Robert Gray

Born 16 June 1907, Johnstone - Died 13 January 1999, Johnstone

Photo courtesy of Iain Sinclair, taken from a newspaper article, but source unknown.

Robert Gray was born at 8 Mary St, Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland and died in his home town three days after transferring from the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley to the Lancefield Nursing Home.

Mr Gray studied the problems printed in the chess columns of the Glasgow Herald in the 1930s, and took part in the solving competition using the pen-name 'Algol'.

He then began composing problems, the first of which was published in the Glasgow Herald column of January 9, 1932. D.M. MacIsaac, the editor of the column, remarked that it was "as pretty a 2-mover as we have seen."

Glasgow Herald chess column, January 9, 1932.
White to play and mate in two.

When discussing the solution two weeks later, MacIsaac commented that after the key move 1. Rd3, "The feature of the problem is the double pin mate by 1...Kd5 2. e4, but all the variations are pretty, and the effects are secured with admirable economy."

Mr Gray would have many more problems published in the Herald over the years, but he also submitted his compositions to a number of other periodicals around the world, winning several prizes and commendations.

His interests were not confined to chess. From 1939, for forty years, he contributed articles to American Bridge World. By the late 1940s Mr Gray had transferred most of his energies to Bridge, becoming president of the Scottish Bridge Union in the 1950s.

Perhaps because of his mathematics background, Mr Gray also had an interest in various other puzzles. He contributed "brain-teasers" to the Sunday Times from 1975 to 1989, and produced word puzzles for the American magazines Games and Four-Star Puzzler.

In 1995 the British Chess Problem Society held its annual meeting at Paisley, Scotland. Iain Sinclair, who had developed an interest in problems at Paisley Grammar School in the late 1960s, where Mr Gray was Deputy Head Master, delivered a lecture on "The Problems of Robert Gray". This was a deeply researched piece of work which can be read here.

Paisley Grammar School chess team 1970, with Mr Gray.
Back row: far left Gordon Beattie; fourth from the left is Robert Law.
Front row: far left is Douglas MacGregor, then Fraser McLeod and
Iain Sinclair.
Thanks to Derek Stark for comments on Beattie, Law and McLeod.
Professor Iain Provan, a former pupil, suggests that P. May (Peter?) is third from left and G. Morrison (Graham?) is fifth from left in the back row. He thinks C. Sutherland is fourth from left in the front row.
Identification of the others would be welcomed.
See the Photo Archive for other Paisley Grammar School photos from 1972 and 1974.

Source: The Problemist, May 1996. Photo taken March 1996 at the Mansfield Centenary Meeting at Paisley, when Barry Barnes delivered a lecture on Comins Mansfield. Left to right: Geoffrey Mansfield (son of Comins), Robert Gray and Barry Barnes, International Master of Chess Composition.

Iain Sinclair
The Problemist, January 1999.

Alan McGowan

updated 27/1/2022