Tain Folk

Tain Community Collage

Famous people of Tain

Andrew Maitland, architect



Architect Andrew Maitland (1802-94) came to Tain in 1842 to work on Balnagown Castle. He established a business which later became Andrew Maitland & Sons when his sons James and Andrew joined him. The Maitlands were responsible for many notable buildings in Tain and elsewhere in Ross-shire. They were known for their high-quality work and variety of styles. Among their buildings in Tain are the Royal Hotel (1870) and Parish Church (1891/2). Their office, built in an unusual arts and crafts style, had Tain's first telephone, Tain 1. The business was sold off in the 1920s.

William Smith, photographer



Smith was born in Hopeman, Moray in 1824. He was apprenticed at a fancy goods shop in Forres and in 1844 moved to Nairn where he went into business as a bookseller and newsagent. He moved to Tain in about 1850 and opened a newsagent's shop at 27 High Street (now Smart's). Business was slow as at that time newspapers were heavily taxed and expensive. Smith soon started to experiment with photography and was known for trying our "every novelty in the art". He became one of Ross-shire's earliest and foremost photographers and photographed the royal family on their visits to Dunrobin in 1866 and 1872.

Smith was also involved in a number of charitable enterprises, notably the Tain Ragged Sabbath School which he founded in 1858 and ran for many years. By the time of his death in 1906 he had been an elder of the Free Church for 52 years.

Dr Elizabeth Ness MacBean Ross

We are grateful to Mrs Edith Ross of Tain for permission to use the original material in this presentation and for her enthusiastic help.


 Dr. Elizabeth Ness MacBean Ross dressed as a Baktari Tribal Chief.  [Note: The Baktari Tribe undertake a difficult annual migration across the Zagros mountains.]

Elizabeth Ness MacBean Ross was born in Tain in 1878. She studied medicine at Glasgow University graduating in 1901. For several years she was the local doctor on Colonsay and Oronsay and in 1907 left to go to Iran. She worked among the Bakhtiari tribesmen in the Zagros Mountains with long periods out of contact with fellow Europeans. The photo shows her in Bakhtiari dress. She described her adventures there in A Lady Doctor in Bakhtiari Land. She worked her way home from Iran as a ship's doctor, studied tropical medicine in London, went to Japan on the Glenlogan as the first female doctor on a liner and died of typhus in 1915 while working as a military doctor in Serbia. She was buried at Kragujevatz, where her dedication and courage are still greatly honoured.


The young Elizabeth Ross


Family home, Craigdarroch, Scotsburn Road, Tain.


Family photograph.  L-r:  David, Elizabeth, Helen (mother of Edith Ross) on knee of Donald Macbean Ross (father), Bessie (mother) with Jim on knee, Lucy, Mary, Maggie, Jane.


Standing l-r:  Jim, Lucy, Helen, Jane.  Seated l-r:  Maggie (died age 30), Elizabeth, Grandmother Elizabeth Ness, Mary.


Elizabeth Ross graduation photograph.  Student in Medicine 1896-1901.  Graduated MB, ChB from Glasgow University 1901.


Elizabeth (centre), sister Lucy and brother Jim.  All became doctors.


Passport of Dr Elizabeth Ross


Dr Elizabeth Ross


As a surgeon, treating a passenger    Ship's doctor on board the Glenlogan, 1913. 
on board the SS Nigaristan,
Marseilles, Feb-Mar 1913.


On board the SS Nigaristan 1913.       At work in Persia (now Iran) 1911.



'Here lies Doctor Elizabeth Ross of the Military Fever Hospital who died at Kragujevac in the Spring of the year 1915 during the Typhus epidemic.'  Alongside are also buried Mabel Dearmer and Lorna Ferriss of the Stobart Hospital, Serbian Relief Fund.



During the first World War in 1915 there was a widespread epidemic of typhoid in Serbia. The fight against it was too heavy a task for the Public Authorities.  The Serbian Government used the offices of the Red Cross organisation to apply for help to various friendly European Countries.  Among the medical staff of one Scottish mission was Dr. E. Ross.

Dr. Ross worked in the improvised "Stobart Hospital" in Kragujevac. Unfortunately, she and her two assistants fell victim to the severe illness they were fighting and were buried in various places of the Kragujevac Central Cemetry. Their graves have been looked after by the local population.

In esteem of Dr. Ross's personality and to simplify the maintenance of her tomb, the Red Cross organisation, together with World War 1 veterans agreed to have both her assistants' graves moved to her side.

In the book "Five Centuries of Kragujevac" there is a mention of the Scottish Mission's work. Several documents to this effect exist in local museums and archives. In memory of Dr. Ross, a street in Kragujevac bears her name.

Members of the Kragujevac Red Cross and World War 1 Veterans organisations send their greetings to all who might be associated with these typhoid combatants and show interest in their tombs. Any further information will be supplied gladly by the "Savax Boraca Kragujevac" (War Veterens Association - or Red Cross Section of the Kragujevac Community),

The inscription on all these tombstones are in English with this Serbian text underneath:

"In memory of Dr. E. Ross and two nurses who died in 1915 in our town while attending to our ill and wounded soldiers. Grateful soldiers from the Saloniki front. Renewed 1977."

On Dr. Ross's tombstone there is also a verse by the poet, Cyril Obrien:  "You gave your hearts to the Serbian folk, and by your work embellished the rays of our sun."


Name plaque of the street named after Dr Elizabeth Ross.


Fresh flowers placed on Dr Ross's grave during a commemoration in 1995.


Photos of commemoration ceremony, including some Serbian dignitaries.

ELIZABETH ROSS - IN MEMORIAM
Kragujevac, Tuesday February 14, 1995

I understand that there is a saying among the people here which goes: 'To go round in circles, like rain around Kragujavac'. Perhaps celestial blessings have sometimes passed the hard-working farmers of this region by, but on the other hand I know that misfortune, great misfortune, has not failed to hit this town and this country.

So it was during World War I, and again on 21 October 1941, the day when so many people of Kragujevac died in a Nazi atrocity.

Today we are here again together on sacred ground, eighty years after the terrible epidemic which mowed down the people of Kragujevac and Serbia, in which over 300,000 died.

Throughout those terrible days, members of the British Medical Mission, composed mainly of women doctors and nurses, stood by the Serbian people, many of them sharing their fate. They came to help, touched by the sacrifices borne by the Serbian people in the consistent carrying out of their commitment to their allies.

Among them was Elizabeth Ross, the anniversary of whose death we commemorate today. Also buried here was the young Louise Jordan, Margaret Neil-Fraser and Agnes Mitchell, later Mabel Diermer and Lorna Ferris.

Their deaths were undoubtedly heroic, as the following words, spoken at the funeral of Dr. Elizabeth Ross in Kragujevac, eighty years ago today, testify:

'Dr. Ross, you came to help this country in which we bury you today. By your unstinting help, you have fulfilled your duty as a Christian, as a British woman, as a woman and a scholar. My country thanks you. Your memory will live in every Serbian heart, and your outstanding example of self-deniai arouses admiration and love for your British homeland, the Britain you belong to, the greatness of your English nation.'

Rendering homage to their deeds today, I too must stand in admiration of what these women did. Doctor Vukovic has said that this was the highest expression of philanthropy, unsurpassed in the history of mankind. I must also express my admiration of you, the people of Kragujevac, who cherish the memory of my dead countrywomen. It is this that keeps the memory alive among us today of Elizabeth Ross, Louise Jordan, Margaret Neil-Fraser, Agnes Mitchell, Mabel Diermer and Lorna Ferris.

I can therefore repeat the words spoken here before that Kragujevac is the town which so splendidly, perhaps uniquely, unites the people of Great Britain and Serbia. The links thus forged between our two nations are not forgotten and live forever. This we have shown today as we pay homage to those who laid down their lives for both our nations.


Commemorative screen at York Minster in memory of the six doctors, including Elizabeth Ross, who died in the 1914-18 war.


Commemorative wall plaque in the Collegiate Church, Tain.

"To the Glory of God and in undying memory of Dr. Elizabeth Ness MacBean Rose, who voluntarily gave her life during the European war to help the typhus stricken Serbian soldiers and died in the Military Hospital, Kragujevac, Serbia 14th February 1915. This tablet has been erected and hospital beds endowed in Serbia by public subscription in remembrance of the noble life and sacrifice of one whose home was for many years in Tain. Greater love hath no man than this."


Postcard from Waterloo to Mary, 1898.  "Lovely passage - we only arrived at Antwerp this morning (Monday) and I can't start for Strasburg till late tonight.  Write me a p.c.  Love to all."


Lasgird, on road from Teheran to Meched 17/11/1909.  "Many happy returns."


Gravenhage - to Mary.  "This is the entrance to a wood in which the Peace Conference was held.  Thank you very much for your present."


P.C. of ruins, to Mary, 7/3/1908.  "Just received your p.c. today.  Hope you will get something in Glasgow.  'Serpent' much admired here but lining has fallen to bits.  Fearfully cold.  Think this is the North Pole, not East."


P.C. of Berlin, to Mary.  "Lutzow Strasse 31 (c/o Cohn).  Thank you very much for letter. Write soon and let me know how you are getting on.  Have you a collection of p.c."


P.C. of Kurfurstendamm, to Mary, 1897.  "Lutzow Strasse 31, Berlin.  Thanks for your letter.  I may see you next month as I am probably coming to this iland (sic).  Write soon again.  If you .... can put on stamp!!"


Types Syrien - to Mary.  No message, no date visible.


National soldiers from Persia.  "Many happy returns."  (no date)

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