Polish honour for Raymond the poet

Raymond Raszkowski Ross. Picture: Complimentary
Raymond Raszkowski Ross. Picture: Complimentary
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A FÊTED playwright with family ties to Eastern Europe has been honoured by the president of Poland.

Raymond Raszkowski Ross, 60, from West Lothian and of Polish heritage, has been awarded a prestigious national prize for his work “deepening Scottish-Polish links over many years”.

Mr Ross, a former theatre editor at the Evening News, was presented with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit by Consul General Tomasz Trafas at the City Chambers last night.

Born in West Lothian in 1953, Mr Ross attended Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School in Blackburn, followed by Scotus Academy, where he studied English but never realised his true passion for literature.

It was only after finishing school that Mr Ross’s love for theatre and writing became apparent with poetry and some short stories published.

He achieved a first-class honours in MA English literature at Edinburgh University.

In 1979, he co-founded Cencrastus, a politics and culture magazine distributed three times a year, where he met “true greats of Scottish poetry” such as Norman McCaig.

His first play, The Beautiful Gemme, premiered at the Netherbow Theatre in 1989 and took a satirical look at Scotland told by two ranting football fans.

He later founded the Theatre Objektiv, a charitable touring company, in 2003.

Donald Smith, director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, has been a key mentor to the award-winning playwright.

Mr Ross said: “Donald kind of dramaturgs my scripts. I put my first ever play on in the storytelling centre and it’s now my company’s spiritual home.”

He worked at the Evening News from 1989 to 2005, during which time he spearheaded the review section and claims to have introduced the star ratings system to Scottish newspapers.

Mr Ross’s father is from Lubawa in northern Poland, so when Raymond received a grant from the Scottish Arts Council to go to Poland and meet family members, he jumped at the chance.

It was then that he wrote Josef, a play about his father’s life, and started using his Polish name Raszkowski, in order to embrace his roots.

Many of his subsequent works have had Polish themes, including a ghost-written autobiography of Josef Tarnowski called Walking with Shadows and Wojtek the Bear – a play about the soldier bear who gained fame in the allied Monte Cassino campaign of 1943-44.

Mr Ross also holds Polish Burns suppers yearly, which he says are very successful.

One play that helped to forge stronger links with Scotland was titled Our Scotland, which he described as “a celebration of Scotland’s history of immigrants and emigrants”.