I’m a gypsy & grew up hunting pigeons for food… we boycotted school over fear of outsiders says SAS Who Dares Wins star | The Sun

I’m a gypsy & grew up hunting pigeons for food… we boycotted school over fear of outsiders says SAS Who Dares Wins star | The Sun

HAVING grown up in a caravan with no water or electricity, hunting wildlife for food, new SAS Who Dares Wins recruit Ross Young is better equipped than most to deal with the perils of the jungle.

The latest series of the Channel 4 show, which kicks off tonight, will put the contestants to the test in the wilderness of Thung Ui, North Vietnam.

Ross, 41, grew up in the Romani community, after his mum ran away from her family to marry his traveller dad, who she met at a fairground in Skegness.

He was home-schooled in a caravan parked on a bridle path in Spilsby, Lincolnshire.

Now Ross, of Gravesend, Kent, wants to change perceptions of the Romani community by starring in SAS: Who Dares Wins.

He tells The Sun: “I want to challenge the myths. People have preconceived notions about what the travelling community is like but it’s not always what they think.”


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Ross' upbringing is a world away from his life now – he works as head of security at Britain’s most expensive store Harrods, where a box of posh tea costs £115 and a rare pot of honey will set shoppers back £1,390.

He credits the incredible turn of events to his free-range childhood and his parents’ determination to educate him outside of the mainstream system.

Ross’ mum Elaine, now 66, met dad Eddie when her parents took her on holiday to Skegness aged 16.

She fell head over heels after spotting him working on the rifle range at the fairground and, after writing letters and constantly calling each other from phone boxes, Elaine ran away from home aged 17 in 1973. 

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Ross with his dad and siblings as a childCredit: Ross Young
He's now married to teacher RosCredit: Ross Young

The couple wed a year later and initially lived in a caravan at Ingoldmells, near Skegness, before moving into a house near Elaine’s parents in Lewisham.

Ross recalls: “I think Dad really missed his way of life but he wanted to prove to my mum’s parents that he could do the right thing by her.

“But when I was four they moved into a caravan on a park in Norfolk, halfway between both their parents.”

By the time Ross was eight the family had moved to Spilsby and lived in a caravan on a bridle path before being joined by Eddie’s mum and sister, who moved ‘next door’ in another van.

Ross, married to English teacher Rosalind, says: “We lived about four miles outside the town.

“The local farmer would allow us to use his water and it was often my job to get a fire going in the morning before everyone else got up.

"We’d often hunt rabbits and pigeons to supplement our food.

We’d often hunt rabbits and pigeons to supplement our food

“I think dad made a decision not to send us to school to protect us because there was a lot of prejudice against travellers when he was a kid.

"While he was clever at science and maths, he said the thing he most learned to do was fight to protect himself.

“Dad wanted to keep our surroundings clean so he went to the local council and asked for our caravan to be given an address so the bin men would come and pick up the rubbish, and we had post and milk delivered.”

Ross says his three younger brothers and sisters were the only real company he had because they didn’t go to school.

He explains: “Mum and Dad made friends and some people would come round to the caravan to visit, but us kids just played together.  

“We’d walk into the town for shopping sometimes and the local kids didn’t bother with us.

"I once had rocks thrown at me but I think most teens go through something like that.”


Ross says his parents were determined to school them and they spent eight hours a day at the kitchen table learning the curriculum under a Government scheme.

“Mum would even make us do homework after tea and only gave us half an hour for lunch,” Ross laughs.

Ross sat his 11-plus and was due to take his GSCEs at the local school when funding was pulled on the project.

He says: “Mum and Dad were really disappointed as they wanted me to have those qualifications. They put so much emphasis on education and made us work really hard.

“I went on to do lots of NVQs and worked as a lifeguard at the local pool, while one of my brothers is at university studying biochemistry.”

Ross was working as a lifeguard and part time security officer when a friend recommended him to bosses at Harrods – once owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed, whose son Dodi dated Princess Diana.

That was seven years ago, and he's since worked his way up.

He recalls: “I was working part time to get a full time job as a firefighter, but once I joined Harrods it put paid to that dream because I love it so much. It’s a fascinating place to work.

“Working there really does make you think about money, but it’s all relative if you look at it.

“When I was a lifeguard and on less money I wouldn’t spend the same money on a T-shirt that I would now, so if you’re rich I guess the cost of an expensive handbag isn’t that much to you.”

Spurred on by tragedy

Ross' experience on SAS Who Dares Wins was tinged with sadness, as he'd not long lost his dad when he began filming.

He was left heartbroken last October after unknowingly giving his dad Covid when he gave him a lift to his brother's wedding.

His dad, 65, had refused to be vaccinated, and the virus proved fatal when it turned into pneumonia.

Weeks later Ross was being put through his paces on the military training programme, led by Chief Instructor Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham.

Tonight Ross will be seen close to tears as he tells instructors about his father’s death.

He says: “I got vaccinated but, like many in fringe communities, Dad was suspicious of doctors and science and chose not to.

“He’d not long died when we filmed SAS so it was pretty hard, but I’m kind of doing it for him.

“When I was a kid running about the fields in the 80s and 90s playing soldiers he used to say, ‘We'll have you ready for the special forces at 16,’ so I want to show that I can do it.”

Changing perceptions

Ross hopes that his appearance on the show will change people’s perception of Romani travellers.

He says: “I’m aware that being on TV, I sort of represent the travelling community.

“There’s nowhere near as much prejudice as there used to be in the 80s and 90s, but people still have fixed ideas about travelling families.

“Growing up in a Romani caravan made me who I am. Helping with chores every day gave me a great work ethic while running around outside gave me a love of the great outdoors – and my parents gave me a great education.

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SAS: Who Dares Wins is on C4 tonight at 9pm.

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