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Gray, Samuel Willam (1823–1889)

We regret very much having to announce the death of Mr. Samuel William Gray, which occurred at Sydney on Friday last. The deceased gentleman had not been in very good health some time previous to his death, but for a few weeks prior to the attack which carried him off he appeared to be fairly well. On Friday, however, he was stricken down by apoplexy, which, after short duration, terminated in death. He leaves a widow and four daughters and two sons. Mrs. Gray and several members of the family paid a lengthened visit to the old country latterly, private affairs preventing Mr. Gray accompanying them. Fortunately, however, they arrived in Sydney within a fortnight before his death, and thus had the painful satisfaction of being present during his last hours. Two daughters are married, one having married in Sydney a few years ago and the other in England during the visit alluded to. The deceased had reached his sixty-sixth year. Born in Armagh in the North of Ireland, he came to this colony at an early age with his parents, and very shortly afterwards his father (the late Mr. James Mackey Gray) settled with his family at Gerringong in this district. The estate, of which the latter gentleman was the owner, and on which he spent the remainder of his days, was very appropriately termed 'Omega Retreat,' by him. Altogether, it is upwards of half-a-century since the subject of these remarks first resided in this district. He was kind-hearted and genial in nature to a marked degree, and in the latter years of his life, as well as in the earlier stages of his experience, was an advanced Liberal in politics. Naturally gifted to a very great extent, he became a public character in a local sense at a comparatively early age. At the first election for Kiama, on that constituency being divided from the northern part of the former electorate of East Camden, which extended to the Shoalhaven River, he was returned to Parliament by a large majority over his opponent (Mr. George Grey). At the following general election, which was the appeal to the country on the question of 'free selection before survey,' in regard to Robertson's Land Act, Mr. Gray was returned unopposed, being as he was an out-and-out supporter of the principle mentioned. In those earlier years of his public life he gave great promise of becoming one of the leading statesmen of the colony, a position for which he had ample ability. So much was this the case that he was selected by the Cowper party at the time to move a vote of censure against the Forster Government, which held the reins of power for a short period. The Government were ousted on his motion, but, like Mr. Want, in regard to a recent occurrence of a similar character he laid no claim to his semi-constitutional right, of being called on to form the succeeding Ministry. Having ably represented Kiama in two Parliaments, he retired from public life to a great extent for several years, meanwhile taking up and occupying a large area of land on the Tweed River, of which settlement he may be said to have been the pioneer. After the representation of this electorate by the late Hon. William Forster, Mr. Gray was induced to become a candidate for the vacant seat, and was returned by a considerable majority over Mr. Lysaght. The lllawarra railway movement, which was initiated during the latter part of Mr. Forster's representation of the district, found a strong and strenuous supporter in Mr. Gray. In coming forward as a candidate for lllawarra at the following general election, he was returned unopposed, but before the end of the Parliament, then brought together, he resigned his seat, in order to take a trip to the old country, and the late Sir Alexander Stuart was elected in his stead. Shortly after his return to the colony, however, he was elected for the Richmond and Tweed, which he represented in one Parliament. Though not taking a prominent part in the Assembly during the period he was member for this electorate, or subsequently, he rendered good service in a local cause. To him more than to any other member of Parliament, past or present, is due the credit of having successfully worked the Illawarra railway scheme into a Government policy line. He fought the battle for it in Parliament when its friends were few and its enemies numerous and powerful. More than once he was almost subjected to actual violence in the House for his advocacy of the lllawarra railway. Many of our readers will remember the brutal attack made upon him in the Assembly by Mr. McElhone in opposition to resolutions he was moving in advocacy of this railway. So great was the disorder caused by Mr McElhone on the occasion that the House was abruptly adjourned in consequence. But Mr. Gray was made of too sturdy a stuff to be thwarted, brow-beaten, or defeated in any way whatever. Step by step he gained ground for the Illawarra railway in public opinion, until, before resigning his seat for this district, he had the unqualified assurance of the Ministry of the day that the line would be included in their next Government policy. That assurance was carried out, with the result so far that the railway now connects Sydney, Kiama, and intermediate localities. And as if to solemnly re-impress the uncertainty of life and its affairs upon those immediately connected with this great railway movement, the first body conveyed to Kiama by rail for burial has been that of him who in Parliament was mainly instrumental in having the line constructed and who certainly did infinitely more towards that end by his ability and purse than did all the other residents of the Kiama district. A special train conveyed the mortal remains of the deceased gentleman to Kiama on Sunday forenoon, and they were taken thence to the Gerringong cemetery to repose in that last resting-place of charming beauty beside those of his late father and mother. A large number of friends accompanied the funeral from Sydney, and at Wollongong Mr. William Osborne, J.P. (who is married to the deceased's younger sister), his son Mr. F. Osborne, and a few other relatives and personal friends of the departed joined the train, which returned again in the afternoon.

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'Gray, Samuel Willam (1823–1889)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/gray-samuel-willam-26779/text34383, accessed 18 October 2019.

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