Soda, so good: W A Ross of Belfast

W A Ross was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Ireland.

William Adolphus Ross (1817 – 1900) was born in Dublin. He worked as managing director of the Belfast branch of Cantrell & Cochrane for nine years.

A dispute arose between Ross and his employer. Cantrell & Cochrane were found to be in breach of contract, so with a settlement of £3,250, Ross established his own soft drinks manufacturing business at William Street South, Belfast, in 1879. He was assisted by his son George A Ross, a former sailor.

By November 1879 W A Ross was producing nearly 30,000 bottles a day, chiefly for export markets such as the United States, the West Indies and Africa.

A depot had been established at Glasgow by 1881. The firm’s agent in New York imported 981,840 bottles in 1883.

W A Ross had become one of the largest soft drink manufacturers in Ireland by 1891. Ross’s Royal Ginger Ale was the firm’s principal product. That year the firm became a private limited company, W A Ross & Sons Ltd.

W A Ross & Sons employed 150 people in 1896. The company had depots at Glasgow and Liverpool by 1898.

William Adolphus Ross died in 1900 with an estate valued at £4,449.

The William Street factory was extended in 1902, and again in 1909.

William Adolphus Ross Jr (1843 – 1912) died in New York with an estate valued at £65,000.

By 1914 Brazil, Chile and Argentina were major export markets, but the United States remained the most important. However, the disruption caused by the First World War was to damage the export trade.

Independence for the Republic of Ireland damaged trade in that market due to the erection of tariffs.

W A Ross & Sons merged with Belfast rival Cochran’s of Ravenhill Avenue to form Ross Cochran in 1975. All production was centralised at Cochran’s.

Ross Cochran was acquired by Cantrell & Cochrane in 1986. After a few years the Ross brand was phased out.

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7 thoughts on “Soda, so good: W A Ross of Belfast”

  1. This isn’t totally accurate – WA Ross & Son Ltd merged with another company Cochrane’s in 1975 to become ‘Ross Cochrane Ltd’. At the same time Ross’s sold the William St South factory and moved to the existing Cochrane’s factory in Ravenhill Avenue in 1975. Ross Cochrane sold its assets to C&C in 1986. C&C then continued to use the Ross’s trading name for a number of years.

      1. Hi Tom – sorry for delay in responding. Great to hear from you. My great great grandfather was George Harrison – WA Jr’s older brother. Coincidentally I met up with some of WA Jr’s London based descendants last year and they were talking about the Roughtons. If you want to drop me a line my address is Would love to hear from you. Darren

  2. I’m a tour guide working in Dublin and Belfast I remember Ross soft drinks in the late 80s and the Ross’s court development after that . I bring Belfast community groups around Dublin and when we pass old C&C factory these articles are invaluable thanks

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