Henry Airay


Henry Airay

Henry Airay (1560 approx. – 1616), English Puritan preacher and author, was born at Kentmere, Westmorland, but no record remains of the date of either birth or baptism.

He was the son of William Airay, the favourite servant of Bernard Gilpin, "the apostle of the North," whose bounty showed itself in sending Henry and his brother Evan (or Ewan) to his own endowed school, where they were educated "in grammatical learning," and were in attendance at Oxford when Gilpin died. From Wood's "Athenae" we glean the details of Airay's college attendance. "He was sent to St Edmund's Hall in 1579, aged nineteen or thereabouts. Soon after he was translated to Queen's College, where he became "pauper puer serviens"; that is, a poor serving child that waits on the fellows in the common hall at meals, and in their chambers, and does other servile work about the college."

His transference to Queen's is perhaps explained by its having been Gilpin's college, and by his Westmorland origin giving him a claim on Eaglesfield's foundation. He graduated B.A. on the 19th of June 1583, M.A. on the 15th of June 1586, B.D. in 1594 and D.D. on the 17th of June 1600—all in Queen's College. "About the time he was master" (1586) "he entered holy orders, and became a frequent and zealous preacher in the university."

His "Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians" (1618, reprinted 1864) is a specimen of his preaching before his college, and of his fiery denunciation of Roman Catholicism and his fearless enunciation of that Calvinism which Oxford in common with all England then prized. In 1598 he was chosen provost of his college, and in 1606 was vice-chancellor of the university. In the discharge of his vice-chancellor's duties he came into conflict with Laud, who even thus early was manifesting his antagonism to the prevailing Puritanism.

He was also rector of Otmore (or Otmoor), near Oxford, a living which involved him in a trying but successful litigation, whereof later incumbents reaped the benefit. He died on the 6th of October 1610. His character as a man, preacher, divine, and as an important ruler in the university, will be found portrayed in the "Epistle" by John Potter, prefixed to the Commentary.

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