recommendation of Lord Granville, governor of Ceylon, having been sworn a member of the Irish privy council early in the same year, and in January 1872 sailed for that dependency, in which he remained for over five years. In this position Gregory exhibited the highest administrative qualities, and his tenure of the governorship was one of uninterrupted success. He 'spent more money on reproductive works than any other governor, doing much to stimulate the cultivation of coffee and tea, and to improve the harbours of the island.' He was also active in restoring the architectural remains of the ancient Kandyan kings. In 1876 he received the prince of Wales in Colombo on the occasion of his visit to India, and was made K.C.M.G. A statue of Gregory stands before the museum at Colombo. In 1877 he resigned his office and returned to Ireland. Thenceforward Gregory took no active part in public affairs, though his interest in them remained keen. As an Irish landlord he approved Gladstone's Land Act of 1881. But he was stoutly opposed to the home-rule movement; and in 1881 he printed privately a 'Confidential Letter,' in which he combated the separatist aims of Parnell and his followers. He had, however, a deep sympathy with oppressed nationalities, and with most aspirations for local independence. He was in favour of the recognition of the independence of the southern states during the American civil war; and in 1882 he advocated the cause of Arabi Pasha in letters to the 'Times.' Subsequently to his retirement from the Ceylon government he paid three visits to that island. In 1889 he contributed to the 'Nineteenth Century' an article on Daniel O'Connell, whom he had known well in early life. After 1890 Gregory's health gradually failed, and he died at St. George's Place, London, on 6 March 1892, from the effects of a chill contracted when attending a meeting of the trustees of the National Gallery.
Gregory was twice married : first, in January 1872, to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Clay and widow of James Temple Bowdoin, a lady possessed of considerable private fortune, who died in 1873; secondly, on 2 March 1880, to Augusta, youngest daughter of Dudley Persse of Roxborough, co. Galway, who survived him with one son, William Robert Gregory.
Gregory was a man of great natural abilities, real political talent, and marked personal charm, who, but for a certain inherent instability, might easily have attained to the most eminent political positions. He was an excellent landlord, and enjoyed through the worst phases of Irish agrarian agitation the regard of his tenantry and the goodwill of all classes of his countrymen.
The main authority for Gregory's career is his autobiography, written in his retirement between the years 1884 and 1891, and published in 1894 by Lady Gregory. The portrait prefixed to that work conveys a somewhat erroneous impression of his figure, which was slight and delicate, though his head was massive.
[Sir William Gregory, K.C.M.G.: an Autobiogrnphy, 1894 ; Burke's Landed Gentry; Men of the Time for 1891 ; obituary notice in Times, 8 March 1892 ; F. B. Lawley's Racing Life of Lord George Bentinck ; Ferguson's Ceylon in the Jubilee Year.]