Where Are You Now?

John Ross

John Ross

MPharm Pharmacy 1963

John Ross has hung up the white coat and picked up the bass guitar after retiring. He is currently a member of Simon Goodall and The Bourne Again Shadows band

John has also held a Pilots license since 1979 and owns a share in an aircraft.

He decided to follow his dream after spending 40 years of his working life in retail pharmacy, where he ran a successful business that he sold in 2006.

A Sunderland lad, John was determined to take another step on the path towards his career after completing his studies at Bede Grammar School for Boys, and chose the University because it offered him an immediate opportunity to move into higher education.

“Initially, I wanted to pursue a career in Sport, but only one University, Bristol, offered such a course,” he recalled. “It also meant going back to College and studying more Arts based subjects, which was something I didn’t want to do.” 

“It was advertised in the local paper that Sunderland Technical College were offering a Pharmacy course and, without any other ideas at the time, I decided to go for it.”

After taking a year to complete his pre-grad apprenticeship at Boots in Silver Street in Durham, John enrolled on the course where he learned many of the skills that he would prove to be so important throughout his working career.

Despite this, John’s fondest memories of his time at Sunderland were spent outside of the classroom. A talented performer, he took part in Students' Union organised Raise and Give (RAG) nights with his band, a hobby that would prove to be life-altering. He also played for the College Football team during his time here and for the Pharmacy Football team in the UCAL Cup Inter University Competition and won the  440yards race at the College sports at Seaburn in 1963.

He added: “Those RAG shows really gave me an incentive to carry on with music. They were also where I first met my wife Carol. She was acting as a make-up artist for the events while doing her teacher training. I think she was looking for a bloke!”

After graduating, John left the city at 26 and would stay in pharmacy his entire career.

He explained: "After leaving College I worked at The Royal Infirmary and Children’s Hospital Pharmacy Department followed by a spell as Dispensary Manager at Fairman’s Chemist in Vine Place.

"Then I worked at Thompson’s Chemist in Gateshead before moving to Bletchley, then Chalfont St Giles whilst working at Sherry’s Chemist in Southall before purchasing my own business in Slough where I worked until retirement."

The industry would provide him with success and stability for decades, even if he himself would have preferred to be working in another field.

“My advice to any graduates or students is to pursue a career in something you are passionate about,” he continued. “Pharmacy was great to me, but I hated every minute of it for 40 years!”

As John reflects towards his future, he hopes to continue with his music and remain healthy and happy in his retirement. 

We are playing a gig at Pershore in May when I hope to be re-united with Chris Warren who lives in Worcester and intends to come to our performance. Chris Warren joined Pickettywitch after The Strangers disbanded and they went on to make a number of hit records including Same Old Feeling which reached Number 2 in the Top Twenty hit parade and many TV appearances.

Chris Warren and The Strangers won The Top Rank Talent of Tomorrow Contest and Television All Winners Trophy in March 1964 (which I still have in my possession) and recorded at Abbey Road Studios. The Strangers were reunited on Surprise Surprise with Cilla Black in 1989."

He concluded: “For the future, I want to keep touring and remain healthy and just live life to the fullest for as long possible.” 

Article written by Matthew Shevlin, University of Sunderland Journalism graduate.   

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