W A Ross was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Ireland.
William Adolphus Ross (1817 – 1900) was born in Dublin, the son of Henry Ross, a banker.
W A Ross worked as managing director of the Belfast factory of Cantrell & Cochrane for nine years. The branch became the largest soft drink manufacturer in Belfast. Ross was described as “able and courteous” by a visitor from the Northern Whig in 1876.
A dispute arose between Ross and his employer. Cantrell & Cochrane were found to be in breach of contract, and Ross was awarded a settlement of £3,250.
Ross used the cash to establish his own soft drinks manufacturing business at William Street South, Belfast, in 1879. The site was chosen due to its access to spring water and proximity to the docks. He was assisted by his son George Harrison Ross (1845 – 1917), a former sailor.
W A Ross was producing nearly 30,000 bottles a day by November 1879, with production largely destined for export markets such as the United States, the West Indies and Africa.
A depot had been established at Glasgow by 1881.
Another son, William Adolphus Ross Jr (1843 – 1912), settled in Staten Island and worked as the sales agent for New York. 981,840 bottles were imported into New York 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. George Harrison Ross became managing director of the company.
The William Street factory was extended in 1902, and again in 1909.
William Adolphus Ross Jr died in 1912 with an estate valued at £65,000.
Brazil, Chile and Argentina were major export destinations by 1914, but the United States remained the most important foreign market. However, the disruption caused by the First World War was to damage the export trade.
The Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1919, and trade to this major market was damaged when import tariffs were introduced.
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. A £300,000 investment was made to double bottling capacity. Around 100 people were employed on a six acre site.
Ross Cochran was acquired by Cantrell & Cochrane in 1986. After a few years the Ross brand was phased out.