Les Kelly, who has died aged 84, was the last leader of the north Wales area of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
He played an important role in the miners’ strike of 1984-85, leading the striking miners of the Point of Ayr pit, Flintshire, developing support networks with Liverpool and negotiating with mortgage companies so that struggling families did not lose their homes.
As the north Wales area agent from 1987, Les fought against the closure of Point of Ayr in 1992, its privatisation in 1994 and its eventual demise in 1996. He worked hard for his members, never lost a tribunal against British Coal and ensured that hundreds of men were compensated for a range of mining-related diseases and disabilities.
Born in Manchester, after leaving school Les did national service with the Lancashire Fusiliers, then became a coal miner at Bradford colliery, located close to the current site of Manchester City’s Etihad stadium. With the closure of Bradford in 1968, Les moved to Point of Ayr on the north Wales coast. He was elected to the lodge committee in 1971, becoming secretary two years later.
In 1983 Les unsuccessfully stood for the position of general secretary of the NUM, having campaigned as a centrist candidate between Peter Heathfield from the left and John Walsh from the right.
The north Wales coalfield consisted of two pits, Point of Ayr and Bersham, and during the strike, it was hopelessly divided. As lodge secretary of Point of Ayr, Les was one of 84 strikers, but the majority continued to work, while Bersham was out for nine months, with 15 miners staying away for the duration.
During this time Les showed great skills as a trade union leader. In the aftermath of the dispute, he ensured that the NUM remained the dominant union in the coalfield and that no men were victimised.
The strikers remained critical of the moderate area agent Ted McKay, and so Les replaced him in 1987. He became a mentor to younger trade unionists at the colliery, encouraging them to attend college and university courses.
He retired in 2005, and continued to attend reunions of striking miners, follow Manchester City, and work on his autobiography. In recent years he lived in a care home in Rhyl.
He is survived by his wife, Maureen (nee Allen), whom he married in 1954, their daughter, Jan, and son, Bob.
A memorial will take place on Saturday 27th April at Ffynnongroyw Canalfon Main Road 9HA Ffynnongroyw 1-4 pm.