John Gray - Mercury, Hobart - 1873-01-03
A telegram was received a few days ago from London, intimating the arrival of the s.s. Northumberland in sixty-two days from Melbourne. The Great Britain sailed six days after her rival, and we regret to learn that a telegram was received in town last night from Liverpool announcing the safe arrival of the ship there, but bringing the distressing intelligence of the death of Captain John Gray, who is reported to have thrown himself overboard when thirty days out from Melbourne.
Captain Gray was so very well known, he had brought to the colony many thousands of passengers in the course of his long career in the Liverpool and Melbourne passenger trade, and he was so universally beloved -- no lesser term will describe the feeling entertained for him that his melancholy end will be very widely and truly regretted.
During the last two round voyages Captain Gray suffered severely from liver and stomach complaint, brought on by pure anxiety to maintain the reputation of his ship in the strong competition with the London steam clippers, which have recently entered the trade. On the voyage before last, when the brave old ship would be making comparatively indifferent progress, he was observed frequently walking the deck, full of anxiety, striking his temples and talking to himself -- "I am ruined, I am ruined." When he arrived here on his last voyage he was extremely ill from nervous prostration. His appetite had failed, he complained of want of sleep, and all the time the vessel was in port he was under medical care. When he sailed he was but little better, and it would appear that in his delicate state his anxiety to make a fast passage, racing with the Northumberland, had overturned the delicate balance of the brain, and the most lamentable act with which his long career terminated was due to temporary insanity.
Captain Gray was a native of Shetland -- from a long line of seamen and fishermen -- and his heart was over warm to Shetland and the Shetlanders. He left home early in life, went to sea, joined the Eagle Line, and in that service remained till his death. He commanded one after another of Messrs. Gibbs, Bright, & Co.'s liners, and when the Great Britain was sent out under steam to Melbourne he was chief officer under the late Captain Mathews. He obtained the captaincy of the ship on the next voyage, and ever afterwards retained the command. With her he made several voyages to New York; served in the transport work throughout the Crimean war; and when the Indian Mutiny broke out, carried two regiments on one voyage to India, making the passage from England to Bombay in fifty-nine days, the regiments so carried being amongst the first to land. The ship was afterwards put into the Melbourne passenger trade, in which she has since remained, and it is remarkable that the last voyage -- the last Captain Gray was destined to make -- was the fastest the ship over accomplished.
Poor Captain Gray is the first victim to the intense anxiety which the rivalry in this trade now occasions. He leaves a wife and family, who, however -- it is understood -- are at least tolerably well provided for. The melancholy news created great sorrow wherever it became known last night.