Albert Edward Gray FRSA 1871-1959

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Born at Brightlingsea, Essex, on Queen Victoria's 52nd birthday, 24th May (Empire Day) 1871, he was named Albert Edward after the Prince of Wales. His father, Robert Doughty Gray, was a sea-going officer in the service of Her Majesty's Customs. At the outbreak of the Crimean war in 1854, Robert Gray was serving in HM Revenue Cutter 'Active' and was then transferred to the battleship HMS 'Nile' for the duration of the war. Before the ship sailed he proposed to Elizabeth Griggs, who came of an old Brightlingsea family, and their engagement was announced. He saw service in the Baltic and was awarded the Baltic Medal. The Treaty of Paris signed on 6th March 1856 formally brought the war to a close and Robert hastened to Brightlingsea to marry his Elizabeth, then aged 21. Her father was a Freeman of the River Colne and one of the founders of the Swedenborgian Church at Brightlingsea in 1816.

HMS Nile in which AE Gray's father served.
Source: Wikipedia - HMS Nile 1888
Following their marriage, Robert was first stationed at Great Yarmouth and later moved to Killybegs, Donegal, then within the United Kingdom. Elizabeth must have been staying with her parents in Brightlingsea when Albert Edward was born there in 1871. He was their seventh surviving child. Five years later, in 1876, whilst in command of HM Revenue Cutter 'Fly', Robert died suddenly of a stroke. The Londonderry Sentinel of 16th May 1876 records the event as follows:




DEATH OF CAPTAIN GRAY OF H.M.CUTTER 'FLY'
It is with feelings of deep regret that I have to announce the death of Mr Gray, commander of H.M.Cutter 'Fly' which sad event took place on Saturday morning last, by the bursting of a blood vessel at Foynes, to which place he sailed on duty a few days before, and from which he was expected to return to this station, Killybegs, in the course of next week. It was only on Friday morning that Mrs Gray had a letter from him in which I believe he stated he was as well as usual. He was in a delicate state of health during the spring season, but was so far recovered as to be able to resume his duties. Unfortunately for him his gunner (Mr Coleman) was promoted and removed from his vessel some time ago and not being replaced for some time, this worthy officer had to perform more duty than he was physically capable of doing, which it is to be feared was the means of hastening his death.

He leaves a wife and seven children to deplore his loss. The whole community deeply sympathize with his afflicted family. The announcement by telegraph on Saturday of his death cast a gloom over the whole neighbourhood.

This report correctly states that he left a wife and seven children. Their eight child, Florence, was born posthumously the following month on 30th June 1876 in Killybegs.

Elizabeth Gray (née Griggs) seated centre with her eight children, probably on her 60th birthday in 1895. The daughters are (from left to right): Florence, Elizabeth and Matilda. The sons are William Martin, Robert Thomas, Walter and Hazel Arthur. Albert Edward is seated, left
Elizabeth Gray (née Griggs) seated centre with her eight children, probably on her 60th birthday in 1895. The daughters are (from left to right): Florence, Elizabeth and Matilda. The sons are William Martin, Robert Thomas, Walter and Hazel Arthur. Albert Edward is seated, left
This unusual plate, (obverse and reverse) of which a number of examples have been recorded, was produced by Gray's Pottery in 1916 for an event at Wymering Manor, one of the oldest known dwellings in Hampshire. It is possible that its creation was due to Elizabeth Gray.
Elizabeth Gray (née Griggs) seated centre with her eight children, probably on her 60th birthday in 1895. The daughters are (from left to right): Florence, Elizabeth and Matilda. The sons are William Martin, Robert Thomas, Walter and Hazel Arthur. Albert Edward is seated, left.

The widow and her family were soon after taken by revenue cutter from Killybegs to Portsmouth. It took a fortnight to make the journey. So at the age of 41, Elizabeth found herself with only a small service pension to provide for the six children who remained her responsibility, the two older boys William Martin (b 1859 or 1860) and Robert Thomas (b 1861), it would seem, having already found jobs and settled elsewhere. She made her home at Southsea and with great determination successfully brought up her family. Some years later she married her husband's closest friend, by then himself a widower. She was greatly loved by all her children and made a lasting impression on them. She died in 1929 at the age of 94.

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