Ron Davies: courageous cameraman 

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 23 August 1969

Yesterday’s pictures are as little use as yesterday’s stories to a television news cameraman. Quick wits and speed are vital to get that film to the studio on time. For 19 years, Ron Davies has been confined to a wheelchair. But he always gets his film through — and taking it can be a big problem for a man who can’t walk.

Ron Davies, freelance photographer, broke his spine in a motor-cycle accident 19 years ago. He spent three years in hospitals. When he came out, he knew he would never walk again. That was the time of decision — whether to try to carry on his career, or to live on insurance money.

TV’s cameraman-on-wheels Davies records Prince Charles’ departure from the Guildhall, Cardigan

Davies decided to work. And he made a success of it. Now his film appears regularly on Harlech Television and on ITN’s News At Ten.

It was a year before anyone at Harlech’s Cardiff studios knew that Ron Davies was handicapped in any way. By the time they found out, it couldn’t make any difference.

Davies is based at Aberaeron, a small West Wales harbour town in Cardigan Bay. He covers everything from purely local events to news of national importance. But how does he do it, when he can’t walk?

“The wheelchair has often proved to be an advantage rather than a liability,” he said. “It’s been a passport and a ticket through many closed doors in its time.

“If another cameraman and I are faced with the same job, I have to treat it in a different way, looking for a new and unconventional angle. I start at a disadvantage, so I have to make a special effort.” Unconventional is hardly the word to describe some of the methods to which he resorts to get his film. There was the time he had to take some shots of Aberaeron’s harbour wall. So his wheelchair was slung in a crane jib and hauled 40 feet above the harbour.

Said Davies: “If I had been on my legs, I don’t think I would have come up with this way of getting a high angle. There aren’t many advantages to being crippled, but that’s one. I often feel like being lazy, but I can’t afford to be. I have to keep my wits about me the whole time.”

Despite his handicap he still gets big assignments — like the post-investiture tour of West Wales undertaken by Prince Charles.

Three Welsh policemen carried him up the steps of the Cardigan Guildhall to his scat in the Press enclosure. Then he had to drive quickly and skilfully to Fishguard, where a helicopter was waiting to rush the film to Cardiff for screening that evening.

Of course, Davies has to rely on help. He often gets to a job an hour early to give himself time to decide on his position and find someone to help him.

But he’s never short of help in Aberaeron, where he was born and raised. “I don’t get preferential treatment, but a sympathy that shows as friendliness, not pity,” he said. “Without help, I couldn’t function as a human being or as a cameraman.”

    

Clive Chapman

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