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Andrew Paton Gray MB Ch.B

Andrew Paton Gray
Aged 54

Andrew, known always as Andy, was the seventh son and the second of the two doctors. His name of Paton derived from an uncle who was similarly christened Andrew Paton Gray; its origin is unknown and it does not appear in earlier generations.

He was born in 1886 and following the village school and Mackie Academy entered Aberdeen University at the age of 18 where he qualified as a doctor. (We were always told that the reason he decided upon medicine was that he was intrigued by the reappearance of a small blue bead he had swallowed!)

After qualifying in 1912 he went, like his brother James, as a ship's doctor to Japan, primarily, in his case, to recuperate from nephritis. During the voyage a pet monkey bit his finger so badly that it was misshapen thereafter; a map of his journey used to hang in his surgery. On his return he stayed with James at Sileby who was by then an established GP; as a result he decided to put up his own plate in the nearby village of Barrow-upon-Soar.

In the First World War, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and served in France where he had a lucky escape when he survived being buried for three days.

He met his wife-to-be, Lisette, who was French, not in France but at Keabog. She was at school in England and staying with a school friend who lived at the farm next to Keabog; out walking one day she sprained an ankle and hobbled into Keabog where Granny Gray immersed her foot in hot water and summoned Andy, then a medical student. Lisette came from Lyon and they were married in France in 1916.

After the war they came back to Barrow where they bought and lived at the Chestnuts - an old farmhouse in the cruck style - until he died. He operated throughout as a GP with surgeries at Wymeswold and Quorn as well as Barrow, and served as MO to the local Home Guard in the Second World War. (During that war, when the Morris car which he used for his rounds was becoming unreliable and spares were scarce and new cars virtually unobtainable, he wrote explaining his difficulty direct to Lord Nuffield who promptly arranged a replacement.)

Our Father was one of the shorter brothers and had plenty of black wavy hair which he kept until his death. He was bespectacled and moved briskly with quick short strides; this and a habit of putting his head quizzically on one side when engaged in conversation gave him a rather sparrow-like manner. He rarely used an overcoat but did wear huge gauntlet gloves in cold weather. He loved mountains and his garden and just before the Second World War kept a very successful flock of racing pigeons. In his younger days he did quite a lot of shooting and fishing and kept up the latter for many years, usually managing to persuade someone to produce worms for bait and gamekeepers to allow him to fish where he wished!

He liked tinkering with watches and clocks, which prompted a French jeweller friend to say that he might be a good doctor but he was not a very good watch maker; the clock in the surgery was held together with cellotape and catgut but seemed to work. He also took pleasure in music, especially opera and jazz. He had a great sense of humour and was an excellent story-teller; he could keep children amused for hours with the tales he made up. He was also something of a gossip which endeared him to his patients but meant we never knew when he would be home for a meal. He was also very good at getting people to help him out of scrapes and on one occasion at Keabog, Auntie Ada had to polish his buttons the night before he went to University Officers' Training Corps Camp.

He was unfortunately a heavy smoker - he especially liked black Turkish cigarettes - and the habit contributed greatly to his death; it not only damaged his heart but also affected his legs, making walking very painful.

It was proof of his popularity in the village that although he was a rare churchgoer, the local Church was overflowing at his funeral; people talk about him to this day and he has an Old People's Home named after him and a sundial to his memory in the churchyard.

Contributed by Marie and Eva, his two daughters.

Marie served in the Second World War as a WRNS officer and married John Hardy-Smith, a leather manufacturer and in the RASC in the war. Eva followed in her father's footsteps and joined him in his practice, later becoming a specialist in dermatology at Leicester Infirmary; she married James Sherriffs also a doctor who served in the RAF in wartime and joined his father-in-law, taking over the practice after Andy's death.

Ian Gray, a nephew, writes:

As with the visits to Uncle Jim at Sileby, I remember well those made to the Chestnuts including a Christmas when my sister Mary (aged 10?) caused consternation by fainting at the Midnight Mass in the Catholic church to which we had been taken by Aunt Lisette, due it was thought to the unfamiliar smell of the incense. The Chestnuts was a treasure trove of delights to me with its quaint, narrow passages and stairs, the seeming antiquity of the house - the wooden beams, the stone floors - and the distinctive smell of ether from the surgery. The large and ordered garden too made a lasting impression - all so different from home in London.

Uncle Andy used to take Mary and me with him on his rounds and derived great glee from our squeals when, by driving fast over humpbacked bridges, he caused us to be thrown from our seats in the back of the car up against the roof - which could not have been very hard, I suppose! I also recall an occasion when in the garden I saw him shoot a starling from the bathroom window while in the middle of his shaving, his face covered in lather; and at another time, he shot one which was sitting on a chimney pot which fell through the chimney on to the hearth beneath - what a trick, I thought.

I can also recall many of the jokes he used to tell, most, as befits a doctor, concerned with bodily functions - vide the progress of the bead already referred to - and his high-pitched almost hysterical laughter when he reached the punch lines.

Finally, I have him to thank for introducing me to gin! He had a number of patients who did not require immediate attention but liked to see him regularly and whom he visited on a Sunday morning. On one such call, he was offered a drink - I suspect this was one of his reasons for these rounds - and he was asked 'what would the boy like?' (I must have been about 12). Uncle said 'give him a gin - he has got to start sometime!' The story then goes that having drunk my gin (which I did not like at all) once back at the Chestnuts I lay down on the sofa and slept for two hours!

He was an endearing and most amusing Uncle.

Margaret Crowther (nee Gray), a niece, also recalls:

During the Second World War I stayed for a brief period with Uncle Andy and Auntie Lisette before starting a course at a nearby agricultural college. Thereafter I spent practically every weekend at Barrow for the next six months which included Christmas. Uncle Andy was fun, full of good humour and always saw the funny side of things. I stayed in the car when he went on his rounds. I gathered later that he and Auntie Lisette initially found me hard going, for at that age of 18+ I was very circumspect and had to know people. The ice was broken when on the rounds one day we stopped at a little house in a field where there was a rather fine cow. As Uncle Andy came out of the gate Auntie Lisette passed a remark obviously about the cow. I asked 'which one do you mean?' Auntie Lisette absolutely curled up and could not wait to tell Uncle Andy.

They were both wonderful to me. When people came to the house, which was often, they both made a point that I was never overlooked. If ever any one was leaving and had forgotten to say goodbye to me they were reminded 'say goodbye to Margaret'; and similarly if they did not say hello. They praised me up to the skies for little jobs I did for them and gave me confidence in myself which is a wonderful gift to give someone - one of the best. Alas, it was only much later that I realised what they had given to me so that I never really thanked them as I should have done. However, I am eternally grateful to them both and they have a special place in my heart.