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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Gray, The Reverend James (1770-1830)

After having been apprenticed to a shoemaker, Gray educated himself to become a schoolmaster. When Burns arrived in Dumfries, Gray was Latin master and ipso facto headmaster, of Dumfries Academy. He taught Burns's children.

In 1801 he moved to the High School of Edinburgh. In the capital, his home was a rendevous of the literati, among them James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, who married Gray's sister in law Margaret Phillips. Gray was made the fifteenth bard in 'The Queens Wake', the passage beginning "The next was bred on southern shore" referring to him. In 1822, Gray became Principal of Belfast Academy. Soon afterwards, he decided to take orders, and was admitted a Deacon of the Church of Ireland in 1823. In 1826 he went to India and became Chaplain at the station of Bhooj, in Cutch. Whilst there, he made the first written vocabulary of Cutchee, and translated parts of the Bible into that language. His other wriings were works on classical topics, and two collections of poems, Cora, or the Vale of Choyd and other poems and Sabbath among the Mountains, which described his recollections of Roseneath.

Gray's main importance in the Burns story, however, is that in 1815 he wrote a defence for the poet for the biographer Alexander Peterkin. In this, Gray pointed out the vast quantity of poetry written by Burns during his Dumfries days: 'Not many days passed... in which he did not compose some piece of poetry or some song designed to delight the imagination and soften the heart.' Gray then described Burns as: 'A kind and attentive father who took great delight in cultivating the minds of his children'. He added: 'I would ask any person of common candour if employments like these are consistent with habitual drunkenness?' Gray was thus the first person to challenge the Currie legend of Burns as a drunken debaucher.

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Robert Burns Store

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
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Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

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