Obituary: Kenneth Gray

Bruce McCartney

Kenneth had been in failing health recently and passed away on Friday 18th January 2019 not long after his 80th birthday.

Bruce McCartney recalls:

I was introduced to Kenneth Gray in 1968 by fellow ‘Teri” railway enthusiast Robin Barbour during the final weeks before the Waverley Route closed.

Kenneth was a life-long railway enthusiast. He wistfully surmised that perhaps while being pushed in his pram in Hawick, he had seen an NBR ‘Atlantic’ but his real spotting days started in 1947. He recalled visits to Sprouston and Jedburgh with his parents. I was envious that he had travelled over Leaderfoot Viaduct and all the Border branch lines.

On leaving Hawick High School for his first post in the Civil Service in Newcastle, he used the Border Counties line via Bellingham travelling from Hawick for a short while before the line’s closure in 1956.

Kenneth had various positions in the Civil Service including spells in London, before retiring and settling near Thirsk. After the death of his parents, he kept on their house in Hawick and frequently was seen in the town. Being very ‘old school’ and Kenneth never appeared without a shirt and tie, whatever the occasion.

Kenneth’s knowledge of railways, and the Waverley Route in particular, was legendary amongst Hawick enthusiasts. If ever there was a query, asking Kenneth usually produced the answer!

But Kenneth wasn’t ‘just’ a railway enthusiast. He played pipe organs in various churches around Thirsk and occasionally was called to churches in Hawick should the regular organist be unavailable. I recall after the 9/11 attack in the US, Kenneth mentioning playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic as the extroit: Kenneth had views, often strong views about many things! His favourite hate latterly was ‘muzak’ in shops (indeed anywhere!), and ventilators on some DMU classes and buses. He’d been known to change his route to avoid such irritations.

Kenneth would visit churches with interesting pipe organs and with his meticulous methodology record details of stops and pipes for the Pipe Organ Register. A thoroughness no doubt enhanced by his recording of locomotive details. His list of steam and diesel locomotives to have worked through Hawick was never circulated in any quantity – he was very concerned that it may have contained an error or two – and did not wish it used as a yard-stick.

Kenneth took photographs from the late 1950s onwards, but never had any printed! After seeing the results of my scanning of Robin Barbour’s negatives in 2006, he asked me if I could scan his unprinted (and unseen) collection. I hadn’t bargained for Kenneth turning up with a small suitcase of negatives: scanning 3800 negatives certainly helped me pass the winter! He generously allowed them to be uploaded to the net where they have been enjoyed world-wide and can still be seen.

He had a great affection for our Border Terrier and frequently remarked that he would like a dog, but that his lifestyle just was not compatible with owning one. When I visited him in Hawick, I was always told to bring Guthrie along.

So it is this image of a serene gentleman, and gentleman he was, relaxed in his well-worn armchair in Hawick contentedly stroking my Border Terrier’s ears that I will recall when I remember Kenneth.