Gary Gray: An appreciation

GLASGOW councillor Gary Gray’s purpose and happiness in life was founded in the service of others, writes Paul Sweeney MSP.

Gray, who has died suddenly on February13 at the age of 49, had been a Labour councillor for the Canal ward in the north of the city since 2017. He had first been elected in 2003, as councillor for the Milton ward.

He had a selfless vocation for public service and a love for his friends and family, as well as civic pride in Glasgow and the working-class Possilpark community in which he was born and raised.

Born on December 11, 1972, to Paul and Margaret Gray, he was educated at St Augustine’s Secondary School in Milton. As a child brought up in one of the most deprived districts in the city, he could scarcely imagine that one day he would represent his local community in the City Chambers.

He joined the Labour Party in the early 1990s, inspired by activists working for the betterment of his local community, like Sadie Gordon and the late Ellen Hurcombe.

He quickly became politically active, joining the Hawthorn Housing Co-operative.

Despite his extrovert personality and easy charm, he was not someone who merely saw standing for the council as a means of seeking higher office. Nor did he covet public recognition for his work – he did it because he cared deeply for his community and sought to use whatever influence he had to make life better for those he represented.

He had a perseverance that triumphed over his often debilitating long-term illness and tragic incidents during his life, especially the death of his identical twin, Stephen, in 2006 at the age of just 33.

Stephen’s struggle with PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Royal Highland Fusiliers and Black Watch inspired Gary to steadfastly support the Scottish Poppy Appeal every year, leading the collection effort in the north of the city.

Of Gary’s countless achievements, his unrelenting support for the veterans’ community, his focus on improving mental health services and on serving his constituents were his proudest. He was a community champion, and his local community will be poorer for his passing.

The disbelief and distress felt by so many at his sudden passing, in the midst of his enthusiastic council re-election campaign, is a reflection of the affection in which he was held by community leaders, the constituents he diligently assisted over the years, those who found comfort in his ministry, political comrades and opponents alike, and of course his beloved son, Bobby, on whom he doted and would often speak about whilst beaming with pride.

On his late brother’s grave, it is inscribed that “grief is the price we pay for love.” As his twin, Gary paid a higher price than most, but he used this keen awareness, along with his inherent gifts of compassion and kindness, to help many others deal with loss in their lives.