Death of local businessman

Bryan Gray.
Bryan Gray.

Tributes have been paid to a former leading Ballymena businessman who has died just three years after he retired.

Bryan Gray was chief executive of Manufacturing NI before his retirement in 2013, and had been an important figure in three different sectors.

The 65-year-old, had been living in the Philippines with his second wife Angelica, and three children, but passed away on Saturday from lung cancer.

Born in Ballymena, he was educated at Ballymena Academy and the University of Ulster, where he took a degree in business studies.

He had played a leading role in the push for a formal retail planning policy here and led lobbying efforts in the campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags.

For almost 13 years from 1987 he was chief executive of the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade in Northern Ireland.

In 2000 he became chief executive of the NI Independent Retail Trade Association, where he remained until 2008.

For six years after that he was chief executive of Manufacturing NI.

“Bryan was asked to come in and fill the role for six months and ended up staying for six-and-a-half years, which was greatly to our benefit,” current CEO Stephen Kelly said.

“We were all very deeply shocked to hear of Bryan’s passing on Saturday night. Bryan’s contribution to MNI was immense.”

Glyn Roberts, who took over from Mr Gray as NIIRTA chief, added: “He was very old-school; a man who called a spade a spade, but very well respected.”

Mr Gray is survived by his first wife Cathy, his second wife, children Catherine, Christopher and Isabella, sister Margaret and grandchildren Liam and Charlotte.