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John William Gray

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John William Gray (1828-1896)


1896 Obituary [1]

JOHN WILLIAM GRAY was born on let October 1828 at Montrose, where his father carried on business as a general merchant, ship-owner, and flax spinner.

He received his early education in his native town, and then at Dr. Cowen's school at Bishop Wearmouth. During his boyhood he took great interest in the flax-spinning mill, which his father started at Balbirnie, near Montrose, and at which he learnt to tuns both wood and iron in the lathe, and to understand the working of the machinery. This inclination of his mind led to his being articled to Mr. John Murray, engineer to the River Wear Commissioners. Improvements of the river and harbour were then in progress, and he was employed on this work and on the preparation of marine surveys for the proposed south docks at Sunderland.

After a pupilage of four years he went to London, and was engaged by Mr. W. C. Mylne to assist in the work of the New River Company. There he remained six years, during which time he took an active part in the New River work, and in the private business of his employer, including the building of a reservoir at Limerick, and the re-arrangement of the entire water supply for that city. He was also entrusted with the gauging of the streams in Lancashire, and with arranging the compensations to be paid to mill-owners in respect of the impounding by the new reservoirs of the Liverpool Corporation at Rivington Pike.

He was next associated with Mr. Charles Greaves in carrying out a number of new works for the East London Water Company; after which he returned to Mr. Mylne, for whom he prepared plans for shortening the New River and for re-arranging the system of supply in that district.

In 1860 he was again engaged for a short time to assist Mr. Greaves in connection with the East London Water Works.

Soon afterwards he started in business for himself, and among various works in which he was engaged were the erection of the first rifle butts at Wimbledon, and a report on proposed harbour works on the banks of the Dee at Holywell. He was also engaged in reporting on a water scheme and tramways for Odessa.

In 1866 he was appointed engineer to the Birmingham Water Works. At that time the supply of water to the city was inadequate, and his first work was to carry out various extensions.

In 1876 the water works were taken over by the Birmingham Corporation, in whose service he remained as waterworks engineer. The continued growth of the city rendered the question of further sources of water supply one of grave anxiety; and he strongly supported the scheme for going to the Elan and Claerwen district, which was ultimately decided upon. In July 1894 in consequence of failing health he retired after twenty-nine years' connection with the water works, though he continued in their service as consulting engineer.

His death took place from peritonitis at his residence at Leamington, on 14th August 1896, in his sixty-eighth year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1876.


1896 Obituary [2]

JOHN WILLIAM GRAY, born on the 1st of October, 1828, at Montrose, was the son of Mr. Thomas Gray, general merchant and shipowner.

As a boy he showed aptitude for mechanics, spending hours in working at the lathe and in making himself acquainted with the machinery in a flax mill, near Montrose, belonging to his father.

At fifteen he was apprenticed to Mr. John Murray, then Engineer to the River Wear Commissioners.

During the next four years he was employed, at first under John Murray and subsequently under Thomas Meik, on Sunderland Harbour works and on marine surveys for the South Docks at that port.

He was next engaged, from 1847 to 1852, in assisting W. C. Mylne to carry out extensive works for the New River Company, after which he spent five years in the service of the East London Waterworks Co, under Charles Greaves.

In 1858 he returned to Mr. Mylne and for the next three years was occupied in re-arranging the system of supply in the New River Company's district.

From 1861 to 1864 he was again employed by the East London Company, after which he set up in business on his own account. Among his first works were the erection of rifle butts at Wimbledon and the preparation of a report on some proposed harbour works at Holywell on the Dee.

He then spent some months in Russia reporting upon schemes for the water-supply and tramway system of Odessa.

On his return to England Mr. Gray was appointed Engineer to the Birmingham Waterworks Co. At that time - January, 1866 - the Company was unable to provide an adequate supply of water and Mr. Gray at once advised various extensions, which were duly carried out under his direction. The pumping power at Aston was increased and a deep well was sunk there, water being also obtained from other new wells.

In 1876 the works of the Company were purchased by the Corporation of Birmingham, Mr. Gray being retained as Engineer. He then sank a deep well at Selly Oak, and constructed a large storage reservoir at Shustoke, besides improving and enlarging the works at Plant's Brook, Aston, King's Vale and Longbridge, and also advised and carried out the installation of hydraulic power now at work.

But the rapid increase of population rendered these measures inadequate, and the question of further sources of supply became one of grave moment. He then advised the Water Committee to seek for fresh sources of supply and recommended that they should take into consideration a modification of the scheme proposed by Mr. (now Sir Robert) Rawlinson in 1871, viz., to bring water from the gathering grounds of the Elan and Claerwen, tributaries of the Wye, in Mid-Wales. Mr. Mansergh, who was called in, confirmed Mr. Gray's recommendation. It was intended that, while Mr. Mansergh should be responsible for the works in Wales and for the construction of the conduit to Hagley, Mr. Gray should have charge of the section between Hagley and Birmingham.

Unfortunately, however, his health failed, and in July, 1894, Mr. Gray retired, the City Council granting him a pension of £600 per annum on the understanding that his services should still be available in a consultative capacity.

Mr. Gray did not long enjoy his well-earned leisure. His health gradually became worse and for the last year he was practically confined to his bed.

He died at his residence in Leamington on the 14th of August, 1896. He was a man of a large heart and generous nature, always ready to assist anyone in distress, and a kind and genial chief. He was a keen sportsman, never more happy than when thrashing a stream or tramping the moors with dog and gun. He was also a horticulturist of no mean ability. Mr. Gray was elected a Member on the 7th of May, 1872.



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