RNLI tributes for irreplaceable QC

Gilbert Gray QC
Gilbert Gray QC

FURTHER tributes have been paid to “irreplaceable” Scarborough barrister Gilbert Gray QC.

Father-of-four Mr Gray died last week aged 82 – just six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.

A keen sailor and the owner of a number of catamarans, he was given the honour of becoming president of both Scarborough and Filey lifeboats.

Colin Lawson, Scarborough RNLI Lifeboat operations manager, said Mr Gray was “irreplaceable”, adding: “I’ve known Gilbert for more years than I can remember and he really was one of a kind. He was a father figure to me and to many others at the lifeboat station, as well as a great friend to all of us. He was an amazing character – a wonderful orator who could deliver humorous but moving speeches and was always in demand to speak at lifeboat naming ceremonies and other special RNLI occasions.

“We were all very sad to hear of his death. Gilbert will be remembered by all who knew him as a wonderful chap, a true friend and a proud Yorkshireman, who was great company and a true ambassador for the RNLI.”

RNLI operations director Mike Vlasto OBE also paid tribute. He said: “Gilbert Gray was a great supporter of the RNLI for many years with a particular focus on the North East stations and Scarborough Lifeboat Station in particular. “His interest in and support of local RNLI initiatives was greatly appreciated and often made quite a difference. Not a man to follow as a speaker at the annual crew dinner – his oratory was always humorous, to the point and effective. He will be sadly missed.

“No doubt many people will have their own way of remembering Gilbert but the words: ‘A true ambassador, supporter, friend and Yorkshireman for Scarborough lifeboat station’ fit the bill.”

Friends of Mr Gray, who was a former pupil of Friarage School and Scarborough Boys’ High School have recalled with affection how he was persuaded to give up sailing after several rescue missions by the RNLI. One of his boats Magnificat is on the wall in the lifeboat house in honour of his rescue.

School friend and Evening News correspondent Mick Jefferson said: “He was an incredible youngster. He lived in the Old Town, his father had a butcher’s shop in Princess Square. About the end of the war he bought this yacht which was incredibly old. My memory may be entirely wrong but I have a feeling he got it for around £30, and did it up and used to sail in it.

“More than once he had to be assisted back to port well after dark, accompanied by the lifeboat and all sorts of things. He did a lot for the lifeboat in later years.”

Head of York Chambers, and a former Yorkshire Lawyer of the Year, Mr Gray was involved in a number of high-profile criminal cases during his distinguished career, acting in cases involving the Official Secrets Act, terrorism, and international sanctions disputes including Matrix Churchill and the Cyprus Spy Trial. He continued working right up until his death.

His funeral is being held on Friday at Holy Trinity Church in Bosham, near Chichester, where he lived with his wife Dilys when they weren’t in Scarborough. He will be laid to rest in Scarborough’s South Bay, with his ashes spread from Scarborough’s lifeboat.