Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) President William Ross and his wife Christine marked their ‘Ruby’ wedding anniversary on Sunday (July 20) with the former MP describing his better half as a “tower of strength to me throughout our married life.”
The veteran Dungiven politician, was first elected as MP for Londonderry in the General Election of 1974, when he replaced the long-serving Robin Chichester-Clark.
But during what was a political baptism of fire during one of the most violent years of the Troubles, Mr Ross also celebrated an important personal milestone.
A trawl of the Sentinel archives reveals a report from May 1974, announcing that Mr Ross and Ms Christine Haslett were ‘To wed in July’ in Banagher Presbyterian Church.
The paper reported: “Mr Ross, a bachelor farmer of Turmeil [alternatively spelt Turmiel or Turmeel] Dungiven, resides with his mother and unmarried sister, and Miss Haslett, the only daughter in the family of five, of Mr George Haslett, farmer and his wife Andrina, was also brought up on a farm.”
Recalling the happy event, Mr Ross said: “I had just been elected to Parliament in February 1974 and we got married on July 20, the same year, and therefore Christine was plunged straight into the maelstrom of Ulster’s political battles with its ever present dangers created by the IRA campaign.
“She has been a tower of strength to me throughout our married life, not least, because since I was away so much, she had to carry most of the burden of bringing up our children.
“I am very proud of Christine for we have lived through forty tumultuous years in Ulster politics and have stood together through it all.
“We have been blessed with very good health, with four children and eight grandchildren, whom we love dearly.
“We are grateful to God for his many blessings and bringing us safely to this happy Anniversary.”
Reporting on the Ross nuptials 40 years ago, the Sentinel informed its readers: “Miss Haslett is secretary to Mr W. Seeds, solicitor, Limavady and she motors the 16 miles there and back each day.
“She plays hockey for Limavady Ladies team.
“A pleasant auburn haired young woman, Miss Haslett said: ‘We met when Billy called about election work after the Assembly elections last year.
“’I was an election worker and there were matters to be cleared up. I had known him before that but had only spoken briefly with him.’”
Mr Ross served as Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MP for the Londonderry and East Londonderry constituencies from 1974 to 2001.
He was an unsuccessful candidate for the party leadership in 1995 following the resignation of Jim Molyneaux.
He received 116 votes from the delegates of the Ulster Unionist Council in that election.
Six years ago, Mr Ross assumed the presidency of Jim Allister’s anti-Belfast Agreement TUV, a position, which he still holds today.