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David and Mabel Gray with their daughter Amy in 1926 on Choiseul Island, Solomon Islands.

Photo courtesy of South Pacific Division Heritage Centre.

Gray, David Henry (1889–1953) and Mabel Rosa Hannah (Goldsmith) (1896–1983)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 29, 2020

David and Mabel Gray were pioneering missionaries to the Solomon Islands and Bougainville in the south-west Pacific. In later years, they ministered in the Kempsey area of New South Wales, working closely with the indigenous population.

Prior to Mission Service

David Gray was born in London, England, on February 23, 1889. As an infant, he sailed with his parents to Sydney, Australia, where he spent his boyhood. In his teenage years he learned the printing trade. When he was about eighteen-years-old he accepted the Adventist message and enrolled in the Avondale School for Christian Workers where he studied for eight years while working part-time in the Avondale Press to pay his fees.1 He graduated from the missionary course in 1914.2

Prior to his graduation, Gray was appointed a permanent employee in the press and to work, hoping all the time that a mission appointment would materialize. Generally, marriage was a prerequisite for missionaries, but in Gray’s case an exception was made when Griffiths Jones returned from the South Pacific mission field and came searching for a suitable candidate to pioneer new territory in the Solomon Islands. Jones was impressed with the recommendations given by Gray’s employers. Gray eagerly accepted the invitation to accompany Jones back to the mission field. On the evening of November 11, 1915, the staff at Avondale Press gathered together to wish him bon voyage. Their parting gift was two books and a purse of money.3 Gray sailed from Sydney with Jones on November 23, 1915.4

In the Solomon Islands

Jones took Gray to Gatukai Island and left him to start a mission station. In Gray’s first letter to his friends in Australia, he described clearing the ground, planting corn, bananas, sugar cane, and sweet potatoes, and building a house for himself of native materials. He also had a church under construction that would double as a school and he had made a start on dormitories for the prospective students.5

Once established at Gatukai, Gray was asked to share his time between his home station and another that was started earlier at Viru. He alternated every three months.6 In 1920, Norman Wiles, missionary in the New Hebrides, and Gray in the Solomon Islands, both contracted the deadly blackwater fever. In May, it took Wiles’s life but Gray managed to recover enough to journey back to Australia and recuperate at the Sydney Sanitarium.7 It took fully twelve months before his health was robust again. In the meantime, he met Mabel Rosa Hannah Goldsmith. They married in the church at Warburton, Victoria, on February 27, 1921.8 Mabel Goldsmith had been born in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1896.9

David and Mabel Gray returned to Gatukai station in mid-1921, conducting worship services and operating a small elementary school of fifty students ranging from six-year-olds to old men. They taught Bible stories, English, writing, reading, and arithmetic, sharing the teaching load. Gifted musicians, the islanders’ favorite subject was singing with a high sense of harmony.10 On April 22, 1922, nineteen mission adherents were formally organized into a church fellowship.11 By 1924, the entire population of Gatukai were served by one head station at Pejuku and four outlying stations at Sobiro, Bichi, Bili, and Karolavala.12

Prior to leaving on furlough in September 1924, Gray’s expertise was utilized to set up the Batuna Printing Press. On their return in 1925, the Grays were asked to expand mission stations on Choiseul Island where a strong presence was already established by national missionaries.13 It proved to be a sad term of service because their three-year-old daughter, Amy, suddenly became ill and died before medical help could be reached.14

After a furlough in 1927, the Grays were assigned to Rendova Island. In the meantime, a second daughter, Joyce, had been born into their family.15 Later, they joined Robert Tutty on Bougainville Island to establish further mission stations.16 In 1934, Gray was reported to be at Rumba village, Bougainville, constructing yet another station comprising a missionary’s home, a church, and a school.17

Permanent Return From the Mission Field

In 1937, illness prompted the Grays to leave the Solomon Islands where they had labored. They settled at Cooranbong, New South Wales, and when Gray’s health had recovered he did some selling of denominational books door-to-door. In 1941, he joined a group opposing the Adventist Church and he resigned his membership. A fellow missionary, Jack Radley, persuaded him to retrace his steps back to his former faith18 and the North New South Wales Conference appointed Gray to minister in the Kempsey area, especially to the aboriginal community. He applied himself to this assignment for ten years until his strength failed. He died in the Kempsey Hospital on March 6, 1953 and was buried in the East Kempsey Cemetery.19

Some years after David Gray’s death Mabel Gray suffered a stroke that confined her to bed for the rest of her life. She died on September 15, 1983, and was buried in the Avondale Memorial Cemetery, Cooranbong. Three children, Joyce, David and Wallace, survived her.20

Sources

“An Avondale Incident.” Australasian Record, December 6, 1915.

Anderson, J[ohn] D. “A Pioneer Missionary is at Rest.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 25, 1953.

Australasian Missionary College Forty-Fourth Annual Announcement. Cooranbong, New South Wales: Avondale Press, [1940].

Blunden, H[arold] M. “A School Session on Gatukai, Solomon Islands.” Australasian Record, August 21, 1922.

“Brother and Sister David H. Gray...” Australasian Record, November 28, 1927.

“Brother David Gray, who is stationed...” Australasian Record, August 20, 1934.

Coombe, L[eslie] C. and C[alvin] R. Stafford. “Mabel Rosa [Hannah] Gray.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, November 19, 1983.

Gray, David [H]. “A Happy Day in the Solomons.” Australasian Record, July 7, 1924.

Gray, David [H.] “Mission at Gatukai, Solomon Islands.” Australasian Record, March 19, 1917.

Harold B. P. Wicks Papers. Personal collection of Jenny Steley.

Jones, G[riffiths] F. “In the Solomons Once More–Part 4.” Australasian Record, August 12, 1929.

Jones, G[riffiths] F. “The Melanesian Mission.” Australasian Record, October 21, 1918.

“Missionary Wedding at Warburton.” Australasian Record, April 18, 1921.

“On Tuesday, November 23, Pastor G. F. Jones...” Australasian Record, December 6, 1915.

“On Sabbath, April 22, a church...” Australasian Record, September 18, 1922.

Radley, Rose-Marie. Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet. Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing, 2018.

“The arrival of the “Minindi,Australasian Record, June 28, 1920.

Wicks, H[arold] B. P. “Solomon Islands.” Australasian Record, September 27, 1926.

Wicks, H[arold] B. P. “Solomon Islands Mission.” Australasian Record, September 29, 1924.

Notes

  1. J[ohn] D. Anderson, “A Pioneer Missionary is at Rest,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 25, 1953, 6-7.

  2. Australasian Missionary College Forty-Fourth Annual Announcement (Cooranbong, New South Wales: Avondale Press, [1940]), 51.

  3. “An Avondale Incident,” Australasian Record, 6, 1915, 5.

  4. “On Tuesday, November 23, Pastor G. F. Jones...,” Australasian Record, December 6, 1915, 8.

  5. David [H.] Gray, “Mission at Gatukai, Solomon Islands,” Australasian Record, March 19, 1917, 4-5.

  6. G[riffiths] F. Jones, “The Melanesian Mission,” Australasian Record, October 21, 1918, 53-56.

  7. “The arrival of the Minindi,” Australasian Record, June 28, 1920, 7.

  8. “Missionary Wedding at Warburton,” Australasian Record, April 18, 1921, 7.

  9. L[eslie] C. Coombe and C[alvin] R. Stafford, “Mabel Rosa [Hannah] Gray,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, November 19, 1983, 14.

  10. H[arold] M. Blunden, “A School Session on Gatukai, Solomon Islands,” Australasian Record, August 21, 1922, 3-4.

  11. “On Sabbath, April 22, a church...,” Australasian Record, September 18, 1922, 8.

  12. David [H.] Gray, “A Happy Day in the Solomons,” Australasian Record, July 7, 1924, 2-3; “Solomon Islands Map,” Harold B. P. Wicks Papers, personal collection of Jenny Steley.

  13. H[arold] B. P. Wicks, “Solomon Islands Mission,” Australasian Record, September 29, 1924, 5.

  14. H[arold] B. P. Wicks, “Solomon Islands,” Australasian Record, September 27, 1926, 12-13.

  15. “Brother and Sister David H. Gray...,” Australasian Record, November 28, 1927, 8.

  16. G[riffiths] F. Jones, “In the Solomons Once More–Part 4,” Australasian Record, August 12, 1929, 3-5.

  17. “Brother David Gray, who is stationed...,” Australasian Record, August 20, 1934, 8.

  18. Rose-Marie Radley, Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet (Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing, 2018), 150.

  19. J[ohn] D. Anderson, “A Pioneer Missionary Is at Rest,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 25, 1953, 6-7.

  20. L[eslie] C. Coombe and C[alvin] R. Stafford, “Mabel Rosa [Hannah] Gray,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, November 19, 1983, 14.

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Hook, Milton. "Gray, David Henry (1889–1953) and Mabel Rosa Hannah (Goldsmith) (1896–1983)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=77WP.

Hook, Milton. "Gray, David Henry (1889–1953) and Mabel Rosa Hannah (Goldsmith) (1896–1983)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access June 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=77WP.

Hook, Milton (2020, January 29). Gray, David Henry (1889–1953) and Mabel Rosa Hannah (Goldsmith) (1896–1983). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=77WP.