IN the days of sailing ships, there were several coastal villages in Pembrokeshire where nearly every cottage was home to a family of seamen.

Communities such as Trefin, Solva and Dinas were populated by seadogs of every kind, from ocean-going Master Mariners to deckhands on coasting traders, and this rich seafaring heritage has been extensively documented over the years.

Often forgotten, however, is the fact that the south Pembrokeshire parish of Lawrenny has a maritime history almost as illustrious as these north county villages. It is partly to set the record straight and restore Lawrenny to its rightful place in the maritime heritage of Pembrokeshire that local historian Keith Johnson has written a new book, A Brief History of Lawrenny Ferry and its Mariners.

Though it may be a long way from the open sea, Lawrenny stands at the junction of the Cleddau and the Cresswell rivers, and was once a busy river port. As a consequence, the area became known for its seafarers and the author gives brief biographies of over 80 local men who went to sea in the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy or joined the Trinity House Service.

They range from the 17th century Arctic explorer Sir Thomas Button - who led the first official expedition to search for the North-west Passage and who made his home in Lawrenny for a number of years - to Capt Enoch Davies and Capt Tom Williams who were both born in the village, went to sea in the same sailing ship and ended up as long-serving captains of the GWR steamers from Neyland to Waterford.

Perhaps the most interesting story is that of Lawrenny-born John Rogers who joined the Royal Navy as an armourer and found himself caught up in one of the most famous actions of the Boer War as part of the naval brigade despatched to help defend the garrison at Ladysmith. He survived until the Relief of Ladysmith and returned home to a hero's welcome.

As the title of the book indicates, its focus is on Lawrenny Ferry, nowadays a yachting and leisure centre but once a hive of industry with two shipyards, limekilns and a quay where locally-mined coal and culm would be transferred from barges into sea-going ships.

The author charts the rise and fall of these industries, while also examining some of the lesser-known aspects of the area's history, such as the long-forgotten Lawrenny soap factory and the Mormon exodus of the 1850s which saw several families leave the village to make the long and hazardous journey to Salt Lake City. The history of the ferry service, the hunt kennels (now the Lawrenny Arms) and the WWII seaplane base are also covered.

A Brief History of Lawrenny Ferry and its Mariners is published by Jackydando Books and costs £8.99. It is available from the author on 01646 651725 or email; the Lawrenny Community Shop or Victoria Bookshop, Haverfordwest.