Nautical but nice naming honour for aunt Edith...

Edith Gray, right, with her nephew, John Raymond-Barker, and niece, Rosemary Milmine
Edith Gray, right, with her nephew, John Raymond-Barker, and niece, Rosemary Milmine

A REPLICA of a nautical vessel, favoured by intrepid explorers for its hardiness, has been named after a remarkable Eastbourne woman.

Edith Gray, 90, journeyed to Bristol for the ceremony which saw the 39ft wooden working replica Bristol Channel pilot cutter named after her.

Her nephew, boat builder John Raymond-Barker, suggested the name to his work team at Bristol city docks while the boat was under construction.

Mrs Gray, who lives at Hardwick House Retirement Home, said, “I’m absolutely thrilled to pieces.

“It was my 90th birthday last November and my nephew gave me a picture of the boat as a present. That’s when he told me what it was going to be called.

“I was very surprised and extremely pleased to have the boat named after me. It’s a tremendous honour and I’m still basking in the joy of it now.

“They spared no expense in building it, with everything being done with the best possible quality. I can think in 50 years time, someone will say, ‘who is Edith Gray?’ when they see the boat.

“It will be there a long time after I am gone.”

English explorer Bill Tilman journeyed to the Arctic and Antarctic aboard Bristol Channel pilot cutters in search of mountains to climb.

Mrs Gray said the event was ‘probably the most exciting thing’ that had happened to her, although her life has been far from dull.

She was evacuated from Turkey with her family, lived in Cyprus, Venezuela and England and then joined the army when the Second World War broke out. She was sent to Egypt and Palestine and later volunteered for a second tour of duty in the Middle East, where she met her future husband, Colonel ‘Pat’ Gray.

Before their wedding in 1954, Mrs Gray worked in Jordan as a civilian ammunition officer for a couple of years.

She and her husband lived in Oman and then Aden, where tragedy struck in 1966 when the couple were shot by Hadhrami Bedouin Legion soldiers as they returned home.

Despite being critically wounded, Colonel Gray drove two miles to hospital, where he died. His wife was severely wounded and was in hospital for months.

Her nephew, who runs a Bristol boat-building company, said, “My aunt has had quite a life and I thought it would be fitting to name the boat after her. I think the name suits the boat, which will be used for my new sailing adventures business Wild Sailing.”

The Edith Gray will be chartered on trips both in the Bristol Channel and beyond, visiting places such as Lundy Island close to home and the Western Isles. Mrs Gray said she hoped her nephew might sail the vessel to Eastbourne some day.