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Photo of Robert Ray

Robert Ray

Chemist in Charge
Birthplace Fifeshire Cellardyke ScotlandPlace of Residence at HM Factory Gretna A4 Staff Quarters Place of Death Sheffield Date of Birth: April 12, 1889 Date of Death: May 19, 1964


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Robert Ray/Rae

Gender: Male
Date and place of birth: 12th April 1889 Cellardyke, Fifeshire
Date and Place of Death: 19th May 1964 , Sheffield
Nationality: Scottish

Childhood : 2 brothers, one with heomophilia. Upbringing at The Manse, Cellardyke
Parents : James Ray and Agnes Bonthone nee Oliphant
Parents occupations : Clerk in Holy Orders
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance:  St Andrew’s University Possibly 1910/11 – 1912/13 BSc, FRS. FRSSA St Andrews, Unknown place in N of England  with Carnegie Scholarship
Occupation: At Gretna- Chemist-in-Charge Hill 3 Nitro glyceryne section. Also Lecturer in Zoology, Engineer
Place of residence at Gretna:  A4 staff quarters, Eastriggs
Marital status : Married
Children : None Known
Travels: Extensive for work – Cape Town, Beunes Aries

Positions held
Lecturer in Zoology



Ship’s engineer

Sales Engineer Travelling technical
Trivia / any other information:


Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):


Blogs about the individual:
Websites about the individual:
Further links, notes, and comments:





Robert Ray ( Rae) 1889-1964 BSc, FRS. FRSSA St Andrew’s  


Robert Ray was the eldest son to be born to Reverend James Ray and Agnes Bonthone nee Oliphant. Robert was born at The Manse , Cellardyke, Fifeshire , on 12th April 1889. His father was from Paisley , studied at Glasgow University and became a Clerk in Holy orders for the Church of Scotland. Agnes was the daughter of Philip Oliphant a seemingly prominent Banker and Procurator in Anstruther, Fife , according to numerous newspaper reports on his death. 

James and Agnes married on 6th June 1888 at Anstruther East Church. James ,a 29 year old clergyman of Cellardyke and Agnes 27 of Anstruther. According to the marriage registration James’ father  Robert ,was a polisher and Agnes’ father (deceased) was a solicitor and banker. There are two versions of the registration each with an alternative spelling of Ray/Rae. Agnes was one of at least even daughters. 

Between April 1889 and 1896 the couple had three sons. Robert , the eldest arriving on 12th April 1889, clearly named after his paternal grandfather.  

Second was James Forrest ( known as Forrest) , in 1874 and finally Philip Oliphant in 1896 taking the maternal family name.  

Childhood must have been very trying as we learn from Forrest’s death registration that he suffered from Haemophilia  and it was this that caused his premature death in 1930. 

The 1891 census lists the family at The Manse, Cellardyke. James , 31 a Minister of the Church of Scotland, Agnes, 30. Robert is 1 and has a 15 year old nurse  to look after him. The household also employ a cook /domestic servant aged 30. It seems that cook Annie Paterson and nurse Betsy Paterson are probably mother and daughter. At the time of this census they had a visitor from Leith, 26 year old Adam Currie , Church of Scotland missionary to  E. Africa   

The 1901 census includes two servants in the household. The family are still living at The Manse , Cellardyke , James , 41 now described as Minister of Cellardyke Parish. All three boys aged 11,7 and 5 are scholars. A 20 year old cook is employed as is a 17 year old nurse/domestic servant. 

We know that Robert studied at his local University – St Andrew’s and gained a BSc.  We can assume this was between about 1908/9 and 1910. He was awarded double honours and a Carnegie Scholarship to study in eth North of England ( blog). There is no concrete evidence to support this but is possibly true. He also gained F.L.S – Fellowship of the Royal Society and F.R.S.S.C. ,the Scottish equivalent.  

By the 1911 census Robert has embarked upon a career as an engineer. He is to be found on the census return for SS Gibralter, in The Alexandra Dock, Newport, Wales as fourth engineer. 

The blog tells us that in 1913 Robert went to the University of Cape Town as a lecturer in Zoology. There is evidence on a ships passenger list that on 16th August 1913 he sailed 2nd class on “Saxon” from Southampton to Cape Town, as a 24 year old Scientist. It is only on the inbound passenger list from Cape Town to Plymouth  on“ Llandovery Castle” on 19th December 1915 that we see concrete evidence that he was indeed a Lecturer in Zoology.  

The East of Fife Record , Thursday 26th October 1916 under the local news for Cellardyke report  

Important Appointment”,-Mr Robert Ray, BSc, F.L.S,F.R.S.S.A. has been appointed chemist-in-charge of Hill 3 in the Nitro-Glycerine Section of H.M.Factory at Gretna. Mr Ray offered his services as a chemist to the Ministry of Munitions early in the year, and was at once accepted. In March, he went to the Government works at Waltham Abbey to gain experience of high explosives, and after four months’ service he was transferred to Gretna, where he has seen the new machinery installed, and gained further experience in his work.” 

So, having worked as an engineer and a lecturer in zoology Robert has volunteered to the Ministry of Munitions rather than joining the armed services for active service to be a chemist.  

Whilst Robert was in Cape Town, brother Philip attested and was posted to France. His medical dated 9th September 1914 describes him as 21 , fair hair, fair complexion with grey eyes and standing at 5ft 6 3/4Inches . His service papers also describe his religion as presbyterian and describe a problem with the metacarpal in his small finger left hand He joined 8th Bn. Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) but was transferred to 59th Squadron Royal Flying Corps.  

The Obituary for Philip in Du Ruvigny’s Roll which includes a photograph tells us that he was studying engineering at Glasgow University when he joined the 6th Battalion the Cameron Highlanders. From July 1915 he was in France and Flanders , gazetted to Lieutenant the Back Watch in August 1916 then transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in January 1917. He was killed in aerial action near Douai on 13th April 1917 aged 23. Philip is remembered on the Arras Flying Services Memorial. The East of Fife had reported in their local news section that Philip had “passed for the degree of bachelor of science in engineering in the following subjects- mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and physical laboratory. We can probably assume that Robert took a similar combination of subjects. 

On 10th November Forrest joined the Royal Air Force but no further evidence is available.  

Robert was at Gretna at this time living at A4 Staff Quarters , Eastriggs . He is listed on the Valuation roll for 1918-1919 as Robert Rae. 

On the 18th October 1919, shortly after he left Gretna, Robert married Mary Marton at St Matthias Church, Richmond , Surrey. The marriage banns tell us that Robert was 30, an engineer, and Mary was 26. Robert was living at 2  Dalmeny Road, Tufnell Park, Islington at the time. Mary , the daughter of John Morton a merchant was living at 5 Onslow Road, Richmond. It is highly possible that these two met whilst working at HM Factory Gretna but evidence of any kind for Mary is extremely hard to find . 

The next record of Robert we discover is on 27th July 1928 when he is listed as sailing to Buenos Aries as an engineer. The address on the passenger list is 24 Carter Road, Sheffield.  

He appears to have travelled extensively for work . There is evidence of an inbound sailing from Durban the same year. Again as an engineer but with a different Sheffield address. This time it is The Hollies, Chapeltown, Sheffield. 

In May 1930 , Robert’s brother Forrest, now 34 , died . His death registration gives cause of death as hoemophilia and Robert as the person who registered  the death. Forrest had worked as an Art Publishers Representative. Forrest left a widow. 

Just three years after the death of his middle son, Rev’d James died on 10th June 1933whilst on holiday in Harrogate. His death is reported in the The Scotsman, 13th June  Seemingly, he moved from Cellardyke to Portobello, Edinburgh in 1916 and was there for 7 years where “ he trebled the congregation” “ Mr Ray was an interesting and attractive preacher and a diligant pastor.” He has retired in 1924 due to a serious illness.  

By 1939, the national register still lists Robert in Sheffield at 76 Oakdale Road. He is listed as “ Sales Engineer Travelling Technical” and Mary of course is on unpaid domestic duties. It does also add that she is an auxiliary nurse. There is no evidence of any children to the marriage. 

Robert’s mothe lived to be 95 dying on 13th June 1956 at Fountainhall Rd, Edinburgh. Usual address given in probate is 15 Braidburn Terrace, Edinburgh. 

Mary died in Sheffield but is buried in the family grave at Carnbee Cemetery, Anstruther along with the rest of her family.  

Robert died on 19th May 1964 aged 75. According to probate, he died at Lodge Moor Hospital, Sheffield, usual address 7 Marstone Crescent, Totley Rise, Sheffield. Probate to Laurence Duncalf Orme sales manager and Walter Bolton Siddons solicitor.  

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