Digs shed light on a colourful character

Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian

A picture of one of the Mid West’s more colourful characters is emerging from old newspaper stories and archaeological digs around the foundations of two old South Greenough buildings.

Historian and archaeologist Melissa Hetherington is writing her PhD on Henry Gray, who established Gray’s Store for the first settlers at Greenough Flats.

While standing for political office, Henry Gray complained bitterly that authorities had denied him a “gallon licence” to sell colonial wines in his store, which still stands at the corner of Company and McCartney roads.

He later sponsored the temperance movement.

Henry Gray was one of a syndicate that funded the Temperance Lodge building on Company Road.

Ms Hetherington said he was a Wesleyan Methodist, a group strongly opposed to alcohol at the time. His son, Charles Watson Gray, brought the Order of Good Templars to the colony after joining in Melbourne.

“He was named the District Grand Worthy Chief Templar and he was present at the opening of all Good Templar lodges around WA,” Ms Hetherington said. “They started in NY State in 1851 so it was a very recent movement that didn’t last long in WA. Total abstinence is a hard thing to push.”

Ms Hetherington said it also led to confusion about Henry’s reputation.

“It’s generally believed that Henry Gray was an advocate of temperance,” she said.

“It was at the end of 1874 that he complained in writing about a Good Templar reporter stating he joined the Templars.”

Henry Gray wrote to the newspaper that published the piece, advising the Good Templar reporter not to put forward any more “false and injurious assertions” in print.

“I think fit to drink a glass of ale, I do not wish the world to believe I am so mean and dishonorable as to make the solemn vow of a Good Templar, and then treat it with dishonour,” he wrote.

The old Gray's Store, now at the corner of Company and McCartney roads, was the first building people came to when travelling south of Geraldton.
Camera IconThe old Gray's Store, now at the corner of Company and McCartney roads, was the first building people came to when travelling south of Geraldton. Credit: Geoff Vivian, The Geraldton Guardian

Ms Hetherington has dug several trenches around the building.

She said she was interested to find broken glass from bottles that had held alcoholic drinks, suggesting it may not have been a strictly “temperance” building.

“The presence of bottles suggested the opposite but they might have been reused,” she said.

“What it did show was its use as a community hall was a much greater influence on the building itself.

“It is called the Temperance Lodge but it was much more the local hall where you held events and gatherings.”

Ms Hetherington intends to publish results of her digs around Gray’s Store and the Temperance Lodge, both in Company Road, in her PhD thesis for the University of Western Australia.

She is keen to hear from anyone with photos or information about Henry Gray and the Responsible Government campaign of the 1860s. Phone 0433 893 229 or email melissa.hetherington@research.uwa.edu.au.

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