Why I’m not ready for pipe and slippers - radical valleys councillor, Ray Davies
HE'S been arrested on anti-nuclear protests, was shot in Palestine and was 65 when his youngest child was born. Valleys councillor Ray Davies talks to CHARLES BOOTH about his humble beginnings – and why he fights injustice at home and abroad.
I WAS born in Llanbradach in 1930 and lived with my eight other siblings in extreme poverty in Richmond Terrace, which is known locally as the Joinery because there were joiners based behind the houses.
When I was 13 my mother died and many of my siblings were taken into care.
I worked down Llanbradach mine but left because of ill health when I was 19.
I then went on to work in the steelworks in Llanwern and Cardiff as a foreman but was made redundant in 1988 at the age of 58.
When I was working at the steelworks the Aberfan disaster happened, in October 1966. I went there and helped for two days.
Before I went I asked at work if I could take a team there to help and I was told no. Then I just said I was going anyway.
It was heart-breaking to see those little kids buried and when they were pulled out it was as if they were asleep.
They didn’t have a mark on them.
Years later I went with a group to go to the cemetery in Aberfan and I cried and cried and when I got there I couldn’t even go in.
After being made redundant I put all my effort into working as a councillor.
I’m married to Wendy Lewis whom I met at a Cor Cochion (Red Choir) meeting. I was married before which didn’t work out and I had four children and have six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren from my previous marriage.
They have done really well and live nearby.
When I met Wendy I didn’t expect to marry again. In fact I didn’t want to get married again.
We would meet on peace campaigns for the choir and demonstrate for children in need. I had one failed marriage but I fell in love again.
Wendy was 34 years old and I am 21 years older than her. I didn’t expect to fall in love but I did and we were first married on the Carribbean island of Montserrat in 1993, where Wendy’s mother and father lived.
I went there with Wendy and that was when we got married.
I had special permission for the ceremony.
Then when a volcano erupted on the island and destroyed the records office taking the proof of our marriage with it we were married again at Gretna Green in May 1997.
We have two teenage sons Tad, 19, and Carwyn 17. They have grown up campaigning with Wendy and I. We have been a campaigning team.
I have been a councillor for many years but my first taste of public life was as a school governor in 1958.
I then became a councillor in 1964 when I was elected onto the Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen Council.
In 1969 I was elected onto the old Monmouth Council and in 1974 I became a councillor on the Mid Glamorgan Council.
In 1995 I was elected onto Caerphilly County Borough Council and I am still a ward member for the Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen area.
I have fought elections to be an MEP and an MP.
Over the years I have been out to Palestine to help the people there fight injustice and on one occasion I was grazed on the head by a bullet. I was helping take ambulances into the refugee camp in Balata. As people were getting shot we were picking them up in the ambulance.
I lost a lot of blood. I was working with a young medic who saved my life. Many of the people I saw in the hospital with similar injuries died. I had a blood transfusion and eight stitches in my head from the gunshot and a stone, which was also thrown at me.
As soon as I was released from hospital I was out helping again.
Last year I nearly didn’t get into Israel as I had been there many times before saying I was going to help with the olive harvest and then I would go and help the Palestinian people fight for justice. I did eventually get let in and then went to help a Palestinian family from getting evicted from their home.
I was helping a family out there as they protested outside the house and then at night they built a temporary shelter outside.
There was a group from the USA and I saw a man walking down the path towards me.
Little did I realise that he was the former president of the USA Jimmy Carter, who was also helping the owners of the house.
Many people have heard about my campaigning abroad and think that is what I do but that is only a small part of what I do.
One of my proudest moments is when the campaign to build the new hospital at Ystrad Fawr came to fruition. We campaigned tirelessly to make sure that if the Caerphilly Miners’ was closed there was a hospital to replace it nearby.
Although I don’t like to see the hospital being demolished I am happy that the new Ystrad Fawr hospital was built. I will still campaign for the hospital to have an accident and emergency facility at the site.
A lot people might see me going all over the world to protest and join campaigns but that is only a small part of my time. The majority of time I am working in my ward with the people here trying to help them solve their problems.
This year I have finally relented and I am the chairman of Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen Community Council for the year, which is something I am happy to do.
I have been asked many times to put my name forward to be the leader on other councils but I would prefer not to be tied down. I like to be able to speak my mind about everything.
I am 82 but I have no intention of retiring from anything.
I’m not ready for my pipe and slippers yet. No campaign is too small for me to tackle.
When it comes to helping people it does not matter what their politics are.
It doesn’t matter if they vote for me I am here to help the people in my ward regardless of whether they agree with me.”