Obituary: Sir Anthony Gray

Francis Anthony Gray, administrator, born 3 August 1917, Treasurer Christ Church Oxford 1952-72 (Emeritus Student 1972), Secretary and Keeper of the Records of the Duchy of Cornwall 1972-81, KCVO 1981, married 1947 Marcia Wyld (one son, two daughters), died 2 August 1992.

TO REMEMBER Anthony Gray is to be warmed again by a sun of kindness and good humour, of a geniality strong enough to turn all but the sourest sweet.

Tony Gray was a tall man and this characteristic, which lent him presence, was also the cause of much physical disability in his life. As a boy he grew to over six feet before reaching adolescence and a consequent weakening of his spine meant a great deal of trouble with his back in later years. Since he was taller than most people, most people will remember him bending, with concentrated attention, to hear or to recount something amusing; for he loved to laugh. It could also be said that he loved people, in all their peculiarities, unpatronisingly, unsentimentally but with compassion, and with an abiding delight in the oddities of human conduct.

Tony was an only child. His earliest years were spent in Suffolk, where he may have acquired the love of country things, the feeling for land, which were later to be of such importance. After attending Marlborough and Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1936 he joined the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House. In doing this he displayed an interest, perhaps innate, in the ways by which people might be persuaded to achieve coexistence by other means than war. That interest would be exemplified in a lifetime devoted to wise administration and the arts of conciliation. In 1939, when Gray was 22, war engulfed the world. His long-standing back trouble precluded ordinary military service. He became engaged in war work, often of a secret nature, about which, afterwards, he would never speak.

It was at the end of the war that I came to know Tony Gray, not long before his engagement to Mish Wyld, whom he married in 1947. His friends observed with pleasure the delight he felt at being welcomed into a large, lively, intelligent family which offered him much that his rather lonely childhood had lacked. That marriage would last for 45 years and provide him with three children of whom he was intensely proud.

For a while after the war Gray worked for the British Council, and then left to join the Hulton Press, publishers of Picture Post, The Farmers' Weekly and other magazines. He immersed himself in matters of production and circulation, and took pleasure in observing the somewhat byzantine politics of the publishing world.

In 1952 Gray was appointed Treasurer of Christ Church, Oxford. There can have been few appointments more perfectly suited to him. The college is a large landowner with properties all over the kingdom. Gray had some of his happiest times visiting land-holdings in many counties; at the same time he took the college's financial business into new fields of investment both at home and overseas. His family were settled not far from Oxford, at Ramsden on the edge of Wychwood Forest, and there and in his handsome rooms at Christ Church he and Marcia entertained what had come to seem an almost uncountable number of friends.

Gray did many other things for Christ Church besides managing and enhancing its patrimony. It was he who put in hand the repair and redecoration of its magnificent library and the building of the new art gallery. When, after 20 years, he retired from the treasurership the college, whose fellows are known as 'students', made him Student Emeritus.

Then, in 1972, began the last stage of Gray's public career. He was appointed Secretary and Keeper of the Records to the Duchy of Cornwall, property since the 14th century of the heir to the throne. There, once again, his knowledge of farming, of building and finance was fully engaged, as were his easy friendliness and diplomatic skill. On his retirement his family moved to a new home at Upton Scudamore in Wiltshire.

Tony Gray's qualities as an administrator led him, at various times, to membership of the Agricultural Advisory Council, the Ditchley Foundation, the Council of the Royal College of Art, and to the Chairmanship of the Travellers' Club. He travelled widely, and was at the disposal of any who came to seek his advice. Many who found themselves at some crossroads in life were helped forward by his wisdom, his imaginative sympathy and his always practical assistance. For the love that he gave to others much was returned to him. Severe illness, at the end, meant retirement from the world of his friends, but he was never forgotten. Few men can have left so good a report.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent