Muriel Gray

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Muriel Gray
Born (1958-08-30) 30 August 1958 (age 64)
East Kilbride, Scotland
Education High School of Glasgow (ind)
Glasgow School of Art
Occupation Author, broadcaster, journalist.
Spouse(s) Hamish Barbour

Muriel Gray (born 30 August 1958) is a Scottish author, broadcaster and journalist. She came to public notice as an interviewer on Channel 4’s alternative pop show The Tube and then appeared as a regular presenter on BBC radio. Gray has also written for Time Out, the Sunday Herald and The Guardian, among other publications, as well as publishing successful horror-novels. She is the only woman to have been Rector of the University of Edinburgh and is the first female chair of the board of governors at Glasgow School of Art.

Personal life

Born in East Kilbride, Gray is of partly Jewish ancestry. She presented a documentary for Channel 4 tracing her Jewish roots on her mother's side, entitled The Wondering Jew (1996), in which she discovered her maternal line descended from what is now Moldova.[1] She is married to television producer Hamish Barbour and they have three children. In 1997 their daughter nearly drowned in a garden pond, which left her permanently brain damaged.[2]


Early career

A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, she worked as a professional illustrator and then as assistant head of design in the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

Broadcasting career

After playing in punk band, The Family Von Trapp, she became an interviewer on the early Channel 4 alternative pop show The Tube from 1982, presented Frocks on the Box (1987–88) and The Media Show (1987–89) for the same channel.[3] She was briefly a DJ for Edinburgh's Radio Forth in 1983 and 1984. She was a regular stand-in presenter on BBC Radio 1 during most of the eighties, including for John Peel. She also presented regularly on BBC Radio 4, for Start the Week in Russell Harty's absence and also during Jeremy Paxman's leave.

In 1996, Gray appeared on French and Saunders, with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, as an outspoken activist for Scottish history,[clarification needed] she ends up scaring off the English invaders at the Battle of Gleneagles, with her behaviour, in a parody of Mel Gibson's film, Braveheart (1995).

Later she presented The Munro Show (which documented her climbing Scotland's highest hills, the Munros). She accompanied this with the book The First Fifty – Munro Bagging Without A Beard. She also presented various other TV shows like Ride On, a motoring magazine show for Channel 4, The Design Awards, for BBC, and The Booker Prize awards for Channel 4.

Gray presented Art Is Dead – Long Live TV. This programme sparked a controversy when it was discovered that the series, covering the work of five artists, was a spoof.[4]

Gray presented the definitive documentary on The Glasgow Boys, a group of influential 19th-century painters, including Sir John Lavery and James Guthrie, who challenged the orthodox values of their day. The Glasgow Boys was shown on BBC 2.


Gray has been a columnist for many publications, including Time Out magazine, the Sunday Correspondent, the Sunday Mirror, Bliss magazine, and now writes a regular column in the Sunday Herald. She won Columnist of the Year in the 2001 Scottish press awards. She writes regularly for The Guardian.

She became a best selling horror novelist with the publication of her first novel The Trickster (1995), which was followed by two more, Furnace and The Ancient. Stephen King described The Ancient as "Scary and unputdownable."

She wrote a history of Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to mark its re-opening in 2006. She appears on the BBC Two programme Grumpy Old Women.

Business interests

She started her own production company in 1989, originally named Gallus Besom (besom being a term of contempt for a surly or purposely awkward woman by a process of synecdoche.[5][6] and gallus bold or cheeky[6] in Scots),[7] then renamed to Ideal World in 1993.[8] It merged in 2004 with Wark Clements, the company co-owned by Kirsty Wark and her husband Alan Clements, to form IWC Media. The partners then sold the new company in 2005 to media company RDF Media for an estimated £12 million.


She is a former Rector of the University of Edinburgh, the only woman ever to have held this post, and in 2006 was given an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Abertay Dundee.

In 2013 she was given an honorary degree, Doctor of Letters, from Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow University.

In her guise as a mountaineer she appeared in the comic strip The Broons.

She was the chair of the judges for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction.

She is a judge of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award.

Gray is the vice chair of the committee choosing the architect for a new building to be constructed on a site facing Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art.

Glasgow School of Art appointed her as their first female chair of the board of governors from December 2013.[9]

Charity work

In 2005, she became Patron of the Scottish charity Trees for Life which is working to restore the Caledonian Forest. She is also a patron of the Craighalbert Centre, a conductive education school in Cumbernauld Glasgow. She currently serves as a trustee on the following boards: The Glasgow Science Centre, The Scottish Maritime Museum, The Lighthouse, The Children's Parliament, and pledged support for Action Earth. In January 2009 she became the first patron of Scotland's Additional Support Needs Mediation Forum, RESOLVE:ASL.



  • The Trickster (1994), shortlisted for the 1995 British Fantasy Society Best Novel prize.
  • Furnace (1996)
  • The Ancient (2000)

Non fiction


  1. "The Wondering Jew (1996)". British Film Institute. 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Gerrard, Nicci (29 April 2001). "A darker shade of Gray". Retrieved 10 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Gray presenting on The Media Show". YouTube. Retrieved 16 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Gray's anatomy of flawed Scotland". The Scotsman. 15 September 2007. Retrieved 10 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Besom: WorldWideWords definition
  6. 6.0 6.1 Robinson, Mairi, ed. (1987). The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press. pp. 39 & 224. ISBN 0-08-028492-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Definition of 'Gallus' in LiteralBarrage
  8. "Ideal World Productions Ltd.: Private Company Information". Businessweek. 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Muriel Gray to chair Glasgow School of Art's board of governors". BBC News. 23 September 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Archie Macpherson
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
Donnie Munro