Billy Bray - "The King's Son (1794-1868)

Billy Bray was an eccentric, charismatic, Cornish local preacher whose simple faith could move mountains and whose unbounding energy and quaint and pithy sayings made him a religious folk hero in Cornwall and a name known beyond.

He was a simple, self-educated tin miner, born 1st June 1794 in the village of Twelveheads, in the parish of Kea, near Truro. He spent most of his life in the village of his birth and died there on 25th May 1868. His grave and monument can be found in Baldhu Churchyard.

Billy’s paternal grandfather had heard John Wesley when he first visited Cornwall some fifty years before Billy’s birth. Billy’s own father died when he was very young and he lived with his Methodist grandfather until he was seventeen years old.

He lived in Devon for a few years and in his own words was “a bad man, joking and jeering about religion”. When he returned to Cornwall at the age of twenty-four he said that he “came home a drunkard”. For some five years he went through a terrible time of anguish of soul before he found deliverance in November 1823.

He became a new man and could say, “I have been glad ever since”.

In addition to his preaching and the winning of souls, Billy saw the building of three chapels. Bethel Chapel at Cross Lanes on a plot of ground given to him by his mother; Three Eyes Chapel at Kerley Down, and the Great Deliverance Chapel in the parish of Gwennap.

One of Bray’s witty sayings summarised his whole personality, “If they were to put me in a barrel, I would shout glory out of the bung-hole.” The last words on his lips was “glory”.

He died at Twelveheads on 25th May 1868

And with great joy and conviction of faith he would declare, “I am the son of a King!”


Itinerant Preachers