Peter Cross: An appreciation

UNLIKELY introductions lead to unlikely friendships and it was a chance meeting that prompted my 28-year acquaintance with Peter Cross. Cautious and frugal Quantity Surveyors tend not to indulge frivolous and esoteric architects, but a common birthplace, love of sport and almost incidental employment in the construction industry lasted well beyond a professional relationship.

Peter Frank Ogilvie Cross was born in Sunderland on the Jubilee of King George V in 1935, the only son of Frank Cross, a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy, and Catherine Ogilvie, whose father shared the same profession.

Frank’s pre-war role enabled Peter and his mother to travel to various seaports to be with him on board ship. This included Gdynia, Poland, where the family had friends, whom Peter later suspected to have been victims of the Holocaust.

His maternal grandfather was on board the merchant vessel SS Giralda, which was sunk in January 1940 by German bombers off Orkney, with all hands lost. The family found out via a radio announcement; Peter’s mother “was never the same again”. These early experiences helped shape his world view and he later developed a fascination for the history of war and his family’s roles therein.

He was working with the London firm of Banks Wood & Partners when he became a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, in 1963. These early days in the post-war London construction boom gave him valuable experience under an unforgiving peer group who had returned from war to civilian life.

This would mould him into the confident, reserved gentleman he soon became. He was quickly thrust into roles of great responsibility on large construction projects and his eye for detail and professionalism was quickly acknowledged by his employers, who accelerated his status in the practice.

In 1960 Peter married Margaret Pearce, whom he had first seen three years earlier, in London. She was working as a secretary at the World Health Organisation in Geneva; he proposed to her on a visit in 1959. They went on to have two daughters, Pamela and Rosemary.

In 1968 the firm sent Peter at short notice to Scotland to run the Glasgow office. The young family, along with their two Triumph Heralds, relocated to Cardross. They later moved to Rhu and, after the children left, to Glasgow.

In 1972 he became an equity partner in Banks Wood & Partners, leaving in 1991 to become director of Peter Cross Associates. In the late 1970s he oversaw the cost control of the modernisation of the Glasgow Underground, along with many other projects.

His experience of acting on behalf of employers in the management of major long-running disputes with contractors led him to join the Institute of Arbitrators in 1972, acting as expert witness, mediator and adjudicator.

In 1988 he was engaged to resolve defects in the newly completed Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. As Consultant Surveyor he became a trusted aide and key advisor in the concept, management and procurement of the Alexander Gibson Opera School extension to the Renfield Street building.

His esteem within the Academy was rewarded with his appointment as Board Governor and Chairman of the Building Committee.

Peter also developed a deep and lasting sense of public duty. He first took on a role with the newly established Children’s Panel, serving as vice-chairman of Area 12 of Strathclyde Regional Panel from 1972 to 1981.

He was a Member of the Trades House of Glasgow through the Incorporation of Wrights, where he was Deacon from 1991-1992. His philanthropic ethos continued as a member of the North Parish Washing Green Society, then Manager of The Drapers Fund, responsible for awarding grants to families with children in crisis.

Peter developed an interest in church buildings and was a member of the board and property convenor for Possilpark Parish Church from 1992 to 2001. He became a founder member of the Church Buildings Renewals Trust in 1994, and was first Director, then Chairman. At the CBRT he worked closely with fellow volunteers to advise on new and innovative ways to repair, re-use and refurbish church properties that would otherwise fall into disuse and dereliction.

Peter and Margaret moved to Kilmelford, Argyll and Bute, where, in retirement, they hoped to pursue their passion for sailing. Their first small wooden sailing boat, “Catherine Ann”, moored at Rhu marina, was followed by the larger, Ardfern-based “Tarragona” aboard which they enjoyed more intrepid, and sometimes harrowing, adventures around the Western Isles.

Peter had a strong work ethic and was not a person to whom the concept of retirement came easily. He maintained and developed his professional and social connections and activities in the central belt, travelling regularly to Glasgow and Edinburgh for meetings and events, regardless of weather and increasing health challenges.

In 1996 he had joined the Nomads Society of Glasgow, a public speaking group, becoming President in 2008. He used any opportunity to deliver masterly tour-de-forces, combining his great passion for the subject of cricket with anecdotes of his earlier years playing and watching the game.

He was a man with a restrained, but joyfully enthusiastic approach to his duties, belying his self-confessed but not evident terror of public speaking and is fondly remembered by his fellow members as someone who gave more than he received. He attended his last meeting on December 9, 2019 presenting a paper with a title reflecting his favourite topic, unsurprisingly, “The Ashes”.

In 2004 he was appointed an honorary Member of the Panel of Reporters to the Law Society of Scotland. In 2011 he joined the Professional Conduct Committee and remained an active participant, with his last physical attendance in November 2019 and last conference call in July 2020.

Peter was regarded as a gentleman with great integrity, a true professional, always acting with propriety and always seeking the proper way to find a solution, never the easy way. A solicitor member of the Law Society Professional Conduct Committee characterised him as “a gentleman and a wise old owl”.

A loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather, Peter was immensely proud of his family and enjoyed every moment he was able to spend with them. He particularly enjoyed exploring the USA on trips to visit his younger daughter and her family.

The death of Margaret in April 2020, his wife and partner of 60 years, was a devastating blow from which he never recovered.

He is survived by Pamela and Rosemary, sons-in-law Martin and Scott, and grandsons Keiran, Peter and Robert.