"John’s values, determination and commitment shine through this book. Communities in Birmingham were richer because of him and I recall his work with great admiration and gratitude." — Estelle Morris, former Secretary of State for Education

My Homeland and the Wide World

A Life Journey Through Education, Culture and Faith

John Ray

 “John’s courage, wisdom and wit shine through this book. In always seeking to see himself through the eyes of the ‘other’ he offers us hope in our turbulent times.”

Shuguftah Quddoos, Sheriff of Nottingham

“John Ray’s wisdom comes from living a very full life in three different countries. Having grown up and started teaching in the UK, he’s honest about his struggles to understand another culture in Pakistan. John’s story raises huge questions about how Christians and Muslims can and should live and work together in our very secular society today.”

Colin Chapman, formerly lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology

“John Ray OBE tells his remarkable story through his disarmingly playful and optimistic recollections of his own childhood and the four schools he helped shape or lead. . .  Ray’s story shows that building the most purposeful schools requires the kind of foundations that come from strong values, and thoughtful, responsible adventuring.” — Tim Boyes – CEO, Birmingham Education Partnership

After John Ray’s experiences related in his 2018 Twenty-Five Years in Kashmir, comes this more general reflection on an eventful life. The author watched the Battle of Britain from a Surrey field as a twelve-year-old and during his schooldays cycled the length and breadth of England when unpoisoned hedgerows were still full of flowers. This was his homeland.

Student years at St Andrews inspired a love of mountains, then came a ‘surprising National Service’ beside the Russian zone in Austria and a job initiating mountain expeditions at Gordonstoun. Next, in northern Pakistan, culture shock led to finding faith, and to meeting Catherine, a Scottish medical missionary. Their family home was to be across more mountains, in Srinagar, capital of Kashmir. 

As Principal of Srinagar’s leading school, John Ray also found himself ‘Unofficial Correspondent’ to the British High Commission in New Delhi. His life became yet more crowded when ordained, but it was the arrival in Kashmir, bedraggled and drug doped, of the hippies, and a friend’s question – ‘What has happened to England?’ – that turned him towards multicultural Birmingham, to Muslim Sparkhill, and to relating to all in schools, churches and charities.

Now from the tranquility of a Yorkshire village the author considers the contested legacy of the 1960s ‘freedoms’ in Britain today. Those who have deeply influenced him include especially Dr Erich Meissner, Gordonstoun’s philosopher-historian, and Bishop Lessie Newbigin. In the face of new monsters such as climate change and Artificial Intelligence he finds grounds for hope for his grandchildren and future generations in his faith.

John Ray’s long career in education earned him an OBE in 1979. After many years abroad in South Asia, he is spending his retirement in Yorkshire.

£9.99 pb

Buy now

February 2024

128 pp, 12 illus

ISBN: 9781909930872