Tuesday 27 January 2015

Rev Andrew Gray (1834 – 1900) Aboyne Dominie for 44 Years

Who was Andrew Gray?
Andrew Gray was the 5th child and 3rd son of Alexander Gray, the village baker in Aboyne between 1828 and 1876.  Andrew was born in Aboyne in 1834 and was the most academically able of the 15 children in the Gray family.  He graduated from King’s College, University of Aberdeen in both arts and divinity by 1855.  That same year, at the age of 21, he was appointed as headmaster of the Aboyne Public School and he served in that role for the next 44 years, establishing a reputation as an outstanding educator and stalwart of village life.  However, in spite of his demonstrable abilities, he never moved on to higher things, either in education or in the Church. Why he did not do so, in spite of opportunity presenting itself, is a fascinating question.

Family Origins
Alexander Gray, Andrew’s father, was not a native of Aboyne but was born in 1806 in Botriphnie, a small hamlet in Banffshire, close to the Spey valley.  Alexander’s father was a hardware merchant and it is likely that this early exposure to business convinced Alexander to establish an enterprise of his own, if the opportunity arose.  Alexander became a baker and confectioner to trade and it is likely that he served an apprenticeship during the early 1820s. He was living in Keith in 1824 and Turriff in 1826, before arriving in Aboyne in 1828 at the age of about 22.  The most likely explanation for these movements is that he was serving an apprenticeship in Keith and was subsequently employed as a baker in Turriff before acquiring sufficient capital to set up his own business in Aboyne.  This business was successful and Alexander never left his adopted home, dying there in 1876 after 48 years as principal of the Aboyne bakery.  Alexander Gray and his wife Margaret Harley formed a fecund partnership, producing 15 known live births between 1824 when their first son, Alexander jr. was born in Keith and 1855, when their last daughter, Susan, was born in Aboyne.  The production of a child at regular 2 year intervals was a typical pattern for Victorian times, when children were breast-fed for a year and artificial birth control was not generally practised. 
According to the New Statistical Account of 1845 for the Parish of Aboyne and Glentanar, the salary of the parochial schoolmaster was £28 which was supplemented with an allowance from the Dick Bequest and school fees, making an income of about £80 in total, together with a house and garden.  Although up to 140 pupils were in attendance,  the standard of education must have been competent because at that time there was one Aboyne lad at King’s College, Aberdeen and another at Marischal College, Aberdeen’s second university, both students holding competition bursaries.  Andrew Gray was shortly to follow them when he matriculated at King’s College in 1851.  His career at university progressed well.  In 1852 he was 4th in the order of merit in the Senior Greek class and he graduated in March 1853, probably in Divinity and continued at King’s for a further two years for the degree of MA, graduating in April 1855.  He gained further Merit Awards, in Moral Philosophy (7th) and Senior Humanities (8th).

Appointment as Aboyne's Dominie
At this point in his career it appears that Andrew intended to follow a career as a minister but in those days a career in the Church of Scotland was usually presaged by a period of teaching in a parochial school. An example of this transition occurred when Sir William Cunliffe Brooks built a new church at Dinnett in 1876.  The first minister was Rev JG Michie, who had previously been schoolmaster at Logie Coldstone.  Andrew was appointed as the headmaster, or dominie, in the Aboyne Public School in 1855, the year of his graduation from King’s College.  He must have been highly pleased with his elevation.  This post had considerable potential for future advancement, either in the education of the young or as a stepping-stone to the Church.  He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Kincardine O’Neil in 1863 and for a number of years he was a popular preacher in local churches, but eventually gave up this role.  When asked by friends why he did not pursue a career in the Church he replied that he did not receive the call from a congregation at a time when his emoluments as a schoolmaster were only £80 per year and he could have done with more money.  After the Education Act of 1872 his emoluments in education were more than sufficient for his desired lifestyle and by that time he no longer wanted the challenge of a new career direction at the Manse.  So the Church’s loss was Education’s gain.   
The dominie was a prominent and respected figure in Scottish village life, though Andrew must have found early on, if he did not know already, that he was in a position which required him to participate in local activities beyond the schoolroom.  Local landed proprietors, in particular at that time the 10th Marquis of Huntly, the owner of the land on which the Aboyne Public School stood, had to be attended to, even fawned upon.  November 1857 saw the annual ball given by the Aboyne tenantry to the Marquis and his family in the Mason’s Hall, Aboyne.  The young schoolmaster was one of those figures in village life whose presence was required.  The Royal association with Deeside was also a powerful influence on the conduct of local personalities.  When Prince Albert died in December 1861 his widow, Queen Victoria was cast into a period of profound grief and it was important for the public and especially its prominent members to show appropriate feelings.  A local fund was raised to pay for a memorial, to be located in Aberdeen, to the late Albert and lists of subscribers were regularly published in the Aberdeen Journal.  In 1862 Andrew Gray appeared on the subscription list, having made a donation of 5/-, equivalent to about £25 in 2013 money.

Life outside the School Room  
Not all events at which Andrew was present outside the schoolroom, were a matter of duty or form.  This was a period when all aspects of Highland culture were becoming fashionable and Highland Gatherings were springing up in many towns and villages, especially those experiencing a growth in tourism, like the settlements on Deeside.  Kincardine O’Neil, the next village eastwards from Aboyne held a Highland Gathering in 1862 with Andrew Gray as a notable attendee.  In 1859 a celebration of Burns’ Night was held in the large hall of the Huntly Arms, Aboyne with Dr Gerrard, the Provost of Aboyne, occupying the chair and Andrew Gray present.  Meetings of various bodies took place in the Huntly Arms, usually involving eating, drinking, songs, stories, toasts and general merry-making.  This kind of activity would become a staple of his world and may have been one of the factors which caused him to remain hefted to Aboyne for the rest of his days.

Aboyne Public School and State Funding
Scotland has a proud reputation of having established a system of parish schools, supported by landed proprietors and the Church of Scotland, which was within reach of most of the population before the end of the 18th century.  Although such schools were not the exclusive preserve of boys, the societal norms of the time led to most parents prioritising the education of boys over girls.    However, during the first half of the 19th century the system was put under strain due to growing urbanisation, migration, especially from the Highlands and from Ireland and the Disruption of 1843, when the Free Church split from the Church of Scotland.  Increasingly, the state had to intervene financially to prop up the parochial schools and finally, in 1872 the Education (Scotland) Act was passed which made basic education both compulsory and free.  Governance of schools was taken out of the hands of the Church of Scotland and placed under the control of locally-elected School Boards. 
Aboyne had a traditional Parish School in 1855 when Andrew Gray was appointed as headmaster. There were two other local schools, a school provided by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in Glentanar and a Female School on the Green in Aboyne, which was promoted by Maria Antoinetta, the Marchioness of Huntly.  Female schools basically equipped girls for the traditional female roles of servant, housekeeper and mother.  They taught such practical skills as needlework, knitting and other female crafts but also some more academic subjects, such as English grammar, arithmetic and scripture.  However, after the Scottish Education Act came into force, the Aboyne Female School disappeared.  Parochial schools had never been the exclusive preserve of boys.  If boys predominated it was a product of parental choice.  They spent money on school fees in what they saw as the most cost-effective way.  Interestingly, when Andrew Gray retired, he remarked that at Aboyne Public School the girls had recently been performing better than the boys.
A School Board was elected in Aboyne in 1873 and Rev Andrew Gray acted as returning officer.  His brother, blacksmith Alexander Gray, was one of those elected to the Board.  The change of control brought about after 1872 seemed to provide Andrew Gray with scope to branch out into pedagogical areas not hitherto covered in Aboyne.  In 1873 he ran a series of science classes covering a remarkably wide spectrum, bearing in mind Andrew’s own training in Divinity and the Arts.  Physical Geography (Elementary and Advanced), Animal Physiology and Mathematics were all taught.  His sisters Susan and Helen featured prominently in the pass lists.  In 1886 Government financial assistance became available for instruction in science and art as applied to textile and mechanical industries.  Andrew Gray taught a class in Agricultural Science at elementary level at Aboyne and all nine of his students passed.  At the meeting of the School Board in November of that year, Andrew Gray indicated that he wished to appoint Margaret Young of Birsemore and Susan Gray as pupil-teachers at Aboyne School.  Pupil-teachers were usually appointed at age 13 and served a 5-year apprenticeship of on-the-job teacher training, though his sister, Susan, was actually 18 at the date of appointment.  At the 1871 Census, Susan Gray was living with her brother Andrew in the Schoolhouse, Aboyne and was described as a scholar.  In 1881, when Susan would have been 26, she was still living with Andrew and had by this time acquired a teaching qualification, AMFEIS and may still have been teaching at Aboyne Public School.  If Susan had aspirations to follow a career in school education, they were cut off on 21 June of the same year when she married Alexander Troup, the butcher in the nearby town of Ballater.  Curiously, Andrew Gray had applied for three weeks’ leave of absence for Susan about 9 June, which was granted, on account of her state of health.  Andrew undertook to provide a substitute for the absent Susan.  Another Gray relative who fell under Andrew’s influence was Martha Jane Gray, his niece, daughter of his brother George.  In 1884 she was awarded a bursary in a competition organised by the Aboyne Highland Games Committee.  The value of the award was £5 per year and it could be held for two years.  Martha Jane was clearly a bright girl because she also won one of the prizes in a local scripture competition funded by Mrs Colonel Davidson of Edinburgh.
In 1875 a new school building was constructed at Aboyne, taking over the site formerly occupied by the Female School.  The Rev Dr Mackenzie, Church of Scotland Minister addressed those attending the formal opening and praised Headmaster Gray for discharging his duties so well and efficiently in the past and hoped that he would be long-spared to them.  The investment seems to have been justified because in 1881, when the school was visited by the Government Inspector, his report was judged by the School Board to be “highly satisfactory.”  Glentanar also got a new school building in due course, thanks to the liberality of Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, the proprietor of the Glentanar Estate.  Andrew Gray was present at the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone of the new building in 1896.

Headmasters and the Education Bill
The headmasters of the counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Moray had a professional association and Andrew Gray was a member of that organisation from the beginning and, in 1873, he was elected President of the Association.  He first rose to prominence in the Association at the time that the Education Bill was passing through Parliament in 1871. The headmasters had become very exercised by the potential changes to their emoluments when schools fell under the direct control of Government and so decided to send a deputation to London to lobby on their behalf on the wording of the Bill.  The deputation was led by Mr Milne, the headmaster of King-Edward School and he was accompanied by Andrew Gray.  They were seeking guarantees from the politicians regarding income from fees, charities (Dick and Milne Bequests), living allowances and retirement income, among other things.  Mr Milne first met with other school delegations from Scotland but appears to have been unable to agree a common position and so took it upon himself to act alone.  He was assiduous in seeking out appointments with MPs, ministers and civil servants, no doubt assisted by Andrew Gray.  Some progress was made in securing support for maintaining the incomes of those currently in office and good advice was obtained on how to address complex issues, but politicians did not then, as they do not now, generally offer cast-iron guarantees, even though they readily dispense warm sentiments.  Mr Milne reported back to the ABM Association and they authorised him to keep his committee in existence and empowered him to travel to London again, should the Bill pass through the House of Commons and go to the Lords without the desired amendments.  The Education Bill continued to exercise and disappoint the Schoolmasters.  At a meeting of the Association held in May 1872 Andrew Gray spoke powerfully about the drawbacks in the Bill, complaining that the Government was opposed to a minimum salary and there was nothing in the Bill to protect their income from the bequests.  However, they did agree to work with the Dick Bequest to draw up a clause and bring influence upon MPs to get it inserted into the Bill, to protect their interests.  Andrew Gray continued his active membership of the Committee undertaking this work on behalf of the Association. 
The Education (Scotland) Act passed into law without the Schoolmasters having much influence on its final form.  Under the Act elementary education had to be provided at the expense of local rates but School Boards were only obliged to provide elementary education.  Thus charitable bodies, such as the Dick and Milne Bequests, which previously provided bursaries for the elementary education of poor pupils and supplements to the emoluments of schoolmasters, could no longer disburse grants for these purposes.  The Trustees of the Milne Bequest, in consequence, proposed to switch expenditure from elementary education of the poor to supporting a smaller number of poor, but deserving, children in higher education.  This caused unhappiness amongst the headmasters because of their potential loss of income.  The Headmasters continued to fight a rearguard action for years through ongoing interactions with the Trustees of the Milne and Dick Bequests, trying to persuade them to spend more of their income on elementary education and less on higher education.  Andrew Gray continued to play a prominent part in these discussions and, after a final flurry in 1888, the subject dropped from sight.

Headmasters' Professional Meetings
After the excitement generated by the Education Act, the schoolmasters of North East Scotland were able to turn, for much of the time, to a more mundane programme of events.  In 1879 Dr Kerr, who had been HM Inspector of Schools for Aberdeenshire, retired.  He received a good send-off from the County headmasters at a presentation to himself and Mrs Kerr held in the Trades Hall, Aberdeen.  The headmasters were grateful for the “eminently judicious, efficient, and courteous manner in which for a number of years he had discharged his duties in the district.”  After the presentation the party adjourned to Mann’s Hotel, where “an excellent lunch was served.”  A similar ceremony was bestowed on Dr Kerr’s successor, Dr Ogilvie in 1888.  Andrew Gray was present on both occasions.
On a more local level the schoolmasters of mid-Deeside, constituted as the Kincardine O’Neil branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland (the teachers’ trades union), met regularly and usually in that favourite watering hole, the Huntly Arms Hotel, Aboyne.  Formal business was generally disposed of quickly, so that the attendees could get down to the important business of dining together.  Sometimes the meeting programme would also include a visit to a local site of interest, such as the visit to Burn O’Vat (dramatic, cauldron-shaped recess in rocks near Dinnet, generated in a meltwater channel under a retreating glacier during the last ice-age), Sir William Cunliffe Brooks’ Glentanar Estate in 1894, or the Falls of Muick in 1895.  From at least 1877, Andrew Gray was their president until his retirement in 1899, reflecting the status he had established in the local teaching fraternity.

Andrew Gray and Sir William Cunfiffe Brooks
The landed proprietors were a major force in rural Scotland due to the fact that, even at the end of the 19th century, land was the generator of much wealth and therefore power.  There were very few major landowners in Aboyne and the most important, by far, in mid-century was the Marquis of Huntly, though his power waned as his estates were dispersed to pay off debts.  In parallel a newcomer, William Cunliffe Brooks, grew in influence as he bought up significant landholdings from the Marquis.  Most of the whole population was dependent upon these two individuals, either as tenants, employees or tradesmen.  All these dependents knew their place and took every opportunity to make obeisances.  It was not a one-way process as the landowners themselves made appropriate gestures to the populace at large, especially on significant occasions.  A good example of this reciprocity was seen when Charles Gordon, 11th Marquis of Huntly married Amy Brooks, elder daughter of WCB, in 1869.  All the tenantry was invited to a dinner held in a large marquee on the Green.  About 350 in total, including Andrew Gray, attended.  On the return of the Marquis and Marchioness to Aboyne in the middle of August, a party of gentlemen, again including Andrew Gray, was invited to the Castle to partake of cake and wine.  In 1874 the tenantry of the Aboyne Estate formed a committee under the chairmanship of Francis Sandison, then a sheep farmer at Tomnakeist, one of the Huntlys’ farms at Tullich, to organise a ball for the entertainment of the Marquis and Marchioness, which was held in a marquee on the Green.  This type of event occurred frequently and reference to two of them illustrates the generality of conduct at all.  Both included major contributions from Andrew Gray.
In 1886 Queen Victoria made William Cunliffe Brooks a baronet and all those depenent on Sir William’s largesse vied with each other to deliver their congratulations in a way which would please the puffed-up and preening Sir William.  The traders who benefitted from his many projects, his friends and neighbours and the Aboyne villagers all decided to present fawning addresses and a date was set in mid-June for these presentations to be made sequentially in the Billiards Room at Glentanar House.  Andrew Gray was delegated to write and deliver the address on behalf of the villagers.  The full text of his contribution follows.  “To Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, Baronet, MP, and Lady Brooks.  The humble address of us, as representing the inhabitants in and around the village of Aboyne.  We hailed with feelings of the liveliest satisfaction and pleasure the announcement that Her Majesty had a short time ago been graciously pleased to confer a baronetcy on you as a mark of our Sovereign’s respect and esteem for your long and honourable public career.  (Applause)  The strong and warm attachment that has been engendered and fostered in us towards you, Sir William, and your good lady, by your many genial, kind, and liberal acts has moved us to approach you respectfully at this time, and to give expression to it in the form we now do.  (Applause)  We, Sir William, have had many striking proofs of your unbounded generosity, of your courteous and affable disposition, of your public and private worth, of your keen interest in whatever tends to our common welfare, and of your active concern for the benefit not only of one class, but of all classes; and to Lady Brooks, possessing as she does all that is calculated to render one amiable and respected, we are closely knit by her high Christian principles, by her gentle nature, by her kindness of heart, and by her deep desire to promote the good and the happiness not only of those who are in her immediate vicinity, but of all she comes in contact with.  (Loud applause)  We beg to assure you that we are much pleased to have it in our power to give expression to these brief remarks.  We desire to assure you of our deep personal regard, and we hope that both of you may be long spared to enjoy in health and happiness a title of honour so worthily earned, and in our opinion so deservedly bestowed.”  (Loud applause)  Andrew Gray, in handing the address to Sir William, said, “ In name of the deputation here present, in name of those who have appended their signatures, and in the name of the inhabitants in and around the village of Aboyne, I beg respectfully to ask your acceptance of this address, which I have much pleasure in now handing to you. “ (Applause).  Sir William was appropriately touched by the gesture, as revealed by the following section of his reply.  “…What I value so much is the kindly feeling that has prompted you all to come forward as you have done this day.  As I said, I shall treasure it to my dying day: I shall never forget it, and I assure you I shall always try to reciprocate it…”.  Those present must have reflected that it was a case of “mission accomplished”.
In December 1897 the Marquis and Marchioness of Huntly were entertained to supper and a ball in Aboyne’s Public Hall.  Andrew Gray was delegated to propose a toast to Sir William and Lady Brooks, though they had had to decline at the last minute.  Andrew said he was quite sure they all regretted the absence of Sir William and his kind and amiable lady.  This regret was intensified by the fact that as they had heard he was suffering from indisposition (“For several days a severe cold has been coming upon me and the doctor has absolutely forbidden my coming out tonight…”) which they hoped would be of short duration.  It was quite impossible for him to enumerate all that Sir William had done in the interest of the poorer classes of his tenants and of the inhabitants of the parish.  Active physically, possessing a keen and active mind and ready to detect any wrong that might be attempted to be perpetrated on the neighbourhood, he had set himself with a manly and outspoken courage in no niggardly way to preserve the amenities of the village and neighbourhood and had done much that was calculated to promote and increase the fame of the parish as a health resort.  (Applause) (This was probably a deferential reference to Brooks’ opposition to the Aboyne Isolation Hospital, an episode which did not enhance his reputation).   Let them take the latest case of his munificence in that handsome donation of £1000 towards the Gordon Highlanders’ Fund.  (Applause)  The name of Gordon was to them a loved cherished and revered word and it stirred the very life blood of them all, so intimately associated as it was with the noble family under whom they sat.  (Applause)  It was needless for him to say how much pleasure he had in associating this toast with the name of Sir William’s most excellent, amiable and kindly lady.  She worked quietly, but none the less in a way to commend herself with all with whom she came in contact.  Let them therefore drink to the health long life and happiness of Sir William and Lady Brooks.  (Loud applause)

Life Outside the Classroom
Andrew Gray never married and it is perhaps for this reason that he filled his life with other distractions, many of a sporting or cultural nature, though he also took on a significant portfolio of serious societal roles. Characteristically these were of a supporting rather than a leading nature.  It is understandable that he should have eschewed office on the Parochial Board and, after 1872, the School Board, because of his professional position in the village.  However, unlike several of his friends and relations, he never sought election to Aboyne Town Council. Soon after he was appointed as headmaster at Aboyne, Andrew Gray was also appointed, in 1857 or 1858, as registrar for the parish, a role he continued to play until his death in 1900.  It was an ideal role for a bachelor schoolmaster, utterly central to village life and requiring almost constant availability.
Andrew Gray held university qualifications in both Arts and Divinity and he considered following a career in the Church, but eventually decided to stay in the field of education.  He was, throughout his life, a devoted member of the Church of Scotland and fulfilled a variety of roles on behalf of his local congregation.  He was Session Clerk from at least 1876 until his death in 1900, Secretary to the Committee on Smaller Livings and Secretary and Treasurer of the parish committee set up in 1877 to make a substantial presentation of money and gifts, as a mark of respect, to Rev James Mackenzie and his wife.  Andrew Gray made the presentation which he prefaced with the following words “In the name of the Committee and in that of all the other subscribers, this purse – knitted by one of your own congregation – I beg of you, sir, to accept, together with the 100gns it contains, together with this table and chairs, from the Members of his Congregation and other friends as a mark of esteem.  But further as you are not alone in the world – as you have, in common phrase, a better half, I beg of you likewise to accept on her account this salver on which these words are inscribed – “To Mrs Mackenzie, from the Congregation and other friends, as a mark of esteem”.  In 1877 100gns was the rough equivalent of £10,000 in 2013 money.  Andrew Gray was also Secretary of the Church Defence Committee in 1885 at a time of great tension, when the Liberal Party’s policy was the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland.  At a public meeting held in Aboyne, Andrew’s brother, Alexander proposed the motion, “That the Church of Scotland at the present crisis ought to receive the earnest support of its members and of all others who value the principle of a recognition of the Christian religion by the State.”  Eventually, some years later, the Liberals dropped this divisive policy.  From before 1890 Andrew was an Elder of his congregation and in 1894 he was chosen to represent them at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh though, in the event, he was unable to attend.  All of these positions of service emphasise his ability, even desire, to operate at the centre of events, but in a supporting role.
In another act of generosity and a further expression of public esteem, the ladies of the congregation at St Machar’s, Aboyne presented the Rev. James Mackenzie with an academic gown, hood, trencher and John Knox cap on him being raised to the degree of Doctor of Divinity by the University of Aberdeen.  Dr Mackenzie had then been minister at Aboyne for 35 years.  Unfortunately, the Marquis and Marchioness of Huntly were unable to attend on this special occasion and the presentation was made by Mrs Smith of Dalwhing.  Sadly, Mrs Smith was not able to find her own voice and Rev Andrew Gray acted as mouthpiece for the ladies in expressing their sentiments towards the long-serving minister.

Andrew Gray and Freemasonry
Andrew Gray’s father Alexander was a long-standing Freemason both of the Royal Arch Chapter 57 and the Craft Masonry Lodge 281, which both met in the Mason’s Hall on Charlestown Road, Aboyne.  His brothers, Alexander, Benjamin and George were also “Bretheren of the Mystic Tie”.  Andrew, too, was a Mason and at least from 1867 he was Chaplain to Lodge 281 until his death in 1900.  It is likely that he had been a member from a much earlier date but, since he did not accept any office, other than Chaplain, no clue has been found as to his date of initiation.
It is clear from numerous reports of proceedings in the Masonic Hall, especially following the AGM of Lodge 281 on, or around, St John’s Day, 27th December, that the membership of this male club enjoyed itself enormously with alcohol-fuelled dinners, speeches, songs, recitations and toasts, except in the time of Lord Douglas Gordon, Charles Gordon’s younger brother, as Right Worshipful Master, when “the cup that cheers but does not inebriate”, ie tea, was the obligatory beverage.   Batchelor Andrew Gray apparently found the company of masonic lodge members much to his liking.
Charles Gordon, 10th Marquis of Huntly, Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire and a leading Freemason, died in 1863. For upward of 20 years the Marquis of Huntly held the office of Provincial Grand Master of Aberdeenshire (West) and for nearly as long a period the still more important office of Provincial Grand Superintendant of Royal Arch Masonry for the whole county of Aberdeen.  About 1865 the tenantry and neighbours of the Aboyne Estate decided that it would be fitting to raise a memorial to the late Laird and, in consultation with Maria Antoinetta Gordon, the Dowager Marchioness, it was agreed to erect an obelisk on Mortlach, a hill on the Estate, about two miles north of Aboyne Castle.  The local Freemasons took the lead in raising money and arranging an architect.  The design was for a 60 foot granite obelisk surmounted by an iron cross.
The foundation stone was laid in May 1867 with full masonic honours, which was appropriate given the leading masonic role of the 10th Marquis.  Representatives of 11 lodges formed up in full regalia in the village, accompanied by a military band and three pipers and then duly tramped up Mortlach to the site chosen for the memorial.  The party then formed a circle and displayed the instruments of the Craft.  This was probably the first big public occasion on which Andrew Gray was required to officiate in his role as Chaplain to Lodge 281.  The Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master of the Aberdeen (City) Province called upon him to crave a blessing on the proceedings and he did not miss his opportunity to shine.
“Almighty Architect and Supreme Convener of the Universe, bend Thine ear to our cry at this time and graciously vouchsafe Thy presence to us on this occasion.  May Thy blessing rest upon us, and, whilst we have this day met to found a monument in memory of our late and much lamented Noble Brother, may we remember that rank and station do not and cannot avert thy cold hand of death.  We humbly implore Thee, o God, to send us Thy Holy Spirit to teach us to be wise and faithful in our day and generation, so that it may be ours to be raising, by our lives and actions, a monument for ourselves, not only in the hearts of men in this world, but also in that upper sanctuary built without laws, to which we have access by faith in Jesus Christ, which is a tried stone, and the only sure foundation.  May the emblems of our art remind us more and more of our duty to Thee, to the Brotherhood, and to mankind; and may they foster in us faith, hope and charity, so that in all we think, in all we say, in all we do, it may ever be our desire to promote Thy glory, and to advance the spiritual reign of Christ upon earth.  We pray for all our fellow men, for all those who have , by their means, or, in any other way, manifested an interest in this day’s work, for all who are with us in spirit though absent in body, that Thou wilt bless them and do them good.  Be near O God, to all the members of the Brotherhood, and may our ancient craft ever prosper.  Protect, we entreat Thee, the workmen from all the dangers to which they may be exposed, and may this work in due time be properly completed.  Keep us all in the paths of virtue, honour and fidelity; let brotherly love prevail.  May our sins be washed away in the all-cleansing blood of Jesus, and may we finally appear before Thee, clothed in white robes and with palms in our hands.  Hear and answer us in mercy, O God, at this time.  And now, with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost be glory and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen.”
The mysticism then continued with the workmen of the Craft applying their jewels – plumb-line, level and square – to the foundation stone, which was followed by the Provincial Grand Master giving three taps with a hammer on the granite block and pronouncing the work finished.  He then poured corn wine and oil from the cornucopia on the stone and intoned a benediction to the strains of the band playing “Hail Masonry”.  Remarkably, none of the Gordons was present.  Sadly, the work of local builder, Robert Dinnie has not endured.  In spite of the appeal for divine protection and the application of masonic ritual, the monument is today little more than a jumbled pile of granite stones.
In the afternoon about 90 of the attendees at the ceremony dined at the Huntly Arms, accompanied by much drinking and toasting.  Andrew Gray proposed a toast to the 11th Marquis of Huntly, then a callow youth of 19, more interested in hunting, shooting and gambling than dealing with the affairs of the heavily-indebted Aboyne Estate.  This was an opportunity to say the right things about the young Charles Gordon, who was not present, but with pairs of receptive ears in attendance to report back.  “He is a young man who gives very good promise indeed to walk worthily in the footsteps of his father; and if he does so, you will give testimony by what you have done this day, that he will be following a good example.  An excellent example has been set him by both parents, and as he is already well-known and appreciated in this locality, I hope his character will be only more appreciated when he assumes the full management of his property.”  Sadly, Charles Gordon proved to have no interest in Masonry.  He also proved not to be up to the task of managing the Huntly assets and his plans for rescuing the estate crumbled even more rapidly than the obelisk on Mortlach.

West Aberdeenshire was a staunchly Liberal constituency and that political party was supported by a number of landed families in the Aboyne locality, including the Aboyne Gordons and the Farquharsons at Finzean.  However, Andrew Gray, in common with his father Alexander, his brother of the same name and his brothers-in-law John Davidson and Alexander Troup, all prominent citizens, were Conservatives.  But in politics as in other aspects of life we see Andrew playing a supporting, rather than a leading role, attending and speaking at meetings, attending Primrose League habitations and holding parliamentary candidates to account, but never personally seeking office.

In addition to his formal, professional role in school education, Andrew Gray was often to be found helping less formal educational and self-improvement organisations.  In 1868 he spoke “On Reading” to the Aboyne Mutual Improvement Society and in the same year he attended the AGM of the Aboyne Tonic-Sol-Fa Association (the use of doh – ray – me – fa, etc, as a means of teaching sight-singing).  The Aboyne YMCA often ran lecture series to inform and educate the youth of the area and Andrew Gray frequently chaired such lecture meetings.  In 1879 he contributed a lecture himself, on “Bonnie Prince Charlie”.  Andrew was secretary and treasurer of the Aboyne Reading Club and also made contributions to and chaired meetings.  Aboyne had a Public Hall, where many educational and social events were held and Andrew Gray acted as Hall Secretary for many years.

Social attendances were not all a product of Andrew’s sense of duty and he clearly enjoyed many activities, such as Burns’ Night suppers and an opening dinner for Mr Barclay, the then new landlord at the Huntly Arms Hotel, in 1875.  The march of technology also featured in entertainment events in the village.  In 1895 Walker and Company demonstrated the phonograph in the Aboyne Public Hall, which generated much interest, especially when Rev Andrew Gray was induced to speak into the instrument and then immediately had his speech reproduced to the amazement of the audience.  As a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and a donor to the fund for the extension of Marischal College, Andrew Gray attended the celebrations in 1895 when the Mitchell Building (Tower, Hall and Students’ Union) were officially declared open.  All went well until the attendees prepared to leave.  There was total disorganisation of the cloakroom arrangements and it took about three hours to retrieve garments.  As the local newspaper politely put it, an “animated scene” ensued!  Andrew Gray also enjoyed attendance at the various Highland Games events held up and down the Dee Valley and was regularly cited in published attendee lists, sometimes accompanied by one of his sisters.  He was also a regular attender and an occasional prize-winner at the Aboyne Horticultural Show, held in early September at the same time as the Aboyne Games.

Even though Andrew Gray was not a trader in the village, he was still a regular sponsor of the annual Aboyne ploughing match.  Other sponsors of this event were typically village businessmen, such as Francis Sandison, licensee of the Huntly Arms Hotel and John Davidson the village baker, who might expect to benefit from increased trade as a result of contributing to the prize fund.  Andrew also occasionally sponsored shooting competitions involving the local Deeside Volunteers.

Andrew Gray was a keen sportsman and sport played a big part in his social life.  Although he was once induced to play cricket for Aboyne at the age of 59 (he scored a duck!), his true loves were curling in the winter and golf in the summer.  Curling was conducted at a number of locations in the Aboyne district, on the specially-constructed pond at Bellwade, on the Aboyne Loch and on the artificial lake at Glentanar.  In 1881 the cold was so intense at the beginning of March that the Dee froze over and curling was possible on the river near the suspension bridge.  Andrew Gray was a skip on this occasion but lost his match.  Although not as good a practitioner as his brother George, he continued to represent the Aboyne club for some years and became club chaplain about 1880.  In 1881 the club competed for a silver medal which was won by Mr Ogilvie with Andrew Gray and his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Alexander Troup, close behind.
Golf, Scotland’s major contribution to the sporting world, was initially played over a nine-hole course on the Green in the centre of the village.  The game was played regularly in this location from at least 1874 and in 1883 the Aboyne Golf Club was inaugurated.  Andrew Gray became an enthusiastic participant and it was undoubtedly the sport at which he demonstrated most ability.  Between 1884 and 1896 he regularly featured with creditable scores both in matches against other clubs and in internal competitions.  His greatest achievement came in the 1891 season.  In July of that year a golf match was held between the natives of Aboyne and the summer visitors, many being Aberdeen notables who were in the habit of spending the summer months on Deeside.  The visitors beat Aboyne by 45 to 22 and at the close of the match the natives entertained the visitors to dinner in the Huntly Arms Hotel, with Baillie Lyon (actually a visitor) in the chair.  At the request of the Aboyne Club, Baillie Lyon presented Andrew Gray with a gold cross as champion of the green (winner of most matches) for 1891.  In reporting the ceremony the local newspaper remarked, “The genial and much respected schoolmaster deserves hearty congratulations on his success, and long may he be spared to wield the club.”

In 1899 Andrew Gray had been in post as headmaster of Aboyne Public School for 44 years, indeed, it was the only employment he had ever had.  He had now reached the age of 65 and was suffering from some health problem.  It was time to retire and so he presented his resignation to the Aboyne School Board in July of that year, asking to be relieved of his duties at the autumn holidays.  His request was granted and he was awarded a retirement allowance of £100 per year.  The Board recorded its regret at having to part with the services of such an excellent teacher.  In reporting his retirement, the Aberdeen Journal remarked that “Very few public men have commanded more respect than Mr Gray.” An advertisement was placed asking for applications for the vacant post and a large field responded.  James Cruickshank, MA, from neighbouring Kincardine O’Neil, a teacher whom Andrew Gray held in high regard, was appointed and served with distinction for over 20 years.
The school broke up for the summer holidays on Wedneday 1st August, 1899 and, as usual, a picnic for the pupils was held on that day.  They assembled at 2.00pm at the school but before departing for Aboyne Castle, Andrew Gray was presented with an escritoire  by one of the senior girls, who said, – “Please, Mr Gray, the pupils in the upper and middle rooms beg to ask your acceptance of this desk as attribute of our regard and respect.  It is not without a feeling of sadness that we think of taking farewell of you as our teacher, but we sincerely hope that you may have many long years before you to enjoy a well -earned rest after so many years of hard and successful labour.  That the sweetness of rest after toil, and that every comfort may be yours, is the heartfelt wish of your pupils.”  Andrew was taken by surprise but returned thanks in a touching manner.  It must have been a very sad and emotional day for him.
Andrew Gray received another send-off from his professional colleagues in the Kincardine O’Neil branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland.  The gathering took place at the Huntly Arms Hotel, Aboyne, that deeply-familiar hostelry, on Saturday afternoon, 4th November 1899.  A large number of teachers attended from as far away as Strathdon and Aberdeen, under the presidency of Mr Littlejohn, the headmaster at Drumoak.  After the usual loyal and patriotic toasts Mr Littlejohn gave an account of Andrew Gray’s professional life and achievements, pointing out that it was difficult to find a parallel to Andrew’s 44 years of continuous service in the same role, before proposing a toast.  “The toast was responded to with much enthusiasm” and Andrew’s response was followed by further toasts and songs.  “A very happy afternoon was spent.”  Andrew was in his element.   
A meeting of friends and former pupils of Andrew Gray was held in the Village Hall at the beginning of October, under the chairmanship of Rev. James Mackenzie, to discuss presenting an appropriate testimonial to the retired headmaster.  A committee was formed to give effect to the wishes of the meeting and to raise donations.  In early January of 1900 a public meeting was held with Mr F Sandison, Chairman of the School Board presiding.  There was a very large attendance and Francis Sandison praised Andrew Gray for his dignity, sturdy independence and the good relationship that had always existed between the Board and the Headmaster over the past 17 years, since the Education Act came into force.  He then called upon Rev. Mackenzie to make the presentation.  James Mackenzie listed the qualities of personality with which Andrew Gray had been blessed, “his great ability, his strong common sense, his clear head, his generous heart, and the great interest he had taken in everything pertaining to the good of the parish” and the dedication he had shown over a period of 44 years.  He went on, “You have deemed it fitting to retire after a long period of service.  It is a touching thing to demit office.  Your friends and former pupils have been anxious that you should not depart without bearing with you some mark of their esteem.  Accordingly, in their name, I have the honour to request your acceptance of this easy chair and purse of sovereigns as tokens of their appreciation of your work since you became schoolmaster of Aboyne four and forty years ago, with their best wishes for your comfort in your retirement, and hope that you may be spared yet many years in health and strength to enjoy whatever work or amusement may lie to your hand.” (Applause).  Andrew’s was truly a difficult act to follow.

Death and Funeral
On his retirement, Andrew Gray bought a newly-built house, “Beechgrove”, on the Ballater Road west of the village centre.  It retains its name today.  Tragically, Andrew Gray was not long spared to enjoy his retirement.  He died on Saturday, 20 January 1900 at “Beechgrove”, only three weeks after the public testimonial.  Apparently he had been feeling far from strong for some time but did not appear to be seriously ill.  On Friday 19th January he took to his bed and about 2pm on the following day he fell into unconsciousness, dying peacefully about 7pm.  The cause of death was certified as a gastric haemorrhage of five days’ standing, by the Aboyne GP, Dr Keith.  The Aberdeen Journal commented that “Mr Gray’s death will cause a great blank in Aboyne, where he had been so long and so well known.”
Andrew Gray’s funeral took place on 24 January 1900.  His body was removed from “Beechgrove” in the morning and transported to the Parish Church, where the funeral service began at 2.00pm.  The coffin, which was of polished oak, was of beautiful design and was placed in front of the choir.  It had been requested that no flowers should be sent, and there was only one wreath on the coffin, from the Public School pupils.  A few bars of a funeral march were played on the organ previous to the service, which was conducted by his friend the Rev. James Mackenzie. The service consisted of scripture readings, prayers and the hymns “Now the labourer’s task is o’er” and “O God of Bethel”.  A few members of the choir, accompanied by the organ, led the singing.  Chopin’s “Dead March” was played as the body was being removed from the church.  There was no service at the interment, which was in the Gray family plot.
The chief mourners were – Alexander Gray, Ballater, William Gray, Banchory, Benjamin Gray, Aboyne and James Gray, Aberdeen (his brothers), John Davidson and Peter Davidson, Aboyne and Alexander Troup, Ballater (his brothers-in-law) and a large number of his nephews.  Amongst the general public were Sir William Cunliffe Brooks of Glentanar,  James Macbeth, John S Watt (Andrew’s lawyer), George Henderson and others from Aberdeen, Rev. A Mackenzie, Coull, Rev. A Wishart, Aboyne, Rev. Mr Maclean, Public School, Lumphanan, Mr Lawson, teacher, Ballater, Mr Walker, teacher, Glentanar and Mr Anderson, teacher, Logie Coldstone.  A large number of ladies, including Andrew’s relatives, attended the funeral service in the church.    A company of the Aboyne Lodge of Ancient Shepherds (local branch of a friendly society) were present at the funeral, and wore their badges.  Like the Freemasons, the Ancient Shepherds were heavy on regalia.  There was also a company of Freemasons from Lodge 281, where Andrew had been Chaplain for so many years.  The public schools were closed for the day and the scholars, with their teachers, were all present in the front area of the church, in the charge of the new headmaster, James Cruickshank.  There was also a large attendance of the public, the church (it could seat well over 600) being quite filled.  The Parish of Aboyne and Glentanar only had about 1200 residents.  In its edition of 31 January, the Aberdeen Journal commented that “The attendance at the funeral of the Rev Andrew Gray was the largest that has been here for a long time…..”

Will and Estate
The inventory of Andrew Gray’s estate had a net value of £634-14-1, which was the equivalent of about £64,200 in 2013 money.  As a teacher he was not particularly well paid, though his remuneration included a house and, not being married, his expenses would have been less than for a typical married man.  He had an inheritance from his father but, even so, he must have lived a fairly frugal lifestyle to have accumulated money and goods to this value.  In his will, his executors were named as his sister, Martha Mary and Susan, Mr William Ross of Torphins and John Stewart Watt, Advocate of King Street, Aberdeen.  It is interesting that Andrew should have chosen two of his sisters to act as executors, when powerful local personalities such as his brother, Alexander, were available.  However, these two female siblings were the youngest in the Gray family and thus were likely to survive Andrew.  Both were married to prominent Deeside businessmen, Martha Mary to John Davidson, Aboyne baker and confectioner and Susan to Alexander Troup, Ballater butcher and holder of Royal Warrants.  Also, Susan lived with Andrew for some years and herself became a teacher.  She appears to have been particularly close to Andrew. John Stewart Watt was the advocate who drew up Andrew’s will but the status of William Ross of Torphins has not so far been identified.
One hundred pounds went to his sister Martha Mary (Mrs John Davidson), plus an oil painting of Andrew’s father and anything they desire from furniture and personal effects and £15 to each of Martha Mary’s youngest daughters, Mary Matilda and Margaret Robina, together with Andrew’s piano.  Son Andrew Gray Davidson was granted a gold watch and chain.  John Davidson (Martha Mary’s husband) got gold solitaires and a diamond pin.  Son William Davidson was granted gold sleeve links.  £100 to his sister Susan (Mrs Alexander Troup), together with her mother’s large likeness and anything they desire from furniture and personal effects.  Fifteen pounds went to each of her daughters Helen Magdalene and Maude Alexandra.  Alexander Troup (Susan’s husband) got diamond studs and the escritoire, probably the gift from Aboyne School to Andrew on his retirement.  (An escritoire is a writing desk with compartments and drawers concealed by a hinged flap on a chest of drawers or plain stand.)  Son Allan Gray Troup was given a gold hunting watch.  Twenty pounds to his sister Jane, who married Peter Davidson, a gamekeeper.  Twenty pounds to his sister Helen Maria, who married William Smart, later a baker in the village of Old Deer.  Ten pounds to the Smart’s daughter Susan.  Ten pounds to Andrew’s oldest sister Margaret, who married James Melvin, an iron moulder.  Fifteen pounds to Andrew’s brother Alexander, the Aboyne blacksmith.  Thus the distribution described in the will was not by any means equal, as far as Andrew’s brothers and sisters were concerned, since the bulk of the estate went to his two executrix sisters and their families.

Many tributes were paid to Andrew Gray after his death, which give some insight into his character and the reasons that he was held in such high public esteem.  In the Aberdeen Journal of 25 January 1900 an unnamed teacher and close friend of Andrew Gray wrote as follows.  “The grave has now closed over all that remains of one of the kindest, open-handed, open-hearted men it was possible to meet with.  It was greatly to one’s advantage in life to be personally acquainted with the late Mr Andrew Gray, and most cheering in the extreme to be associated with him in any work, either of a clerical or educational character.  His personality was geniality itself.  He was an excellent entertainer, a humourist above all, yet a thorough gentleman and a scholar of no mean order.  It was our good fortune to be closely associated with him during the past quarter of a century of his educational work on Deeside, and accordingly we can speak with some show of authority as to his work as a man, and his ability as a teacher.  Although possessed of a light heart, he bore as serious an aspect as one could well imagine, and over and above his ever-rippling repartee there was shown the sagacity and wisdom of the philosopher.  Mr Gray’s best public work was done during the passing of the Education Act of 1872.  He gave evidence before Lord Young’s Committee.  He was a strong advocate for the old parochial system, and he has just lived long enough to see it again revived, in shadow at least, after being dead for nigh twenty years.  Mr Gray took a living interest in all educational and church organisations.  He was a trained divine, and might have excelled in the area of our Church courts – he certainly would have done had he thrown his lot in with the Church and chosen it solely as his profession.  But in his earlier days the road to the pulpit was through the school, and as it was part of Mr Gray’s nature to do nothing by halves, so to the school he clung through life in spite of all allurements to the contrary.  He was consulted by teachers from far and near.  His home was the rendezvous of all for forty miles round who wished good advice or had grievances to discuss.  We have seen teachers from the south on the one hand, and the north on the other, pouring out their plaints at his fireside; and in his manly sympathy, friendly help, and wise counsel they felt relieved, and left better able to face the world than when they came.  It was not the want of ambition which kept Mr Gray from the Kirk as a profession, and so enriched the educational world at the expense of the clerical.  The question was more than once put to him by the writer why he did not continue in the ministry, and his answer was – “It did not come when I wanted it most, and had need of an increase on my £80 a year (which was his salary for some time at Aboyne) and now that I have abundance and to spare I can do without it.  Besides, I don’t want to begin the world de novo, and especially the clerical world.”  This gives the key to the problem; to put it in one of his own most familiar quotations, he felt he should “rather bear those ills we have than fly to others we know not of.”  He was the soul of honour, and he thought it his duty to stick to the desk in preference to the pulpit – to the fast and ever-widening circle of educational friends he had made rather than risk the attractions of the manse.  He was a teacher and leader of teachers from the first, and he was content and well pleased to rest on the summit he had reached in the educational world in the north-east of Scotland.  It was only in October last that some thirty of the teachers on Deeside, along with friends in the profession from far and near, entertained him to dinner on his retirement, after nigh half a century’s active service in the worrying atmosphere of the classroom.  There was no sign then of the break-down which has come with such sudden painfulness.  It was common remark that he then looked more fit than many of the younger men around the jovial board, and that he seemed to have ten years of life and good health on his side.  It was a unique gathering, and, strangely enough, the hero of the occasion has been the first to receive the call across the bar.  Mr Gray’s life work will long live not only in the charming health resort on the banks of the Dee (ie Aboyne), but in many loving hearts throughout the land.”
Another of Andrew’s friends, Rev Dr Mackenzie, devoted much of his sermon on Sunday 28 January 1900 to eulogising the dead headmaster.  Dr McKenzie chose as his text 1st Corinthians xvi 13 – “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”  From what follows it will be seen that this text was chosen with Andrew Gray in mind.  “I alluded last Lord’s day to three of our number who had lately been taken from us by sudden strokes – one a fine type of the old Scottish peasantry, who died in a good old age, an old man and full of years; one a wife and mother, who devoted herself to her husband and her family, and who died leaving that great blank, which the death of a mother always leaves; and one a man who had taken part in many public concerns, long a teacher of youth, and an elder of the church.  Mr Gray was a strong and unique personality, whose like we shall not readily see again.  No one could look at that massive head and those strong clear eyes of his without feeling that power was there, and great resource.  He was indeed a man of great natural gifts, and this was shown throughout all his work, and all his life.  He was a strong Churchman, and some acknowledgement is due here of the work which he did for the church and for this congregation.  He was our session clerk, but he did not count his work done when he had written his minute, or as it were “furnished his tale of bricks”.  On the contrary, he was willing to aid in any work that was being done in the interests of the church.  He did it ungrudgingly.  He counted it a pleasure.  He was secretary of the Committee on the Smaller Livings; he was secretary of the Church Defence Committee; he issued, collected, and arranged the schedules for the schemes.  He could go through a great deal of work, and, so far as I am aware, he left no work in arrear.  The session records are written up to the last day Mr Gray was in church – the last Sunday of the year.  The marriage schedule of the couple I married on his funeral day had been filled up by his own hand.  He was kindly and generous, clear headed and well informed; he was ever ready to give his advice on all matters on which he was consulted, and whenever any question comes up for discussion connected with the church or the congregation, we shall miss the clear head and the strong arm of Mr Andrew Gray.”
Anyone retiring from the post of dominie in a rural Aberdeenshire parish after 44 years of service in the same post is likely to be the subject of much eulogising.  Further, Andrew Gray died soon after his retirement, thus adding public grief to public admiration.  However, it is clear that the generous words of praise uttered by Dr James Mackenzie and others were a genuine expression of their feelings and not mere formalities demanded by the circumstances.  Perhaps 600 people attended Andrew Gray’s funeral, the largest attendance there had been in Aboyne for a long time.  The public schools were closed for the day and the most important landowner in the area, Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, was present to pay his respects.
Andrew Gray had “presence”, with his “massive head” and “strong clear eyes”.  He impressed with his wit, wisdom, administrative efficiency and sheer hard work on behalf of his profession, his church and his community.  Within the teaching profession his opinion was widely sought and generously given.  Aboyne citizens would have encountered him frequently in connection not only with the public school but also in association with other organisations forming the cohesive network of the community, such as the Masonic Lodge, the parish church, the golf club and the registrar’s office.  With his intellect and admirable qualities of personality, Andrew Gray could surely have aspired to other, higher roles in either the church or education.  Why did he remain in Aboyne, in the same teaching role, for almost half a century?  Enough information is available to sketch a plausible explanation for this fact.
Andrew was born in Aboyne of artisan stock.  He was the son of the village baker, who himself remained in the same role for about 48 years.  Before Andrew departed for King’s College in Aberdeen in 1851 at the age of 17, Aboyne and its immediate hinterland must have constituted his whole world.  The railway, which revolutionised travel along the Dee valley, did not reach Aboyne until 1859 and Andrew would have travelled to and from his studies at the university by coach along inadequate roads.  When he graduated in both arts and divinity and was immediately appointed as dominie in his home village at the age of 21, Andrew must have concluded that he had reached a high station in life.  A village lad from his background would probably have been content to reach such a position after many years of toil.
Andrew’s income as headmaster of Aboyne public school was ~£80/year, made up of a stipend of ~£28/year, a bequest and fees from pupils.  He would have known that the incumbent of the manse was far better paid, with a stipend of ~£150/year and he almost certainly had aspirations to move in that direction.  In those days the route to the manse lay through the school and Andrew was qualified in both arts and divinity.  An unidentified teacher friend of Andrew Gray, writing in the Aberdeen Journal after his death, claimed that Andrew Gray did not lack the ambition to become a divine but that Andrew had said, “It did not come when I wanted it most and had need of an increase on my £80/year and now that I have abundance and to spare I can do without it”.  It appears that he was happy teaching but that he felt badly paid.  He did not seem to have felt a calling to the church, rather, at that stage of his life, the pay was better.  By the time that his remuneration as a teacher had improved he entertained quite negative feelings about changing profession.  “Besides I don’t want to begin the world de novo and especially the clerical world.”  And “Rather bear those ills we have than fly to others we know not of.”
Dr James Mackenzie revealed that Andrew Gray had been offered the headmastership of one of the most important parish schools in Aberdeenshire and that he had virtually accepted it but, on returning to Aboyne, he had decided that he did not want to leave.  All this suggests that Andrew Gray was living a comfortable and interesting life as dominie in Aboyne and that he was reluctant to move out of his comfort zone, either by changing profession or by moving on and up in the teaching profession.  It should be remembered that Andrew never married, so a move away from his beloved Aboyne would have entailed moving without the measure of continuity that a wife and family brings.  Andrew was an Aboyne loon and happy to be a big fish in a small pond.  Another point which is probably relevant to Andrew’s decision not to seek advancement in the educational world was his apparent contentment to fill supporting rather than leadership roles.

Andrew Gray’s grave is marked by a substantial cylindrical granite obelisk.  It is inscribed as follows.  “Sacred to the memory of the Rev Andrew Gray, MA Born 19th February 1836; died 20th January, 1900, aged 64 years.  For 44 years headmaster of the Public School, Aboyne.”
“Father in Thy gracious keeping, Leave we now Thy servant sleeping.”

Don Fox

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