat Ross’ command of the stage in the Major Domo role was the glue which held the mayhem together. On the strength of this, director Maggie Gordon cast her as Varya in Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard heartrendingly touching in the scenes she shared with her lifelong friend and colleague, Sandy Imlach.

In second year, all of this early promise positively flowered, resulting in one tremendous performance after another. In The Night of the Iguana Pat tackled the mighty role of Hannah Jelkes one of Tennesee Williams’ most challenging creations and was rightly praised by the critics. Adept at comedy too, she was hilarious as the straight-talking New York socialite Bobbie Baker in Damon Runyon’s The Brain Goes Home.

Pat played Julia opposite Tom Mannion and James Telfer in William Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona a highlight of the 1978 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The critics went wild: “If you have ribs, prepare to break them now,” wrote Owen Dudley Edwards in The Scotsman. “Patricia Ross has the most poetic of voices,” added The Times.

“The Tempest is a great play, and the official Festival botched it; the Two Gents is a poor, unloved play, and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama has made us love it.”

In 1979 Pat was one of the finalists in a nationwide BBC Radio Acting Competition which took place at Broadcasting House in London.

Her final year at drama school brought further memorable performances. In Friedrich Durrenmatt’s The Physicists she was electrifying in the role of Doktor Mathilde von Zahnd, the hunchback director of an asylum hell-bent on world domination “A part I was born to play,” joked Pat.

She gave a ripe and lustrous Lady Pliant in The Double Dealer by William Congreve, both mesmerised and horrified as Lady Macbeth, then in Barrie Keefe’s scabrous satire A Mad World, My Masters played the gormless and downtrodden Vi Sprightly to comedy perfection winning herself the Citizens’ Society Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Modern Play into the bargain.

Pat’s final performance at the RSAMD was a triumphant Beatrice, playing opposite Alex Bartlette in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing spitting out her lines with so much love and enjoyment it looked as if she might burst. “Radiant” gushed the critics, yet again.

Warm, thoughtful, always kind and enthusiastic, Pat was greatly loved and admired by all of her colleagues at the Royal Scottish Academy.

She entered the profession in 1979 as a member of TAG (Theatre About Glasgow) working for several years on a wide range of productions and taking on many lead roles. She soon became well known for her wonderful stage work, particularly with the Scottish Theatre Company at the Glasgow Citizens, where she was directed by David Hayman a frequent collaborator with Borderline Theatre Company and Communicado.

She also appeared at the Kings Theatre, Glasgow and at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh, where in 1985 she played Gertrude in Hamlet to great acclaim.

A key player in Robert Carlyle’s Raindog company in the 1990s, Pat helped co-create through improvisation many of their ground-breaking productions, including Love Lies Bleeding, A.D. and Ecstasy.

Pat’s big television break came in 1987 when she landed the role of D.S. Laura Campbell in Taggart a part which kept her busy for well over a decade. A string of memorable television performances followed she appeared in Blood Red Roses, Down Where the Buffalo Go, Cardiac Arrest, Taking Over the Asylum, Finney, Hamish Macbeth, Flowers of the Forest, Truth or Dare, The Ruby Ring, and Bumping the Odds, amongst many others.

In the 2000/2001 TV series Tinsel Town Pat’s performance as Marie was much admired. She followed this up with outstanding screen work in Still Game.

Later in her career, Pat chose to focus her energies on corporate acting roleplay work. This allowed her a wonderful opportunity to develop her always impressive improvising skills. “The ultimate professional,” says her colleague Audrey Jenkinson, “Pat always knew the brief inside out, was on time, polite and a fantastic actor.”

Patricia Ross is remembered with boundless affection by all those who were lucky enough to cross her path, and especially by those who had the privilege of working with her. She is survived by her beloved husband Graham de Banzie and by their son, Fraser, a musician.

Her early death is a deep loss.

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