Sheila Mary Gray

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 02 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5993
  1. J D Steven

Born in Brundall near Norwich, Sheila Whiteside moved to Glasgow with her Scottish parents at age 13. There she completed her education at Laurelbank School, where she was dux, and Glasgow University, graduating in 1948. After early posts in Glasgow hospitals and mother and child clinics, she stopped practising after marrying the Reverend John R Gray in 1952, devoting herself to family and congregational duties, in Glasgow until 1966, then at Dunblane Cathedral.

She later recorded that, “I am one of those strange beings who enjoyed being the wife of a minister,” and that her priorities were her husband first, followed by her sons, next the congregation, and then her profession.

With her strong support John R rose to prominence in the affairs of the Church of Scotland, achieving the position of moderator for the year 1977-78, the Silver Jubilee year of HM Queen Elizabeth the Second, during which Her Majesty attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh in May 1977. A year of full time activity and much travel followed, well described in Sheila’s book, published after retirement.

With her family growing up, she took the opportunity to return to practice in maternal and child health by training in the developing field of obstetric ultrasound, and being appointed to a part time post at Stirling Royal Infirmary. Although no formal qualifications in obstetric scanning existed at that time, Sheila Gray became highly skilled in the art and provided a valued opinion in many difficult clinical situations. Her organisational skills eased the introduction of routine scanning in the antenatal department. Her calm, reassuring, non-judgmental approach was always appropriate in the management of difficult problems, and help was always at hand when required, often at short notice. Well respected by all members of staff, she was modest about her skills. She was particularly supportive of trainees and trained many ultrasonographers and obstetric registrars.

All the while Sheila Gray continued her dedication to her husband, his profession, and to the congregation of Dunblane Cathedral; her particular interests were the choir and the Woman’s Guild, and her support of wider community roles, including county commissioner of Girl Guides and prison visiting at HMI Cornton Vale, until her husband retired on health grounds. His death in 1984 was a great blow, but her strength of character and quiet resolve, along with her strong Christian faith, allowed her to continue her hospital and other commitments for several further years. In retirement, she continued her involvement with the community of Dunblane, took up a counselling role with the bereavement organisation Cruse, and in 2008, published her book, Annus Mirabilis—Memories of a Moderator’s Lady, a detailed account of a busy full time moderatorial year, including 212 nights away from home and 60 000 air miles, in addition to other travel. Her story also provides valuable insight into behind the scenes workings of the Church of Scotland.

She leaves her three sons (a diplomat, a Member of Parliament, and a naval lawyer) and eight grandchildren.


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5993


  • Hospital practitioner in obstetric ultrasound Stirling Royal Infirmary (b 1927; q Glasgow 1948), d 25 December 2013.

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