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Mary Gray, a former mayoress of Marlborough

Mary and Tony GrayMary and Tony GrayTown councillors at Marlborough stood in silence on Monday in memory of former mayoress Mary Gray who died on Friday at the age of 73.

Welsh-born Mrs Gray who was one of 15 children died at Hungerford Newtown Nursing Home where she had been looked after since August last year as the dementia she had suffered for seven years worsened.

Previously she was looked after at her High Street home by her husband Tony helped by their daughter  Vicky, son Jerry and his wife Julie.

Her death was the third tragedy this year for former mayor Mr Gray whose daughter Vicky Philpott, 48,  and mother Sylvia Gray, 96, died within 24 hours of each other in March.

Mrs Gray was mayoress twice, in 1972/73 where her husband was last but one mayor of the former Borough Council and again in 1990/91 when he was mayor of the successor town council.

She also supported her husband when he served on the former Kennet District Council for many years from its inception in 1974 and was as its chairman for four years.

Mother of two Mrs Gray had the distinction of being the only person ever to be mayoress of both the borough and town councils and also the wife of a Kennet chairman.

Standing at a diminutive 5ft 1in Mrs Gray was a tower of strength for her husband in his early election campaigns and he said that when he was first elected to the borough council in 1966 it was largely due to her persuasive canvassing.

“She delivered my election leaflets up and down Cherry Orchard and Orchard Road pushing Vicky in a bog coach-built pram and very heavily pregnant with Jerry.

“I think people felt sorry for her and that was probably why they voted for me,” said Mr Gray.

Mrs Gray also played a pivotal role in the family’s former Ducks Toy Shop in High Street, managing it virtually single handed for years while her husband was busy with council activities.

Mr and Mrs Gray were married in 1964 in the village church at Oare where her husband’s family ran a garage and taxi business.

In was due to an accident Mr Gray suffered when driving from Oare to Marlborough that led to their meeting.

Mr Gray said: “I had a car accident at the top of Granham Hill when I was hit head-on by a lorry which put me in Savernake Hospital for a month.

“Mary was nursing at Savernake Hospital in those days although when I arrived she had been sent to work at Princess Margaret’s Hospital in Swindon for a few weeks.

“She returned to Savernake Hospital and I can remember sitting at the end of a long ward with my leg in plaster up to my hip waiting for an x-ray.

“I saw her walking towards me and all I could think was that she looked like an angel.”

However she did not reciprocate his feelings at first and it was after meeting several times at dances in the town at which nurses were in great demand that they started courting.

Mr Gray said: “We still have a cutting from an old Marlborough Times with the headline Nurse Marries Local Man!”

Daughter Vicky was born while the couple were living in Oare, and after they joined the family toy and cycle business in Marlborough they moved to live over the shop where Jerry was born.

One of the few perks Mrs Gray had for her hard work as a mayoress was being invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party where she was thrilled to meet the Queen.

On a second visit to a palace garden party when her husband was chairman of Kennet District Council, Mrs Gray took daughter Vicky with her.

Mrs Gray is survived by her husband Tony, son Jerry and his wife Julie, by son-in-law Ian Philpott and her four grand daughters, Kim, Jo, Mollie and Harriet.

The date for her funeral which will be in St Mary’s Church has not been confirmed.

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