James Cross

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James Cross
James Richard Cross

(1921-09-29)29 September 1921
Died6 January 2021(2021-01-06) (aged 99)
Seaford, England, UK
Known forKidnapped during October Crisis

James Richard Cross CMG (29 September 1921 – 6 January 2021) was an Irish-born British diplomat who served in India, Malaysia and Canada. While posted in Canada, Cross was kidnapped by members of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) during the October Crisis of October 1970.[1] He was ultimately released almost two months later, and subsequently returned to the United Kingdom.

Early life and career[edit]

Cross was born in Nenagh in County Tipperary, Ireland, on 29 September 1921.[2][3] His mother died during her labour with him. His older sibling had intellectual disabilities and was consequently institutionalised.[4] Cross was raised on the family farm,[4] which was a hundred acres in size,[3] before moving in with relatives.[4] He was nicknamed "Jasper" by his family and friends.[5] Cross studied economics and political science at Trinity College Dublin,[3] where he graduated with a first class honours degree in 1944. It was there that he also met his wife, Barbara Dagg, who studied modern languages.[2]

During World War II, Cross served with the British Army and fought for the liberation of France. He was commissioned into the Royal Engineers Movement Control Section in 1944.[1] After the war, Cross joined the diplomatic service and was assigned first to New Delhi in 1953.[2] His first stint in Canada commenced in 1957, when he served in Halifax and Winnipeg for five years. He was consequently assigned to Kuala Lumpur for four years, before going back to London in 1966 to direct the Board of Trade branch in charge of exhibitions and fairs overseas. He returned to Canada in February 1968 as the senior Trade Commissioner in Montreal.[2]


On 5 October 1970, Cross was abducted at gunpoint from his British diplomatic residence at 1297 Redpath Crescent, in the Golden Square Mile district of Montreal, and held as a hostage for two months as the FLQ made a series of demands to the Quebec government.[6] During captivity, due to lack of food Cross lost 10 kg.[7] He was released on 3 December after 60 days in captivity. In exchange for his release, his abductors would get safe passage to Cuba. The talks were held at the Canada Pavilion, located on Notre Dame Island, the site of Expo 67. This site was declared Cuban territory for the period of the talks.[6]

Six members of the FLQ's "Liberation Cell" were later convicted of Cross's kidnapping when they returned to Canada during the late 1970s. They received custodial sentences ranging from 12 to 24 months.[8]

Cross said of his kidnapping:

They [the kidnappers] told me about 10:00 o'clock on Wednesday evening that they had, the police knew where I was. Nothing much happened for about the next four hours. Then the power was cut at I think around 2:00 in the morning. I was in bed at the time; they got me up. They handcuffed me, they took me into a corridor in the middle of the house. They handcuffed me to a doorknob and I spent the night. It's a very uncomfortable position.[6]

On the 40th anniversary of the day that sparked the October Crisis in 2010, Cross agreed to speak to CBC Radio's The Current about the events surrounding his kidnapping.[9] There is also a transcript of a taped memoir online, uploaded by Churchill College.[10]

Later life[edit]

Cross returned to the United Kingdom after his release and continued working for the civil service. However, he was no longer assigned overseas postings. Although he received a number of offers to sell his story, he did not since he was prohibited by the government from doing so.[5] Cross went on to serve as Under-Secretary in various divisions of Britain's Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Energy.[11] He was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in January 1971.[12]

Cross retired to Seaford, East Sussex.[5] He died at his home there on 6 January 2021.[4] He was 99, and suffered from complications of COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic in England in the time leading up to his death.[5][13] Both his wife and their only child (Susan) predeceased him in 2018 and 2015, respectively.[4]

In fiction[edit]

Cross is depicted as a character in the novel The Revolution Script by Brian Moore, together with Pierre Laporte. Their names are changed by Moore out of respect for their families.[14] He is also featured in My October by Claire Holden Rothman, and as a character in the 2006 Canadian television series October 1970, played by R.H. Thomson.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The October Crisis". Historica. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d "Kidnapped British Official". The New York Times. 7 October 1970. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b c North, David (21 October 1985). "James Cross remembers". Maclean's. Toronto. Archived from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Langer, Emily (21 January 2021). "James Cross, British diplomat kidnapped by Quebec separatists, dies at 99 of covid-19". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Montpetit, Jonathan (20 January 2021). "James Cross, British diplomat who survived FLQ kidnapping, dead at 99". CBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Canadian Kidnappings, Vietnam trials". UPI. 1970. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  7. ^ "20 January 2021 Episode Transcript | CBC Radio". CBC. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  8. ^ Laurendeau, Marc; McIntosh, Andrew (11 August 2013). "Front de libération du Québec (FLQ)". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  9. ^ AUDIO: CBC interviews FLQ kidnapping victim. CBC News, 5 October 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  10. ^ "James Cross Taped Memoir" (PDF).
  11. ^ Gervais, Lisa-Marie (2 October 2010). "James Cross en entrevue au Devoir - "J'ai toujours cru que j'allais mourir" (James Cross interview with Le Devoir - "I was sure the whole time that I was going to die")". Le Devoir.
  12. ^ McCreery, Christopher P. (15 December 2005). The Order of Canada: Its Origins, History, and Developments. University of Toronto Press. p. 164. ISBN 9781442658882.
  13. ^ Ross, Selena (20 January 2021). "James Cross, British commissioner kidnapped during October Crisis, has died at 99: report". CTV News. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  14. ^ Martin, Sandra (29 April 2003). "Separatist sagas". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on 21 January 2021. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  15. ^ Diebel, Linda (27 September 2014). "My October by Claire Holden Rothman: Review". Toronto Star. Retrieved 20 January 2021.

External links[edit]