Tributes have been paid to veteran Bedwas councillor and activist Ray Davies, who passed away on May 7, aged 85.
Mr Davies was a Labour councillor for over 50 years and was active in many campaigns until his death, including opposing the ‘Bedroom Tax’, solidarity with Palestine and protesting against last year’s NATO conference in Newport.
He was first elected as a councillor for Bedwas in 1964 and represented Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen on Caerphilly County Borough council since 1995.
He was fundamental in the campaign to build Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr and was shot while escorting ambulances into a Palestinian refugee camp.
Caerphilly MP Wayne David led the tributes to Cllr Davies on Friday May 8.
He said: “I was enormously saddened to hear Ray passed away just before the count last night.
“Ray was a good friend and a good socialist. I’d known him for many, many years, he was someone of high principle and high energy.
“He was a great councillor for the people of his home town of Bedwas and will be sadly missed and a hard act to follow.”
A statement released by Mr Davies’ family read: “It is with enormous sadness that we confirm that Ray Davies died on May 7 following a short illness.
“He was a remarkable man, with a large family and a huge number of friends and fellow campaigners, and we have been overwhelmed by the messages of support we have received from across Wales, UK and the World.
“Ray was an active member of the Labour Party for over 60 years and a councillor for over 50. He is renowned for his passionate campaigning on a range of issues and was recently presented with an award for services to the Labour Party by Harriet Harman MP, who called Ray a “committed firebrand” and said “news of his tremendous activities, energy and campaigning has reached all the way to London and beyond”.
“His campaigning for the cause of people who are underrepresented and persecuted was tireless. As Vice Chairman of Wales CND he was also passionate about the pursuit of peace.
“It is ironic that he died on the day when the county was providing him with a massive opportunity to tackle another five years of inequality for those people he represented most.
“Ray will be greatly missed by his family, friends and comrades. He leaves behind his wife Wendy and his sons David, Steve, Tad and Carwyn.”
Councillor Keith Reynolds, Leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council, said: “It is with great sadness that we hear of the passing of Cllr Ray Davies, our dear friend, colleague and long-standing ward member for Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen.
“Ray was a tremendously passionate character, who very much wore his heart on his sleeve and who was absolutely dedicated to his community. Ray will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him and our thoughts and sympathies are with his family during this sad time.”
The leader of the Plaid Cymru opposition on Caerphilly County Borough Council, Cllr Colin Mann, also paid his tributes.
Cllr Mann said: “I was very sad to hear of Ray Davies’ death and my sympathy goes out to Wendy and Ray’s children and extended family.
“I knew Ray for many years, starting when he was a councillor with Mid-Glamorgan and latterly on Caerffili CBC. I didn’t always agree with Ray but I had tremendous admiration for the way he campaigned for what he believed in.
“He had a wide range of interests including, to name just a few, Cor Cochion Caerdydd (Cardiff Red Choir), the Welsh language, CND and, of course, the sufferings of the people of Palestine.
“Ray will be missed in many ways, not just by his family but the huge number of people he came into contact with via his many interests. He leaves many gaps to fill in so many areas.”
A member of Cor Cochion, the Red Choir, Mr Davies sang to raise funds for countless organisations, recently raising money for the Gay Rights charity Stonewall following his son’s death in January.
He met his second wife Wendy through the choir and they married in 1993.
During the Miners’ Strike of 1984-85 Mr Davies left his day-to-day council duties and put his efforts into the Rhymney Valley Miners’ Support Group, collecting money and joining picket lines.
Born in Llanbradach in 1930, he worked as a boy miner from the age of 13 and his 2013 book, ‘A Miner’s Life’, serves both as a recollection of the 1984 dispute and his remarkable life.
In March he spoke at the launch of the ‘Fair Play for Palestine – Don’t Play with Israeli Apartheid’ campaign, calling on Wales not to play Israel in football as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. He was also part of the anti-apartheid in South Africa movement in the 1980s.
Betty Hunter, Honorary President of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “Ray was a member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign for many years and we were privileged to have him speak at our last major event in Cardiff in March.
“With his knowledge, warmth and humour, he demonstrated the links between the campaign against apartheid South Africa and the current campaign against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, supporting the call for a boycott protest when the Israeli football team comes to Cardiff on September 6.
“Ray will be sadly missed but his dedicated life of solidarity work is an inspiration to all of us who met him.”
In 2013 he was one of 100 activists who chained themselves together outside Faslane naval base in Scotland in protest to Trident and was a seasoned anti-war activist, campaigning against the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.
A life-long anti-fascist, Ray Davies promised his son Mark to make 2015 a year to fight against homophobia and racism, a pledge that would serve as a great tribute to him as well.
On Friday May 15 there will be a memorial gathering at Bedwas Workmens Hall, from 11.30am, to share memories of Ray.
In July, a celebration of his life will be held at the Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, Cardiff.