Whitby has always given refuge to migrants, and Peter Gross arrived just before the start of World War II, a 15-year-old refugee from Nazi Germany.
Peter, known as ‘Pete’ to his family and friends, passed away on Sunday 25 September 2016 in Kendall, Australia, aged 93.
He touched many lives in Whitby, through his teaching at Fyling Hall School and farming activities in the Esk Valley.
Peter Michael Gross was born in Berlin on 7 September, 1923. He was raised by his grandparents, who ran a brewery in Potsdam, but with war imminent he was sent to safety on a Kindertransport train, arriving in London in March 1939.
Pete’s father, Fritz Gross, who had taken refuge in London himself, had friends with connections to Fyling Hall School, and Mrs Bradley, the headmistress of this small progressive school, offered to take on the non-English speaking refugee at reduced fees.
Fyling Hall provided an environment in which Pete flourished. He not only became a teacher at the school but met his future wife, Barbara, there.
A former student of Pete’s made the following comment on hearing of his passing: “For me the core aspect of the whole Fyling Hall School experience was something to do with a moral independence and, as I recall it, Pete was its vital and vigorous embodiment.”
Pete was innovative and creative in his farming enterprises: early use of a milking machine; timed pasture management, and the first in the valley to make silage with a forage harvester – a “silorator” which boomed down the Esk valley – it gave Whitby’s fog horn a good run for its money.
After farming, Pete and Barbara renovated the Grade 2 listed house “Green Gate”, 19 Grape Lane in Whitby, with its famous bottle window.
Using sandstone from demolished buildings, which he had been gathering for years around the Whitby area, Pete built a new but traditional-looking house on the hillside outside Aislaby, the Gross family’s home until their departure for a new life in Australia.
Throughout his 30-odd years in Australia Pete remained stubbornly British, recognising the generosity of the Yorkshire people who enabled him to establish a most rewarding life.
He will be missed by his wife Barbara, children Michael (Patricia), Catherine, Benjamin (Juli) and Sebastian (Fiona) and grandchildren Victor, Emily, Madeleine, Hannah, Elliot and Maximilian.