Ray Lawrence was the last of three generations of miners. He left school and started work as an apprentice electrician at the Celynen South Colliery and was a shift charge electrician at 24 years. His father was sacked for absenteeism two years later, even though he was suffering from chronic bronchitis (he died aged 59 years old). Ray vowed that this dismissal wouldn’t happen to anyone else and embarked on a fourteen-year journey as the lodge secretary of the Celynen South Lodge of the South Wales Area of the NUM, which included three years on the Area Executive Council of the NUM.

Following the colliery’s closure, he found it difficult to find work and eventually did a stint as a security guard and then a factory worker. During this period his fascination for the industrial past of the South Wales Coalfield was put to pen.

He gained a degree in international studies with the open university and retired from the probation service where he was a community punishment supervisor.  He has extensively researched the South Wales Coalfield and produced books on over two hundred individual collieries plus others on every conceivable aspect of the Coalfield.