The Cross Trust is named after its founder, Sir Alexander Cross, and was established in 1943 in the middle of World War II. This in itself indicates that Sir Alexander Cross was an enterprising character who was looking ahead to the needs and aspirations of Scottish Youth when the war ended.
The Cross Trust exists to help deserving young Scots become fulfilled, useful citizens for the whole of their lives. Sir Alexander Cross firmly believed that if young people were given the opportunity to extend the boundaries of their knowledge of human life, then they would be better able to find their way in life and their chosen career path, thereby making a positive contribution to their own society and, potentially, others overseas.
Sir Alexander (1880–1963) came from a respected Glasgow family. He was the grandson of William Cross, the senior partner of the well known seed merchants and chemical manufacturers, Alexander Cross & Sons. He was educated at Charterhouse before going up to Balliol College, Oxford. After graduating, he moved to London where he studied to become a barrister, in due course becoming a member of the Inner Temple.
His career as a barrister was interrupted by the Great War of 1914 – 1918 during which he served as a captain with The Glasgow Yeomanry in Palestine. Although he survived the war, in common with countless others he suffered severe injuries - his hearing, in particular, remaining impaired for the rest of his life. Such was the extent of his injuries that he decided not to continue with a career in the law.
Back in Scotland, Sir Alexander moved to Perthshire, buying buying Battleby, a property near Perth (now owned by Scottish Natural Heritage) which was ideally suited to his ambitions to develop his passion for plants and trees. Here, he became a well respected horticulturalist widely respected for his specialist knowledge and for his own magnificent show garden. He lived there as a bachelor until his death in May 1963 at the age of 83.
Early on, Sir Alexander had become convinced that the provision of funds at the appropriate time in a young person's life could very well turn somebody who may have been described as an "awkward youth" into a successful member of society. At first, he made a number of donations to individual schoolchildren, but soon realised that more good would be done in a sustainable way by establishing a Charitable Trust. And so, in 1943, The Cross Trust was set up.
With his own wartime experience, it is surely no coincidence that he took this step in the middle of the Second World War. Having experienced first hand the plight of returning servicemen seeking work after their return from war in 1918 and well into the 1920s, Sir Alexander was now looking ahead to the needs of another generation of returning soldiers once peace was finally won.
The main aim of the Trust remains the same today as in 1943: to enable young people of Scottish birth or parentage to extend the boundaries of their knowledge of human life. The Trust exists in order to allow young people from Scotland the freedom to achieve their full potential both as students and as adults in the modern world.
Sir Alexander's focus was not just on helping people to escape poverty, but also to achieve spiritual and personal fulfilment. He took a personal interest in recipients of grants, often keeping in touch with them for many years after the original grant had been awarded. This helped The Cross Trust earn a position of respect and authority which soon led to increasing numbers of applicants. The early focus of the Trust was on helping people in education, the arts and foreign travel. Later, came medical bursaries, too.
Over the years, many scientists, doctors, actors, musicians, language students have benefited from Sir Alexander's foresight and generosity. And not just individuals: a number of theatres and other arts bodies, as well as the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, have received grants, too.
The Trustees constantly seek to develop the work of the Trust within the context of modern society and in response to the evolving needs of today's young people. Seven decades on, the Trust continues to make a valuable contribution to the lives of many people.