One of the most intriguing stories concerning Fred Gray and his son, Harry occurred at Mitcham on 12th August 1910 when they were shot by Henry Harris. It was the opening day of Mitcham Charter Fair and a disagreement took place over a site which Harris, who ran a small coal business in Battersea, claimed was his for a Houpla he travelled. In court it was claimed that Gray offered Harris £5 to move his houpla, which he had erected on the ground where Grays wanted to build up Switchback. On Friday Harris’ stall was still in the way, and it seems that Grays had left a packing truck blocking the stall. Between 1.30 and 2.00 p.m. Fred and Harry, were walking around the ground when Harris ran in front of them and, without a word, pointed a revolver at them from a distance of 8-9 paces.
Fred was wounded in the chest, the bullet having struck the breast bone; an inch further to the left and the wound would have been fatal. Harry had been shot twice in the left hip. They were saved by the heroic actions of a young woman named Miss Marie Herrick, who took the revolver away from Harris.
Later Harris was charged with attempted murder. Harris claimed that Frederick Gray had threatened to murder him and Harry had hit him in the eye. At Croydon Police Court, Frederick’s age was given as 50, and his address given as Wandsworth Road; Harry was aged 26, and lived at Kensall Rise. Guildford Assizes on 2nd December 1910 Henry Harris (51) was sentenced to ten years penal servitude for shooting with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
A further recount of events showed that Grays had expected to be able to stand on their usual ground, but when Harry arrived with his living wagon, he found Harris had already occupied the ground. He was given £6 to move, but then reneged on the agreement. In an example of how impartial Judges spouted their usual nonsense even in those days commented that “this was a very good sample of what would happen if Socialism were to prevail and there was no ownership of property. Everyone would seize the first the first bit of property he could lay hands on, and then someone else would come along and fight for it.”
There are some other accounts of the Gray’s travelling life. In 1912 a young girl and her boyfriend were riding on Gray’s Motor Car Switchback at Barnett Fair when she claimed side of motor car gave way and they were thrown out whilst ride going at full-speed. Harry Gray was in charge of the Gallopers at the time and saw the two larking about on the machine, playing with ticklers and confetti. Police examined car afterwards and saw no damage nor any rope holding it together. (How unusual!) In court they found in favour of defendant.
At Hampstead on August Bank Holiday 1915 accident on Motors again, and this time Gray of Victor Road, Kensal Green in Clerkenwell County Court for negligence. Mrs Henry Manners had her three children on the Switchback when she claims: “there was a crack and ad the whole things came down, and they were thrown out. Several cars were thrown in a heap and some twenty people were injured sustaining cuts, bruises and shock.” John Bond, who was employed by Fred Gray (and married to his daughter) was collecting on the ride at the time had seen a boy apparently throw a brick on to the tracks. The brick hit a car and then bounced on to the track, derailing the cars. It was steam driven and had only just started up and three cars were derailed. No damage had been caused to wheels or couplings. Judgement was made for defendants with costs.