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Grey, Henry Pierce

"One evening towards the close of 1964 a gentleman mounted on a chestnut horse called at our house and introduced himself as the newly appointed teacher of the Glebe school, Henry Pierce Grey, a relative of Reverend P.G.Smith. He had called to see how many children of school age there were in our home. His charge for teaching was 1/- a week, reduced if there was more than one child. My sister Phoebe was enrolled and a week later he opened the school, at which he was the third teacher in a period of three years. Grey dossed in the school house and did his own cooking, as Mr [William] Davis allowed him a free ration.

About once a week, on fathers invitation, he called at our place for supper. He was a good conversationalist and could talk on any subject, be it religious, social or military. He had been in the American army and had taken part in the war against Mexico in 1947-8 under the command of Captain May, at whose side he was seriously wounded. He gave a good account the various actions and the march through the country under Generals Toper and Scott.

Grey had been about a year at the school when he cleared out during the Christmas vacation, much to the surprise of all. The air was thick with rumours, but the following is the truth of the matter as it came from Reverend P.G.Smith, who was disappointed at what he called Grey's 'defection'.

Grey had previously held a good position in another part of the State, but lost it through his love of firewater. When he called on the parson in 1864 he took the pledge to abstain from drink, and parson Smith then gave him the position of teacher at Ginninderra [St Pauls]. It was well known that the parson's family did not welcome Grey at the parsonage. However. during the last week of the Christmas vacation Grey called on Robert Kilby and offered him his horse, Bridle and saddle at a modest figure. Kilby bought the outfit and Grey then disappeared and did not return to resume his duties at the Ginninderra school, where he had led an exemplary life during his term.

Later we learned the reasons for his so-called 'defection'. During the Christmas vacation he got drunk and told some of his cronies the reason for his flight from England. When attending a high school somewhere in the old country he and some fellow students during a drunken frolic had tarred a cat and set it on fire, with the result that a disastrous fire followed which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage. Several arrests were made and Grey fled to America and being destitute, he enlisted; no doubt he was deeply ashamed of his revelations and so cleared out. Hugh McPhee was Grey's successor......"

[From Samuel Shumack, Tales and legends of Canberra pioneers', 1967 p.49 f]


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