Before Major Robert Ross sailed aboard Scarborough, he left written instructions for the care of his wife and children in the event of his death, but he took with him his 8 year-old son Alexander John Ross, known as Little John.
Arthur Bowes Smyth surgeon on Lady Penrhyn, wrote in his journal on 3 May 1787, Little John Ross, Capt. Campbell’s Nephew & Servt, came on board. Little John Ross, a Volunteer Marine, and James Duncan Campbell, became constant companions being of similar age and social standing. Lieutenant Clark later described Campbell as Ross’s old play fellow who I believe writes to him.
On 9 July 1788, Major Ross, Commander of the Marines, signed three letters to Philip Stephens, Secretary of the Admiralty, one requesting the appointment of his son John, who had been serving as a volunteer without pay, to a vacancy..…as I have ever since my arrival here, entered my son, John Ross, as a volunteer, serving without pay would you do me the honour of appointing him to the vacancy in the detachment. John was made a 2nd lieutenant on 8 February 1789, a Boy 9 Years old wrote James Scott. His promotion was confirmed as of 25 September 1792.
On 6 March 1790, Sirius and Supply departed Sydney Cove for Norfolk Island. On board were 275 people made up of male and female convicts, children, military men and military officers. Major Robert Ross took over from Philip Gidley King who sailed back to Port Jackson on Supply.
Lieutenant Ralph Clark made daily journal entries of his time on Norfolk Island and his association with Lieutenant-Governor Ross and Little John. Often with others, they had meals together, took many walks to Charlotte Field to see the progress being made in land clearing and crop plantings and with three servants would climb to Mount Pitt at sunset to catch hundreds of birds. Clark’s entry for Sunday 14 November 1790, after parade Majr, Ross, Little John & I walked out to Smiths Farm from which throu the woods we intended to have gone to Balls Bay but our Guide lost his way – we Returnd back by Phillimors Farm home to dinner after a fatigiun walkd.
Little John Ross returned to England with his father, leaving Port Jackson by Gorgon in December 1791. Also on board was his friend James Duncan Campbell, listed as a Marine Volunteer.
Life after NSW
Alexander John Ross, Little John, had a distinguished career as a Naval Marine Lieutenant up until his death. He was only 20 when he died on 29 June 1800 at Brentford Middlesex, England.
Cobley, John, Sydney Cove 1788
Fidlon, Paul and Ryan RJ, (edited by), The Journal and Letters of Lt Ralph Clark 1787-1792
Fidlon, Paul and Ryan RJ, (edited by), The Journal of Arthur Bowes Smyth: Surgeon, Lady Penrhyn 1787-1789
Gillen, Mollie, The Founders of Australia
Holden, Robert, Orphans of History, The Forgotten Children of The First Fleet