|Ray Davies with his book at Bedwas Library launch|
Ray Davies needs little introduction to New Worker readers. Seldom does a week go by without a letter from the veteran Labour councillor and peace campaigner or a report about the Côr Cochion Caerdydd (Cardiff Reds Choir) that Ray has played a major part for many years.
But older readers will also remember his tremendous efforts in the anti-poll tax campaign and the epic miners’ strike from the New Worker reports from the late Denis Martin, the NCP comrade who worked closely with Ray on the Rhymney Valley Miners Support Group during the 12 month strike that tragically ended in defeat in 1985.
Ray was persuaded by fellow members of the support group to write this memoir about how the rock-solid miners and the local community closed ranks around the pickets to raise the money and food that sustained the strike through the bitter years of the Thatcher era.
Ray had first-hand experience of life in the pits as a boy miner before the coal companies were nationalised in 1947. The back-breaking work, appalling conditions and miserable wages that were the norm in those days are graphically described in the opening chapter which also paints a picture of life in a Welsh mining village in the 1940s.
Ray, a union activist and a member of the Young Communist League from the start, was soon plunged into struggle and this continued throughout his life as a militant member of the Labour Party after he left the pits to become a steel worker.
When Arthur Scargill and the NUM threw down the gauntlet to the Thatcher government that was determined to smash the miners’ union and destroy the mining industry Ray was at the fore-front joining the pickets and fighting to build solidarity with the miners who were fighting for the entire working class in their battle to stop the closures.
The role of the communist movement within the South Wales Miners Federation that later became the South Wales Area of the NUM is covered in the narrative as well as the struggles within the Welsh Labour Party and the labour movement as a whole during the big strike. But the author mainly focuses on his personal experiences on the picket line, in clashes with the police and in the day-to-day problems of building a support group to give the reader a priceless window into the world of militant struggle that was 1980s Britain.
Though this is a short book it nevertheless makes an important contribution to the labour history of south Wales. Peppered with illustrations and contemporary photos A Miners Life is a fitting tribute to all the miners and all who stood by them during those hard months of struggle and at £6.00 a copy well within the means of the average reader.
All profits from its sale will go to CISWO, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, to help ex-miners and their families affected by injury or illness and it can be obtained by sending £6, plus £1.50 postage and packing, to:
172 Pandy Rd
Alternatively copies are available from the Bedwas, St Cenydd, Abertridwr, Machen, Caerphilly Visitor Centre and the Winding House New Tredegar libraries.