Grays International - Our Heritage

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Grays have been at the heart of some of the best known sporting products for over 150 years - a time frame which has seen its products used by sports stars who have long since assumed legendary status.

Founded in 1855 by World Rackets Champion HJ Gray, through growth and acquisition it today boasts a powerful portfolio of brand names familiar around the world. Still under the control of the Grays family, the company has been involved in businesses as diverse as soccer, snooker, fishing, bowls, toys, sports publishing, retailing and even building. Many have since disappeared but their heritage and legacy lives on and their unique strengths have been distilled into their descendants that are all household names today: Gray-Nicholls in cricket; Steeden in rugby league; Gilbert in rugby union; Grays in hockey and racket sports.

Modern Day Racquets Racquet
A modern day rackets racquet still manufactured - in Cambridge - in much the same way as in Harry Gray's day.

The Choice of Kings

Grays Light BlueRacket sports have been at the heart of the Grays business throughout and its foundations were laid in the sport of rackets. World rackets champion Harry Gray began by making and selling rackets balls and stringing racquets but the company grew rapidly and became well known at the University for the manufacture of top quality frames for all racquets sports. In those days, squash racquets were made from 1 piece English ash with a suede leather grip and natural gut, costing 12 shillings and sixpence.
 
By the turn of the century, the Grays brand grew nationally as famous players such as Max Woosnam, England's Davis Cup Captain used Grays. The future Kings of England, George V and VI were both Grays customers while at Cambridge University. In 1912, Grays moved to larger premises in Cambridge to accommodate the increasing production and developed the first ever laminated racquet - the Masterpiece - which allowed a better shape and was more durable.

Did you know? Charles Eugene Williams, the squash racquets World Champion due to play in the US, lost his Grays racquets when the Titanic sank.

The 1930s witnessed a period of strong growth for Grays racquets and the company opened a second racquets factory in Ireland to meet the growing demand. In 1935, the famous Light Blue racquet was launched which was to become one of the most highly regarded and commercially successful racquets of all time. It is still in production today.

Did you know? Chas Read, the first ever British squash champion used Grays, as did Jim Dear and Mahmoud Karim who won the British Squash Open from 1939-49 with Grays racquets.

Internationally Renowned

Hashim KhanUnder William and John Gray, the Grays brand became internationally renowned. The great Pakistan player Hashim Khan used Grays squash racquets to win 7 British Open titles from 1950 to 1957 and Grays became market leaders in squash.

Grays made the most of the massive squash boom in the 1970s and expanded rapidly. Top squash players such as Gogi Alauddin, Quamar Zaman, Gamal Awad and Ahmed Safwat used Grays racquets. The arrival of graphite technology in the 1980s led to a period of re-structuring and consolidation for Grays. The Cambridge racquets factory was forced to close in face of the move to graphite racquets, the name was unsuccessfully licensed to a third party for a period and production was moved to the Far East.

In the 1990s the company regained full control of the brand and squash stars Chris Dittmar (World #2) and Mark Chaloner (World #7) endorsed the brand's new range of graphite racquets. 2000 saw the launch of the new Millennium racquet used by Mark Chaloner to play Australian Paul Price in the first ever live televised British Open match - an all Grays semi-final.

The Superlative
The Superlative racquet used by Mark Chaloner to win the Commonwealth Squash Doubles Gold Medal in 1998.

Scandinavia

Grays has been distributed in Scandinavia for many years through a  very passionate Hans Ligner and his business Lysaker Squash. We asked Hans some questions about his journey with the sport of Squash......

  • How did you begin with Squash?
My first encounter with this fantastic sport took place in my home town Linköping/Sweden 1971. Linköping is better known for hosting Swedish Open in Squash and also one of the towns outside the big cities of Sweden that adopted the game during 1950/60 'ties. The game became a hobby and I moved to Eskilstuna later on where I became the Chairman of the local Squash Club.It was here in 1974 first meet Grays  " Light Blue Super " and was sold from the first hit and I believe it was mutual.

 

Being the Chairman of the Club and also running a Travel Agency I had the pleasure of organize trips to both British Open and to the Grays factory in Cambridge.  

Through out the 1970 ties I found out the squash game became an addiction and it became my full time occupation running Clubs/Centers in Sweden. By a coincidence  I was contacted by Mr. Squash of Sweden Jan-Olov Hanson ( owner of Intersquash Sweden and rep. for Grays Scandinavia) asking me if I was interested of some consulting work for a client of his in Norway ( 2-3 months). I was delighted to get this opportunity as I was in between postings. 1978 I arrived to newly built Club outside Oslo/Norway at the grand opening 30st of November . This was a start of a love for   the game, Grays and the people of Norway that has lasted ever since. I retired at the age of 70 2017.

 

  • Early challenges
The game of squash was very unknown by the everyday Norwegian in those days, but known to the people educated abroad and of course people in the oil/gas business. It was a tough race to compete with the national sports as skiing, skating and soccer, but the momentum kept going and new Clubs/Centers popped up all over the country and Grays was in the front seat. We sponsored player, national squads and above all lots of tournaments. All the more known brands took the challenge and it was a very tough. There was of course  the competition from those who just wanted the profit of selling just about anything. The largest challenge was not the competitors,but the introduction of new materials like graphite. I believe we lost a lot business being late with graphite.

 

  • Bestsellers 1990 - 2017
    • Rental Racquets
    • Light Blue
    • Turbo
    • Devils
    • Shotmaker

 

  • Highlights
    • European Junior Championship Oslo 1986
    • National Squash league 1987
    • Grays Norwegian Open 1979 - 2008
    • Grays Nordic Adventure 1999 ( Norway and Iceland ) Participants from all over the world came and played ( 15 countries ).
    • Grays AGM 2008 in Australia
    • Get to meet and know the Grays family: John, Nick, Jason and Richard Gray. 

  • Stories
    • Grays Norwegian Open 1979-2008 have had Grays players winning Men 8 times, Ladies 5 times
    • We find many known names throughout out the years:
      • 1980 ties    Lars Kvant ( SWE) , P Vassiliou ( GR )
      • 1990 ties    Justin Renny (ENG), Fredrik Johnson (SWE), Mark
      • Chaloner (ENG), Paul Price (AUS), Jenny Tranfield (ENG), Tegwen Malik (WALES) and Rachel Grinham(AUS).
      • 2000 ties    Paul Price (AUS), Tim Gardiner (ENG), Daryl Selby
      • (ENG), Ollie Touminen (FIN) and Nick Mathews (ENG)

 

ICELAND

Grays also has a history in Iceland and we asked our distributor there for some history on the Grays Brand....
  1. How did you begin with Grays Squash ?

In 1987 , I started Veggsport Squash Club in partnership with my friend Hafsteinn Danielsson here in Reykjavík .  We found out soon that it would be best for us to import our own racket brand and we had heard of Grays and the history of that brand, the oldest brand on the market and some of our clients who had played squash abroad mention often that Grays had been their first racket , the wooden Light Blue.  So we got in touch with Grays and we have been selling Grays ever since.

  1. What were the early challenges ?

It was always the time it took to order, all communications by post and also  changes of ownership of Grays from the Grays family to Formula Sport and back to the family.

  1. Which products were the most popular ?

The Light Blue has always been the most popular product and has been the best selling squash racket in the country ever since even though we have had to compete with all the other big brands.

  1. What were some of the highlights during your time with Grays ?

It was when we started working with Hans Ligner and all the tournaments we did together . We did a mini series which was called The Grays Nordic Adventure and the goal was to get players to participate in a tournament in three countries . One we called The Triple Dot and was played in Iceland , Norway and Luxemburg and the winner of the series would get extra price money if he or she played all three .  It was great opportunity to meet people from many different countries and  many of them were and probably are very good squash players .

And also the meeting with Grays in Australia , being able to participate in the designing and making of the rackets was fantastic.  Meeting many interesting people learn from them and making friends , Steve Walton .

  1. Any funny stories along the way ?

The very good one was when I had been told to buy Grays from the dealer in Norway instead of directly from England , so we started ordering from Hans Ligner in ´92 or ´93 and we agreed on meeting  at the British Open in London , it was ´93  me travelling from Iceland and he from Norway to see the British Open and meet each other which we never did but we might have seen each other in the hall where the matches were played. A year later we finally met in Oslo and the result is everlasting friendship and Grays Squash equipment are still sold in Iceland.