Ralph Grey, Lord Grey of Naunton (1910 - 1999):
Ralph Francis Alwick Grey was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1910, son of an accountant and a teacher. He was educated at Scots College, Wellington, and Auckland University College. He graduated in Law in 1932, and became a barrister and solicitor, and Personal Assistant to a judge. In 1936, he took the British colonial administrators training course at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and was posted to the Eastern Provinces of Nigeria. In 1949, he transferred to Lagos, as assistant Financial Secretary, a post normally awarded after at least 20 years' service, becoming Federal Development Secretary in 1952. In 1954 he moved again, becoming Secretary to the Governor-General of the Council of Ministers, and latterly he served as Governor of British Guiana, from 1959 to 1964, a turbulent time marked by ethnic conflict, riots and general strikes, requiring the declaration of a State of Emergency and the deployment of troops, and of the Bahamas from 1964 to 1967, when he became Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In 1968, he was appointed the fifth Governor of Northern Ireland, a post he would hold until it was abolished in 1973, though effectively his authority had been curtailed on the nomination of William Whitelaw, then Leader of the House of Commons, as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 1972. In strict constitutional theory, the heads of NI Government Departments, designated Ministers, collectively constituted the executive committee ("Cabinet") of the Northern Ireland Privy Council and aided and advised the Governor in the exercise of his executive powers. In practice, however, the Cabinet was the supreme organ of executive government.
The Governor's duties included summoning, proroguing and dissolving Parliament, reading the Queen's Speech at the beginning of the Parliamentary session, and the giving or withholding of consent to legislation on the advice of the Monarch. The Governor also had the power to resolve a conflict by convening a joint meeting of the House of Commons and the Senate of Northern Ireland.
Before the first meeting of the Northern Ireland Parliament in 1921, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland used his powers to establish a departmental structure consisting of the Prime Minister's Department and six other named departments.
The Ministries Act (NI) 1944 empowered the Governor to transfer functions between departments and to alter the names of departments. In all, four departments were renamed or created; the fourth being the Ministry of Community Relations in 1969, under Grey's Governorship.
He took office at the outset of the Troubles, and, as representative of a constitutional monarch was seldom active directly in government, although he was involved in some notable events. As Governor, he accepted the resignations of two Prime ministers, Terence O'Neill in 1969 and James Chichester-Clarke in 1971. Perhaps most significantly, Grey, declared a State of Emergency in 1970. The suggested State of Emergency had been opposed by opposition MPs and Senators in the Northern Ireland Parliament, who accordingly petitioned the Governor to reserve the Public Order (amendment) Bill (NI). Grey consulted the Home Office in London, who informed him that the Home Secretary had received no specific instructions to convey from the Monarch and no direction that the Governor should reserve the Bill. It accordingly became law on 7 December 1970.
One less striking contribution he made to the workings of his Office was to suggest, shortly after his appointment, that as the monarch's representative, he should see a copy of all conclusions of the Northern Ireland Cabinet, as was the practice in London. The Prime Minister, Terence O'Neill acceded to this, so that thereafter copies of the Cabinet's conclusions were placed on record at Government House (his official residence) as well as at Stormont Castle (the seat of the Government).
Following his tenure as Governor, Grey took up the post of Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, serving as it Chairman from 1979-1980. However he retained links to Northern Ireland, as President of the Institute of Secretaries in Northern Ireland and was an honorary life member of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce. He also served as Chairman of the Central Council of the Royal Overseas League (1976-81), and was Lord Prior of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (1988-91). From 1984 to 1993, he was Chancellor of the University of Ulster.
His many honours included the OBE in 1951, CMG 1955, KCVO 1976, KCMG 1959, GCMG 1964, and elevation to the peerage as Baron Grey of Naunton in 1968; a rare honour as in the diplomatic service this honour was usually conferred only on retirement. Additionally, he was a Freeman of the City of Belfast (1972), and of the Borough of Lisburn (1975). He was awarded honorary degrees by Queen's University, Belfast in 1971, the National University of Ireland in 1985, by the New University of Ulster in 1980 and the University of Ulster in 1985. He was made honorary bencher of the Inn of Court, Northern Ireland, in 1970, and of Gray's Inn, London in 1991.
|Born:||15 April 1910|
|Died:||17 October 1999|
© 2023 Ulster History Circle