|7 Jan 2021
Bill Bray (1922 -2019) (33-41B)
Bill was born at North Tamerton, just on the Cornwall side of the Devon/Cornwall border. He grew up on the family farm, which could be quite a lonely existence for an only child, but he was inquisitive enough to investigate all things mechanical, to see how they worked. Throughout his life – including at School – he always made sure that he had access to a well-equipped workshop and enjoyed the challenge of repairing things, progressing later to the restoration of antiques.
He made the most of his opportunity to attend West Buckland School as a boarder at the age of 11. He discovered a world beyond the farm, made new friends and most important of all, was taught how to learn and how to work things out for himself. There were few luxuries at the school in those days- the water was cold, the toilets were outside and the nurse dispensed laxatives for most complaints! Nevertheless, Bill developed confidence there, despite only having sight in one eye, and the School provided solid foundations to enable him to meet life’s challenges as well as enjoying some of its more rewarding experiences.
Bill served in the Second World War with the Royal Signals in North Africa, Italy and Germany. Although he was not on the front line due to his eyesight, the action was often nearby and the work was critical. During the difficult period after the war he worked in the forestry and agricultural machinery industries before settling into a carer with a company providing engineering support services to major businesses in the aerospace, automotive, transport and energy industries.
Here he was able to use his practical skills to good effort in devising solutions for customers and the work took hi to Europe as well as throughout South West England and South Wales. He had a gift for accents from many parts of the UK and he could certainly cover all of the areas in which he worked, switching effortlessly from Cornish to Devonian or Welsh or Birmingham accents when recounting his many experiences. He was so convincing that he was even thought to be Welsh on occasions when working in South Wales!
Bill experienced considerable adversity in his life, having lost two wives prematurely due to serious illnesses. His great resilience, no doubt developed during his schooling, must have helped him to recover from these shocks and move on to the next phase of his life each time.
Having a variety of interests would, I believe, have helped him through those difficult periods and also enabled him to stay relatively active into his early 90’s. Apart from his interests in antiques, he enjoyed the theatre, travel, amateur dramatics and bowls. A wide circle of friends and a genuine interest in his family ensured that his life was rarely dull.
When Bill died at the age of 97, he was married to my mother, Danni, his third wife. They had been together for 30 years. He also leaves 2 children, 5 stepchildren and their families. He was loved and respected by them all.
Penny Gaunt (Bill's Step Daughter)