Although many teachers at the school stood out for their
care and compassion as mentors, and for their enthusiasm and
skill as educators, "Basher" Grey (a nickname he
acquired from his boxing escapades) was one of those who rose
to the top of this list.
Fred Grey was born in South Shields on 6th January 1911,
and was the first child of parents Richard Gustaf (a Marine
Engineer) and Gertride Aline Grey, living in Burleigh Street,
South Shields. He was always Fred and never Frederick,
even on his birth certificate.
He was educated at Westoe Secondary School, which he attended from 1922 to
1929, when he left to go to Armstrong College, Durham University to study English
Language and Literature (with Latin, French and Philosophy as subsidiary subjects).
Although he left with a BA (Hons), he later converted this to an MA in 1943.
His first teaching post was at Stanhope Road Senior Boys' School, from August,
1933. Then, in September, 1938, he moved to South Shields High School for Boys.
Fred Grey (I wonder how many boys knew that his middle name was Gowan) was
well-known as a keen ornithologist, and it is reported that he kept a stuffed kittiwake
in his cupboard which he produced for dramatic effect during class.
Of course, not everyone got on well with him, and a couple of Old Boys have written
about having altercations with him (possibly because of his pugilistic background).
But far more have written about just how Fred engendered a sense of awe and wonderment
in many of his students and how he was, like his close friend, Charlie Constable,
On Fred's retirement at Easter, 1976, George E Brown wrote:
An epoch in the life of our School came to an end ... with the retirement ...
of Fred G Grey, Head of the English Department. We shall not look on his like again,
but we are privileged to have known him. He has been deeply revered by all those
whose good fortune it has been to have their paths cross his.
A Promethean figure among schoolmasters, Fred Grey received his inextinguishable
fire from heaven with grace and humility. His scholarship, wisdom, enthusiasm and,
most of all, his integrity have made him a firm rock in an age of shifting sands.
He has sought vigorously to share with others the abundant life he has enjoyed to
its full, and his wide interests outside of the School have enriched the lives of
those within it.