Publication Date: 1963
This interesting character well-known to Guelphites of yester year, was born in the village of Bratton, Devonshire, England on the 24th of March, 1810. As a youth he was apprenticed to his grandfather for seven years as a carpenter. At the expiration of his apprenticeship, he set up his own business in Plymouth. In 1834, shortly after his marriage to Elizabeth Standlake, he emigrated to Canada and arrived in Guelph the summer of the same year. He worked for Thorp and Dyson for several years after which he went into the hotel business at the old 'Bull-Frog' tavern (now Marquardt’s grocery store on Eramosa Road). He jumped at the novel idea of exhibiting a two-headed calf which he had procured and took it to Britain to exhibit. He published at least two booklets of poetry both of which are now very scarce. These are: Poems by James Gay: Poet Laureate of Canada (Guelph, Ontario. 1888- 35 pages) and Canada’s Poet, Yours Always James Gay (Field and Tuel, Leadenhall. N.D.).
He finally went into business in a shop on the Market Square. He had five children – three sons and two daughters. Of the sons, two predeceased him. The third, at the time of his death, was living in Fergus. The obituary notice from which the above information was taken states that of the daughters, Mary married John Teale, and died about a year ago. The following poem is probably the last thing he wrote on the occasion of the visit of the County Council to the General Hospital:
"Guelph General Hospital, January the 29th day,
In the year of our Lord ’91, by the notorious Gay
And as the gentlemen meet from both country and town,
All the councilmen of high renown.
Let us all act decently when they are walking around,
Visiting us poor souls more or less each day,
Though Christ this is all at present – Gay.
Nurses, too – not forgetting you – for us you have done your best
And when you are called to leave this wicked world –
In Heaven your souls will be at rest."
Poems by James Gay (Feb. 31, 1891).