Antony Grey was a great friend of ours. We bantered. We teased. We worked together. He was a gorgeous great MAN. He was grand as you’d expect a barrister to be. But he thought in the early days it’d be only he (and his loyal lady secretary Joy from 32 Shaftesbury Avenue. When everything was illegal in the 1950s he fought for law reform by banding together the great and the good who had formed at J.B.Priestley’s flat in The Albany off Piccadilly to push through Parliamentary bills to change the laws.
At first it was sex between men ok if in private and if over 21 and only 2. Leo Abse/ Lord Arran moved it and won them but there were lots of efforts before success with Antony coaxing and advising. He was a closet gay – in those days maybe you had to be – at that level. And none of the Parliamentary reformers were gay. In those days everything for the benighted was done by the gents – the Movement for Colonial Freedom did not include any blacks. The movement was done for them. So for the queers – and Antony Grey never “came out”. No one did – those days. For me and Allan we were never sure was he/ wasn’t he ?
But then this’d be late 1950s a monumental scrap happened up in the North. Allan, a councillor on Nelson Borough in Lancashire had gone public not exactly coming out as being “gay” but pleading for other queers to join the cause publicly.
Antony didn’t like that. He was the grandee organising piece by piece Parliamentary reform from London in London. Ah dear. There were meetings. And so it went on in the long and winding road to get to equality – little by little. At every stage Antony would say don’t rock the boat to us rough buggers from the North – but we did. There was MANFAB from Wolverhampton. There was the public meeting in Burnley. There was mass membership. There was ESQUIRE clubs. There was the Bolton 7.
And we stayed friends.
At the end when liberation equality had been achieved we’d opened up Gay Monitor and were campaigning as we are now for some statute of limitations to stop silly minor historical abuse cases and Antony came more than 100 % on our side.
He was very very good – old queen he may have been – but every gay in Britain owes a salute to Tony Grey..
P.S. That was not his real name.