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Robert McKenzie Cross: Botanical Explorer, Kew Gardens

Last Years at West Cottage Torrance of Campsie

Home | Forgotten Legend : Tribute to Robert Cross- Sample | Further Reading : Some Books, Journals and Web Sites | Early Life in Kilmaronock Loch Lomondside 1830s and 1840s | While Robert entered Kew Gardens, London 1850s his siblings flew the nest too! | Chronology : The Years Robert Cross spent at Home and Abroad | Chinchona Missions : First Trip to South America 1859 | Robert Cross's Report on his travel to South America in 1860 | Spruce's Journal First Chinchona Mission | Chinchona : Later Trips to South America | Rubber Trees : Mission to South America 1876 | Para Rubber Images | Clements Markham, Richard Spruce and Henry Wickham | Achievements of Robert Cross | Publications of Robert M Cross | Last Years at West Cottage Torrance of Campsie | Last Will and Testament of Robert McKenzie Cross

Below : West Cottage Last residence of Robert Cross - picture taken in 1986 by the late John Keir Cross



Robert Cross retired to Edinburgh, where he continued to contribute to profesional journals.

He moved to West Cottage, Torrance of Campsie, sometime in the 1890s. Family stories tell of him still sleeping at night with a gun beneath his head. In his later years he was very badly affected from attacks of malaria-fever.

He died there in 1911. He is buried at Cadder Cemetery. Bishopbriggs. A small biblical scroll marks the spot. The headstone letters are badly faded but record his name and origins .....ROBERT CROSS OF KILMARONOCK.

One particular story, which featured in the Nilgiri Express - an Indian sub continent newspaper, from the 1880s, is interesting. Other evidence ( from letters ) suggests that by this time Cross had quarrelled with the Establishment, about certain chinchona species cultivation in the sub-continent, especially in Madras. The Express article refers to Cross's shipwreck in 1875 and of being given very little recognition for his services - afterall Markham and Wickham received knighthoods - Spruce - a sick man on his return from South America - had received a life time pension from the Government.

Cross did spend a fair bit of time in the 1880s being paid as Acting Superintendent - it sometimes looks as if this was in order to keep him on the payroll. He worked in several of the Southern Indian plantations and saw at first hand how the new generation of gardeners and Indians planters were planting and replanting chinchona. He pointed out in correspondence to Kew Gardens that a monumental mistake had been made - he felt one of the biggest in the history of botany - that the wrong species of chinchona was being over-cultivated in India.

As for rubber cultivation in Ceylon - and hence the Nilgiri Express's article Cross was also feeling let down and unrewarded in relation to his contribution to rubber plant transfers.

The article ends as follows:

One would think after perusing the foregoing ( referring to Cross's contribution to the collecting of rubber trees, plants and seeds in South America in 1875 and 1876 ) that Government - I think this means the Indian government as Cross was recompenced and paid for his services to the India Office - would hasten to reward the man who had performed such great public service for the benefit of the community. The gallant explorer did not receive the smallest recognition for his great services. He was at Nilambur establishing the growth of the rubber trees which he had introduced into this country after such toil, danger, and privation, and in reply to some overtures made on his behalf to the Secretary of State, a telegram was received. What the purport of this telegram was we know not, but its contents so disgusted the explorer, that he shook the dust from off his feet and departed to seek fresh fields and pastures new.

Cross eventually did obtain an annual annuity - it is recorded in his inventory of Estate of 1911. He also received a variety of payments for his services, details to follow later on this site.


Please contact me at


By Letter :

William Cross
58, Sutton Road
South Wales
NP19 7JF

Direct contact

Telephone 01633 779731

The compiler of this site is available to give a talk ( Powerpoint presentation ) on the life and work of Robert McKenzie Cross.


The compiler wishes to acknowledge the help given by the British Library, Kew Gardens, The National Archives and other sources.

Please use this link if you have a web site to promote.

Robert McKenzie Cross of Kew Gardens