Sir John Gray

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Gray, Sir John, was born at Claremorris, in the County of Mayo, in 1816. He studied medicine, and shortly before his marriage in 1839 settled in Dublin as physician to an hospital in North Cumberland-street. He was before long drawn into politics, and in 1841 began to write for the Freeman's Journal, of which paper he eventually became proprietor. He warmly advocated the repeal of the Union, and was one of O'Connell's ablest supporters. Full of suggestive energy and resource, he originated and organized those courts of arbitration which O'Connell endeavoured to substitute for the legal tribunals of the country. He was prosecuted in 1844 for alleged seditious language, and suffered imprisonment with O'Connell.

After O'Connell's death Dr. Gray continued to take a prominent part in Irish politics and in local affairs. It was to his energy and determination, as a member of the Dublin Corporation, that the citizens of Dublin owe their present excellent Vartry water supply. His capacity for business and his mechanical skill were never more clearly shown than in carrying this undertaking to a successful issue in the face of determined opposition from a large party of his fellow-citizens. On the opening of the works, 30th June 1863, he was knighted by the Earl of Carlisle, Lord-Lieutenant. At the general election of 1865 Sir John was returned for Kilkenny, a seat which he held until his death. He took a prominent and effective part in the passage of the Church and Land Bills, and supported the Home Rule movement.

He died at Bath, 9th April 1875, aged 59, and his remains were honoured with a public funeral at Glasnevin. His fellow-citizens almost immediately set about the erection of a monument in appreciation of his many services to his country, and of the splendid supply of pure water which he secured for Dublin. Sir John Gray was a Protestant. The Athenaeum said at the period of his death: "Sir John Gray was, among his compatriots, a remarkable, and in many respects a singular man. Without the rigidity or sectarianism of Ulster Anglo-Saxonism, he possessed in an eminent degree the logical and self-reliant characteristics of the race. Without the eloquence or wit which distinguished so many of the more Celtic and southern of his competitors for fame, he possessed all their versatility of temperament and readiness of expression. Ardently attached to scientific inquiry, many of his leisure hours were devoted to chemical and mechanical pursuits, and his rare versatility in arithmetical calculation gave him great advantages in council and debate. His decease at the comparatively early age of sixty years is, we believe, ascribed in a great degree to his unresting love of work, and the earnestness with which he entered into all he put his hand to do."

His paper, the Freeman's Journal, which he raised by his talents to be the most powerful organ of public opinion in Ireland, he left to the management of his son, Mr. Edmund D. Gray.

Sources

15. Athenaeum, The—Principally referred to under No. 233.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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