Doctor and widow of former Moderator of the General Assembly.
Born: June 1928; Died: 25 December 2013.
Sheila Gray, who has died aged 85, was the wife of Very Rev John R Gray, parish minister in Glasgow and Dunblane Cathedral and moderator of the General Assembly in 1977 and did not resent and resist being described or defined with reference to her husband's profession. Fiercely loyal to him, she once wrote: "I am one of those strange beings who can honestly say they enjoyed being the wife of a minister".
She was born Sheila Whiteside in the village of Brundall near Norwich where her father, a factory inspector, was based. When he was transferred to Glasgow, she and her mother remained in Norfolk for a time before, when Sheila was 13, the family was reunited in the south side of Glasgow, worshipping in Newlands South Church.
She went to Laurel Bank School and then the University of Glasgow where she graduated in medicine in 1949. She practised for two years prior to her marriage, only returning to it when her family was grown up.
Six months after graduating, she met John R Gray, minister of St Stephen's Buccleuch in the centre of Glasgow. They married in February 1952 and moved into a large, cold and (inevitably in Glasgow before the Clean Air Act) dirty manse in Dennistoun.
"We did not complain" she said later. "I just wore warm boots from November to March, and scrubbed our sons for about three days before we went on holiday, to bring them up to the standard of cleanliness of the children they might meet." In due course the family moved to a manse near the Botanic Gardens in Great Western Road.
Although she never complained about it, Dr Gray was alone with her children a lot of the time. Her husband was an exceptionally diligent visitor of his congregation, and as time went on became heavily involved in the committees of the Church, particularly as convener of the Church and Nation Committee for five years. After some time, inevitably in those days, the minister's wife became president of the Woman's Guild.
In 1966, John R Gray was called to be minister of Dunblane Cathedral, and he and Sheila moved into temporary accommodation until the building of the present manse was completed and where, as she put it "she wielded an occasional nifty paintbrush when I hadn't the heart to ask the Kirk Session for more help".
Her husband's death in 1984, less than three months after he retired when he was told he was terminally ill, was a terrible blow. Dr Gray not only loved her husband deeply, her admiration for him was both enormous and obvious.
In due course, she had to leave the manse, but continued to live in Dunblane, worship in the cathedral, and sing in its fine choir. The widow of a predecessor continuing to take an active part in her husband's former congregation can be a recipe for difficulty and tension. However Sheila Gray's innate sensitivity and understanding ensured that such a situation did not arise, and she, in turn, continued to enjoy friendships built up over the years, and the respect of John Gray's successors.
As she had done throughout her husband's participation in the Kirk's General Assembly, after his death she continued to attend each day's meeting, intensely following the business from a seat below the one she occupied as the Moderator's wife in 1977. In 2008, She published Annus Mirabilis, Memories of a Moderator's Lady.
She is survived by her three sons, one of whom, James, has been the Conservative member of parliament for Wiltshire North since 1997.
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