William Gay was born in Bratton, Devonshire on 25 Feb 1812.
In 1834 he joined the crew of "Medway" as a carpenter and worked his way to Hobart where he arrived 21 July 1835. For the next eighteen months he stayed with the ship as it plied between Sydney and Hobart, eventually leaving the ship in Hobart on 26 January 1836. He had tried to convince his girlfriend in England to come to Australia and marry him but her father would not allow it. So William settled for a local girl and on 1 May 1838 he married Mary Ann Elizabeth Mansfield at St John's Newtown, Tasmania.
Mary Ann Elizabeth Mansfield was a daughter of William Mansfield, a convict who came out on the convict ship "Calcutta" which provided the settlers and convicts to establish the settlement at Sorrento, Victoria in 1803 and then Hobart in 1804. He was married to Maria, daughter of Elizabeth Cole, a First Fleeter, and James Tucker, a Second Fleeter, and hangman on Norfolk Island.
Mary gave birth to 5 sons, the last one being stillborn. Eleven months after the last birth, on 13 August 1848, Mary died having never really recovered from the birth.
William left Hobart early in 1851, taking with him his three oldest boys and leaving the youngest, Silas, with his late wife's parents in Hobart. For five months he scrounged work in Melbourne and then set sail for Portland in "Red Rover". He worked there for another five months during which time he took part in a spirited political debate in the Portland Guardian. Most of the debate was conducted in the form of poetry.
By the end of 1851 William was lured by the stories of the Gold Rush and on 2 December 1851 he set off in the company of his boys and three other men he set off for Ballarat where they arrived nine days later. They worked claims at Golden Point and other fields for some years and were present at the meeting at Bakery Hill when the diggers burnt their licenses in defiance of the authorities, an act which preceded the Eureka Rebellion. During this time William made a trip back to Hobart to collect Silas.
It would appear that the family stayed around the Ballarat area for some years. There is evidence to suggest that William spent some time in Gippsland, perhaps as a contractor for the railways. His last few years were spent in the Armidale area of NSW where he still indulged in some prospecting and plenty of political comment. His eldest son, John Wesley, appears to have settled there.
William wrote many poems during his time in the Colonies. He had opinions on politicians, the Irish, deserted wives, the clergy, education, child rearing and many other subjects. His sympathies lay with the workers and he had little time for the 'Establishment'. He never remarried and was proud of his achievement in rearing four sons single handed.
THE WORLD did say to me,
‘My bread thou shalt not eat,
I have no place for thee
In house nor field nor street.
FROM all division let our land be free,
For God has made her one: complete she lies
Within the unbroken circle of the skies,
And round her indivisible the sea
Alas alas! my power is gone;
I thought 'twould last for ever;
But now 'tis over, I must own,
They've done it very clever.
RELUCTANT Morn, whose meagre radiance lies
With doubtful glimmer on the farthest hills,
How long shall men, reiterant of their ills,
With peevish invocation bid thee rise