Gray, Charles (DNB00)

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GRAY, CHARLES (1782–1851), captain in the marines and song-writer, was born at Anstruther, Fifeshire, on 10 March 1782. His education and early training fitted him for the sea, and in 1805, through the influence of a maternal uncle, he received a commission in the Woolwich division of the royal marines. He was thirty-six years in the service, and retired on a captain's full pay in 1841. He spent the remainder of his days in Edinburgh, devoting himself zealously to the production and the criticism of Scottish song. He had published in 1811 a volume entitled ‘Poems and Songs,’ which went into a second edition at the end of three years. In 1813, on a visit to Anstruther, he had joined in the formation of a ‘Musomanik Society,’ a medium through which, in the four years of its existence, the members made original contributions to Scottish song.

All through his naval career, Gray had practised lyric composition, and when he retired his friends induced him in 1841 to publish his second volume, ‘Lays and Lyrics.’ Several of these were set to music by Peter m'Leod, and it is in one of them—‘When Autumn has laid her sickle by’—which Gray himself liked to sing, that he makes almost the only pointed allusion to his life at sea. He contributed to Wood's ‘Book of Scottish Song,’ and he is one of the numerous lyrists in ‘Whistle-Binkie.’ He was a genial, humorous man, greatly beloved by many literary friends, and his best songs are social and sentimental. Besides his original verse Gray wrote some noteworthy criticism. About 1845 he contributed to the ‘Glasgow Citizen’ ‘Notes on Scottish Song,’ which include appreciative and discriminating passages on Burns. These papers have been largely utilised in illustrative notes to collections of Scottish lyrics. Gray married early, his wife, Jessie Carstairs, being sister of the Rev. Dr. Carstairs, of Anstruther. She and one of her two sons predeceased Gray, at whose death, on 13 April 1851, the remaining son was a lieutenant in the royal marines.

[Conolly's Eminent Men of Fife; Anderson's Scottish Nation; Whistle-Binkie; Wilson's Poets and Poetry of Scotland.]

T. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.141
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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4 ii 14f.e. Gray, Charles: for the royal navy read the marines