Ray Davies, the indefatigable peace activist, socialist, local representative of his people in Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen, and lover of Male Voice choirs, died age 85 on May 7, Election day.
He would have been pleased at his send off on May 15.
Bedwas Workmens Hall was packed to capacity with people from every aspect of his remarkable life. Ray lived within a four mile radius of his birthplace in Llanbradach, but was at home in the world, as was witnessed by messages of support from as far afield as Gaza and the US.
Ray had borne his pancreatic cancer with the same physical courage that he faced the picket lines during the Miners Strike, the dangers underground as a boy miner, the teargas and tanks in Ireland, and the bullets in war torn Gaza. He pushed himself to the end, cycling, swimming and walking his beloved Cwm. His last act before he went into hospital was to plant runner beans in the garden, in the sure knowledge that they would come up in the summer.
Ray always said he wanted no "mumbo jumbo" on his death. As his body was donated to Cardiff School of Medicine, he, as his son said, even missed his own funeral, but at last made it to university.
This event was organised by Ray's family to share their memories and allow his community to express their appreciation for his lifetime of public service. There were many local political figures- the Lord Mayor, his fellow town and county councillors, MEP Jeff Cuthbert, and MPs Wayne David. Newport MP Paul Flynn had been with Ray in Caerwent Peace Camp, when he was attacked with a baseball bat for protesting against nuclear weapons. Betty Hunter was amongst the representatives of Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Ray had made many visits to Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, had been shot in the head [with a rubber bullet] while escorting ambulances to hospital carrying injured Palestinians, (see the events list entry for "Trip to Palestine", an account of Ray's 2010 trip to Gaza) and been beaten by the Metropolitan Police during a Gaza march in London. Hanif Bhamjee represented Wales Anti Apartheid. Ray was with Cor Cochion when they were arrested in Merthyr for singing in support of the South African boycott. Comrades from the Anti Poll Tax campaign came from London to join the commemoration.
Ray believed in a strong voice for Wales. He had only recently been speaking on the steps of the Welsh Assembly to call for greater powers to be devolved from Westminster. Members of the Yes for Wales campaign were there to show their appreciation. The local community was there in force: environmentalists who sought to preserve the beauty of the woodlands in Graig y Rhacca; residents opposing the development of Ray's beloved Cwm; local historians; and the many people who had come to Ray for advice and help. He touched so many lives.
Ray was deeply involved in the work of Bedwas Workmens Hall, and an appeal was made in lieu of flowers to raise money for a lift so that the local landmark could continue to serve the community.
Ray always believed in the power of music to communicate and change lives. Caerphilly Male Voice choir, Cardiff Arms Park choir, and Côr Cochion Caerdydd (which he had helped form) sang movingly and there were heartfelt appreciations from his family. Ray truly believed he could change the world, and he made us believe we could too. So, now it is our turn to preserve the things we love that he fought so hard for. Ray left a big hole in our lives to fill. But we must all do the best we can to carry on his spirit.
(Côr Cochion Music Director and Ray's widow)
A celebration of Ray's lifetime work for peace and justice will also be held in the Temple of Peace, Cardiff on 4th July, from 2-6 pm, with films, speakers and displays. See below
See "Trip to Palestine" in the recent events menu for more images and stories of Ray.
Three choirs sang at Ray's Memorial Service on the 15th May at Bedwas Workingmen's Hall. Foreground is Côr Cochion singing "Miner's Lifeguard" in honour of Ray's days as a young miner. In the background are the Caerphilly Male Voice choir and the Cardiff Arms Park Choir. Wendy Lewis is conducting on the left.
"As Ray's commemoration approaches on July 4, it is important to confirm where any appeal money from the joint UNA/Côr event would go. I feel strongly that it should go to the Bedwas Workingmens Hall Lift Fund. . .
'The Workmens' Hall urgently needs to raise £80,000 for an external lift (£8000 so far), or risk losing a valuable community asset (as in Llanbradach), one of the last Miners Welfare halls in the area, because it is not accessible for disabled or elderly.
Achieving that goal will allow the committee to then look for the larger grant to improve the hall. Ray was on the committee and struggled for many years against bureaucracy and inertia to get the improvements for the Hall. He always thought globally and acted locally, and I am sure he would want us to support the Lift Appeal.
All the best, Wendy"
Cheques can be made payable to the Bedwas Workingmens Hall Lift Fund and sent to:
Treasurer, Bedwas Workingmens Hall
Bedwas CF83 8BJ
There will also be a collection for cash on the 4th July Memorial.