Grey, Mona Elizabeth Clara (1910–2009), nurse, was born 24 September 1910 in Westridge, Rawalpindi, in the Punjab, then in India, the daughter of Albert Edward Grey and Grace Grey (née Dassing or Dashing). At the time of her birth her father was working as a guard on the North Western Railway, but he and his wife may have been involved also in mission work. Mona had at least two older sisters and one younger sister. She boarded at Oak Grove School in Mussoorie in the foothills of the Himalayas and afterwards, although the family was anglican, attended the Roman catholic St Bede's College in Simla (Shimla), also in the Himalayas, the only option in India for girls who wanted to be trained as teachers. She taught for a short time in a village school, in St Bede's College, and briefly also in the Lawrence College (Punjab), situated at almost 2,000 metres above sea level. She decided to leave India for England in 1933, and went to train as a nurse at the London Hospital (from 1980 known as the Royal London Hospital), in the Whitechapel area of the city. Older than her cohort, and from a very different background, Grey encountered difficulties in adjusting to hospital discipline and to English life in general, but after midwifery training in the London became a rather formidable ward sister there.
She was promoted to night matron, and was on duty throughout the bombings of the second world war; on one occasion, when the hospital was hit directly, she had to watch in horror as a bed and patient disappeared when the floor collapsed. In 1946 the Royal College of Nursing appointed her to set up a post-registration nurse-training centre in Northern Ireland, effectively establishing the RCN in the province; Grey moved to Belfast and developed training courses for nurses working (from 1948) in the new National Health Service. The centre was funded by the Nuffield Trust for the first five years, and Grey threw herself into fund-raising for a permanent headquarters for the RCN in Northern Ireland. With her friend Gwen Gracey Johnston, MBE, an actress and drama teacher, as producer, and with the help of many nurses as performers (and even assisted by hospital joiners who built the sets), Grey wrote and put on five annual plays and musical pageants at the Empire Theatre in Belfast's Victoria Square, from 'Cavalcade of nurses' (1951) to 'Miss Carson returns' (1955). She became a well-known figure in Belfast; the shows were very popular, and with other fund-raising events organised by Grey, raised £58,000 (equivalent, in 2015 terms, to over one million pounds).
Grey provided support and leadership to nursing in Northern Ireland as it developed through changes that included the advent of health visitors and male nurses into the profession. In 1960 she was appointed the first chief nursing officer in the province's Ministry of Health and Local Government (latterly, the Department of Health and Social Services). She initiated and supported developments that shaped nursing care and nursing careers in the province for a generation. When she retired in 1975 she continued her involvement with nursing, particularly developing her interest in the history of the profession. The RCN made her honorary vice-president (1996) and a fellow (2004). In 1952 she was awarded an MBE for her contribution to the Festival of Britain, and she was awarded the OBE for her service to nursing in Northern Ireland. Grey was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Ulster, and was the first recipient of the RCN Northern Ireland's lifetime achievement award (2002). The Florence Nightingale Foundation (of which she had been vice-president until 1975) presented her in 2003 with a replica of a symbolic lamp of nursing, an award associated with Nightingale.
Mona Grey continued to give generously, and usually very publicly, to the development of nursing, even in her retirement. She contributed to the establishment of a pioneering nursing research centre in the University of Ulster, where she endowed a lectureship in 1998, and in 2014 the Mona Grey professorship was set up in her honour. Her contributions to the RCN were commemorated in a room named for her in their headquarters; she endowed an annual prize in her name, awarded to the best Ph.D. topic registered in the UK Centre for the History of Nursing in the University of Manchester. She appeared in a video for the RCN (1999), in which she outlined the history of nursing and her own career in the profession. Grey's donations assisted the formation of a small museum in the Royal London Hospital, and she funded a project in Northern Ireland to record the experiences of nurses during the troubles; a book of their stories was published in 2013.
From a nursing home, in her 80s and 90s, Grey continued to express her views forthrightly, and to exert influence on former colleagues and others, and she even volunteered to act as a decoy in a BBC television Watchdog programme exposing high-pressure selling of various products to old people. She made a very generous subvention to the Nursing and Midwifery Council to fund a report entitled Guidance for the care of older people, launched by the NI health minister, Michael McGimpsey, in 2009.
Mona Grey's lifetime smoking habit contributed to cardiac problems, but she lived until she was 98. She died in Holywood, Co. Down, on 27 May 2009. She never married.