Passing of Dr. Graham Ross

The group photo was taken at the SARF/IRF Conference in Somerset West, Cape Town in 2010.Dr Graham Ross is behind the lady Mrs Kate Gregg who worked for SARF for 50 years, by the way, it was her 96th Birthday on 2nd December. On the far left is Ivan Speed another IRF Fellow who passed away in 2010 soon after our conference, next to him is Cecil Rose who served as SARF President from 1999 to 2000, next to him SARF President Mutshutshu Nxumalo who served from 2009 to 2011, Kate Gregg, Dr Graham Ross, Hannes Wahl, and John Sponneck. Graham received the SARF President’s award in 2009, the Citation below says it all.

SARF President’s Award 2009


The South African Road Federation President’s Award is a newly instituted award to recognise and honour excellence achieved by a person or persons in the roads and  transport profession over an extended period.

The inaugural South African Road Federation President’s Award goes to a man who has not only made a leading contribution to road transport in SA during a most impressive career but one who has also served the SARF with distinction.

It is with pleasure that we announce that the 2009 award for outstanding achievement in road transportation goes to Graham Lindsay Drury Ross for his exceptional efforts and contributions over a period spanning more than 60 years.


After completing his studies in 1948, having done wartime service in the SA Navy during 1942 – 45, Graham started work at the Cape Provincial Roads Department.  Notwithstanding his affection for the sea, he soon found himself far away from it in Namaqualand, which he got to know very well and for which he still has a deep affection, judging from his continuing interest in the region.

His first major assignment was to work on the construction of the road between Okiep and Nababeep, which was the first black-top rural road in Namaqualand.  He was later transferred to Kimberley as District Roads Engineer for six years – which he considers to be the most satisfying of his career.

During his last years in the 1960’s at the Cape Provincial Roads Department, he worked as Geometric Design Engineer.  During this period, which was a great road-building era in South Africa, the need to formalise practice in geometric design became clearer.  The many freeways and interchanges that were being built necessitated more advanced skills and techniques in geometric design.  During this period Graham took a leading role in introducing global best practice in geometric design by compiling a landmark geometric design manual for the Cape – the first in the country.

In 1967 he joined Ninham Shand Consulting Engineers as a senior engineer and progressed to partner and Director.  He retired as a Director in 1983 but continued working as a Consultant for the next ten years.

During 1976-1978 he was a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and represented South Africa on the International Council of that Institute from 1986-1988.

Graham Ross is a past Chairman of the SAICE Western Cape Branch, has served on the Council of SAICE, and has been a chairman or member of many other professional and environmental committees.

Since his retirement from Ninham Shand in 1993, Graham has devoted much of his time to research and writing, as is evident from his numerous books and publications.


Graham graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1948 with a BSc in Civil Engineering.  In 1960 he attended a six-week course offered by the SA Road Federation presented by Prof Berry of Northwestern University in the USA.   Like many other South African engineers, he was motivated to carry out further studies in traffic engineering.  As a result, he attended Northwestern University from 1961 – 1962 on a $100 bursary from SARF and a $1000 fellowship grant from the International Road Federation.  He attained his MS degree in transport engineering in 1963 with a thesis entitled Direct Evaluation of Left-hand Ramp Operation.

Following this chapter of his career Graham took care to “repay” the Road Federation for their support during his studies by serving on regional and national committees and from 1978 to 1980, he served as President of SARF.  During this time he encouraged various engineers and traffic officers to avail themselves of the contact opportunities offered by SARF and the IRF and to undertake studies overseas, not only to raise the level of expertise in South Africa, but also to stimulate universities to develop a range of courses for presentation here.

During the late 1960’s Graham also fought relentlessly for closer contact within the engineering ambit of the SARF and the IRF in a world that was patently hostile to South Africa, given its internal politics at the time.

Graham, who is registered as a professional engineer in SA and a Chartered Engineer in the UK, has had a vast capacity for producing technical writings and documentation about topics such as transportation in Namaqualand, the history of Cape mountain passes and geometric design – produced in part while he was still practising as an engineer, but largely after his retirement.

A collection of 18 articles first published in SAICE’s magazine, Civil Engineering, entitled Reminiscences about Cape Mountain Passes, was published in 1998.

These reminiscences also led to the book The Romance of Cape Mountain Passes, which was published to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) in 2003, and which describes the history and engineering achievements of 31 of the best-known and most significant mountain passes in the Cape.  The book provides an insight – for an engineer as well as for non-engineer and anyone interested in local history – into the three waves of mountain pass building in the Cape (during the 19th century, the 1940s to 1950s and more recently during the 1970s and 1980s).

Methodical research into the history of and issues relating to transportation engineering led to numerous articles and papers, culminating in more comprehensive and scholarly publications.  Namaqualand: A Transportation-related Chronology and its companion volume Namaqualand: An Annotated Biography were both published for limited distribution in 1996.

Ultimately the research was put to more academic use, leading to the dissertation entitled The interactive role of Transportation and the Economy of Namaqualand, which earned him his PhD (Transport Studies) from the University of Stellenbosch.

Subsequently, he published a limited edition of another scholarly documentation: Mountain passes, Roads and Transportation in the Cape: A Guide to Research (2004).

Graham’s numerous memberships, fellowships and awards bear testimony to his involvement in and contribution to transport engineering sector both here and abroad.

Currently, he is:

Honorary Fellow, Institute of Transport, South Africa.

Honorary Fellow, South African Institution of Civil Engineering.

Life Fellow, American Society of Civil Engineers.

Life Fellow, Institute of Transportation Engineers, USA.

Life Member, Sigma Xi, USA.

He was honoured for his work in the highway field by being awarded Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation medal in 1953.

He was elected (the third) Life Honorary Vice-President of the South African Road Federation in 1987 and received the South African Institution of Civil Engineers Chairman’s Award for Meritorious Service to the Transportation Engineering Profession in 1988.  He was one of the first to be honoured by being elected an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Transport in South Africa in 1992 and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the South African Institution of Civil Engineers in 2001.

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