Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 135,687 pages of information and 217,205 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Robert Kaye Gray

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search

Robert Kaye Gray (1851-1914) of the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works Co


1914 Obituary [1]

ROBERT KAYE GRAY, Past President, was born in June, 1851, and died on the 28th April, 1914.

He received his early education in Greenock, entered University College School in 1865 and later University College.

The son of Matthew Gray, Manager of the India Rubber, Gutta Percha, and Telegraph Works Company, Ltd., he entered the service of that Company in 1869. He later became Chief Electrician and in 1875 Engineer-in-Chief.

The submarine cable industry had by this time come through its initiatory period of romance and uncertainty and had settled down as a technical business involving for its successful accomplishment the combination of high scientific attainments and considerable commercial acumen. This combination Robert Kaye Gray possessed in a remarkable degree.

In 1901 he became Managing Director of the Company and was in addition a Director of the following submarine cable companies:— Cuba Submarine Telegraph Co., Ltd., Spanish National Telegraph Co., Ltd. (Chairman), West African Telegraph Co., Ltd., and South American Cable Co., Ltd. (Chairman).

With all the demands upon his attention, which his business pursuits made, he gave ungrudgingly of his time and his ripe experience to learned and other societies. He was a member of the Royal Institution, the Royal Society of Arts, the Institution of Civil Engineers, and the Institute of Metals. In all of these he took a lively interest, and in some he was an active worker, but it was to the Institution of Electrical Engineers that he gave his closest attention.

He was elected an Associate in 1874, and a Member in 1877. He was first elected to the Council in 1894, served as Vice-President in 1895 and 1899, and in 1903 was elected President. It was in this year that the International Telegraph Conference was held in London, and the wisdom of the Institution in selecting so prominent a telegraph member as its premier officer was abundantly justified.

The principal social function in connection with the Conference was a concert at the Albert Hall to which Mr. Gray invited all the members of the Institution to meet the delegates of the Congress. Excursions to Warwick Castle, Shakespeare's birthplace, and other historic localities, were organized and personally conducted by Mr. Gray, as well as visits to places of technical interest nearer London. The success of these excursions was remarked by all.

Everything was foreseen and nothing happened that ought not to have happened. Mr. Gray organized these functions himself. He was the general, each department had its lieutenant, and the visitors, whilst appreciative of the results, were ignorant of the organization and the military precision by which such results were obtained. He was in charge of the foreign visits to Italy and St. Louis, ensuring for the members instructive and enjoyable trips, and for the Institution a representation in harmony with its position and traditions.

To the Town Council of Colchester he presented in 1904 the picture by W. Ackland Hunt of Gilbert showing his experiments to Queen Elizabeth and her Court. As a mark of appreciation of his services his colleagues on the Council and past members presented him in 1906 with his portrait painted by Miss Beatrice Bright, daughter of the late Sir Charles Bright. A replica of the same portrait painted by the same artist was also presented to the Institution.

In the year of his presidency the Institution sustained a very serious loss in the death of Mr. McMillan, the Secretary, whose untiring labours and single-minded devotion established a tradition which will long prevail. For some time Mr. Gray practically added the administrative duties of the Secretary to those of the President.

He took exceptional care in the appointment of a new Secretary, organized a Committee for the purpose and took a leading part in its deliberations. It was found that the Articles of Association prevented the Institution making a suitable acknowledgment of Mr. McMillan's services by a pension or allowance to his widow and children, and Mr. Gray instituted that subscription from the members which made some amends for the lack of suitable acknowledgment from the Institution's funds.

He represented the Institution on the governing bodies of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, and the National Physical Laboratory. For many years past Mr. Gray acted as Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Institution. It was a position for which he was admirably adapted. Sound in judgment, careful in details, he handled small things and great in a manner to attain the best results. He took great interest in the acquisition of the new building and its alteration, considered with much care the financial aspect, and was keenly appreciative of the satisfactory outcome. It has been well said of him that he was "the most beloved man in the broad community that centres upon the electrical and telegraph industry in this country," and it may perhaps with equal truth be said that the Institution of Electrical Engineers was by him the most beloved of the interests which occupied his time and thoughts. He cherished the objects of the Institution, was jealous of its honour and prestige, concerned that its influence should not be invoked for doubtful causes, proud of its progress, and solicitous for its continued welfare. He made no claims to oratory. He spoke with brevity, but with a sincerity and conviction which appealed with effect to every listener. Yet it was not as a speaker in a large gathering but when with "Friends in Council," as Chairman or Member of Committees, that his magnetism was most effective. Sincerity and unselfishness were his dominating characteristics, and thoughtful kindliness their constant manifestation. At the Albert Hall and other similar celebrations it was the Institution that was in the forefront and not Robert Gray ; at Colchester he presented a picture on behalf of subscribers, but the preponderance (as is probable) of his own subscription was never considered. And it was the same in every action for the Institution. His was the word and the work of a man who sought the end and in the means* thought not at all of himself. Esteemed as he was by his colleagues and every member of the staff the universal reflection must be that "take him for all in all we shall not look upon his like again."


1914 Obituary [2]

ROBERT KAYE GRAY died at Brighton, after a long illness, on April 28, 1914.

He was born in 1851, and received his early education at Greenock, afterwards studying at University College School, and later at University College, which he left in 1869 in order to study in Paris.

During the Franco-Prussian war he was engaged, together with his father, the late Mr. Matthew Gray, in laying a submarine cable from Gravelines to Bordeaux, and from that time on was engaged in laying undertakings in various parts of the world on behalf of his company, the India-Rubber, Gutta-Percha, and Telegraph Works Company, Limited.

Of this company Mr. R. Kaye Gray was appointed Managing Director upon the death of his father, retiring in 1913 from this position after being associated with the company for forty-four years.

As a result of his arduous cable-laying experiences, which brought him in close touch with the Spanish and Portuguese Governments, Mr. Gray was decorated with several orders by these Governments.

Mr. Gray was a notable President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, over which body he presided in 1903-4. He was a Member of the Council of the Royal Society of Arts, and of many other societies. His connection with the Institute of Metals, of which he was elected a Vice-President a few weeks before his lamented death, dated from the foundation of the Institute in 1908, when he became one of the original Members of Council. In addition, Mr. R. Kaye Gray did very useful work upon several of the Institute's Committees, including the Publication Committee.


1914 Obituary [3]



1914 Obituary.[4]



See Also

Loading...

Sources of Information