Dr. (William) Baird Ross

1871 - 1950

Organist and composer. Born in Montrose, Ross was appointed organist in Broughton Place United Presbyterian Church in 1895, and latterly served as organist at the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling. He founded the Edinburgh Society of Organists in 1913 and served as its President (1913-15).

Ross is best known for writing a descant or counter-melody to the tune Crimond, originally composed by Jessie Seymour Irvine (1836-83) and popularly used as the setting for the 23rd Psalm. His Assistant Organist in Broughton Place had heard the then little-known tune while on holiday in Perthshire and Ross wrote his descent for a performance in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, shortly after its opening in 1914.

To his surprise this was first publicly broadcast as part of the Royal Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947. Elizabeth was quite insistent on the descant version having heard the unpublished tune in a Scottish church and having sung it privately. Without a printed version of the music to use, the tune had to be sung by her Lady-in-Waiting, Lady Margaret Colville, to the Precentor in Westminster Abbey the night before the wedding, to enable him to transcribe it.

The Baird Ross Competition is held every three years under the auspices of the Scottish Federation of Organists and is open to church musicians living and working in Scotland.

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