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William Robert Ray (1911–1989)

by David Hilliard

This article was published:

William Robert Ray (1911-1989), Anglican clergyman and headmaster, was born on 17 August 1911 at Rose Park, Adelaide, elder child of English-born Frank Edgar Ray, clerk and later engineer, and his South Australian-born wife Lillian Maude, née Patterson.  Robert attended (1919-29) the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide, and sang in the choir at St John’s Church of England, Halifax Street.  Because of his red hair, his friends called him 'Rufus'.  He studied arts at the University of Adelaide (BA, 1933), graduating with second-class honours in history, and proceeded to St Barnabas’ Theological College, where he completed a licentiate in theology in 1935.  The following year he was made deacon and ordained priest by Bishop A. N. Thomas; he served as an assistant curate (1936-38) at St Peter’s, Glenelg, and as priest-in-charge (1938-40) of the Koolunga mission district.

Ray became assistant-chaplain and a master in the preparatory school at St Peter’s College in 1940.  The headmaster Guy Pentreath described him as 'a born schoolmaster', valued for his 'boundless energy, his enthusiasm and his interest in every boy under his care'.  On 6 September 1945 in the school chapel, Ray married Philippa Campbell Magarey, an army nursing sister.

In 1947 Ray was appointed headmaster of Pulteney Grammar School, an Anglican boys’ day school with a falling enrolment and facing closure.  His involvement in every area of school life, ability to encourage staff, openness to new ideas and personal friendliness invigorated the school.  The curriculum was enlarged and student numbers rose from one hundred to eight hundred.  Also chaplain, Ray stressed the importance of self-discipline, grounded in the Christian faith.  To build up the 'Pulteney community', he encouraged parents to participate in school activities; he was reputed to know every boy by name, and their families.  A compelling speaker and an accomplished networker, he used every opportunity to keep Pulteney Grammar before the public eye.  He was appointed OBE in 1965 and was named a fellow of the Australian College of Education in 1973.

Ray was active in many community organisations and educational bodies.  He served on the councils of governors of St Peter’s College, Walford Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, Woodlands (Glenelg) Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, St Mark’s College in the University of Adelaide and St Barnabas’ Theological College.  A scoutmaster at St Peter’s and at Pulteney Grammar, he was assistant district commissioner (1954-63) and a member (1953-75) of the State council and executive committee of the Boy Scouts’ Association, South Australian branch.  He was also chairman (1973-81) of the State division of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.  Concerned for the welfare of children with disabilities, he chaired (1954-76) the management committee of the Suneden Retarded Children’s Welfare Association.  He was a member (1959-72) of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s advisory committee on religious television programs.  Initiated into Freemasonry at Cunningham Lodge at Koolunga in 1939, he was a foundation member (1948) and master (1951-52) of Pulteney Grammar Lodge.  In the Grand Lodge of South Australia he held many offices including grand chaplain (1953-56), deputy grand master (1959-64) and grand master (1964-72).  He helped to found the Masonic Homes (Memorial Village) at Somerton Park, opened in 1965.

Retiring as headmaster in 1972, Ray published a school history, Pulteney Grammar School 1847-1972, the next year.  Having been elected by the diocesan synod to a canonry of St Peter’s Cathedral in 1964, he served (1973-82) as bishop’s vicar of the cathedral.  He died on 14 July 1989 at Toorak Gardens and was buried in North Road cemetery.  His wife and their two sons and two daughters survived him.  The family holds a portrait (c.1949) by Geoffrey Mainwaring.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Boundy and A. R. Ninnes (eds), A History of Craft Masonry in South Australia 1934-1984, 1983
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 24 July 1982, p 28
  • Adelaide Church Guardian, August 1989, p 5
  • Pulteney Grammar School Magazine, December 1989, p 33
  • South Australian & Northern Territory Freemason, winter, 2006, p 21
  • Ray papers (Pulteney Grammar School archives, Adelaide)
  • St Peter’s College archives, Adelaide
  • private information

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

David Hilliard, 'Ray, William Robert (1911–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 August, 1911
Rose Park, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


14 July, 1989 (aged 77)
Toorak Gardens, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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