ABERFAN

At 9.15 am on Friday, October 21, 1966 a waste tip slid down a mountainside into the mining village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales.

It first destroyed a farm cottage in its path, killing all the occupants.

At Pantglas Junior School, just below, the children had just returned to their classes after singing All Things Bright and Beautiful at their assembly. It was sunny on the mountain but foggy in the village, with visibility about 50 yards.

The tipping gang up the mountain had seen the slide start, but could not raise the alarm because their telephone cable had been repeatedly stolen.

(The Tribunal of Inquiry later established that the disaster happened so quickly that a telephone warning would not have saved lives.)

Down in the village, nobody saw anything, but everybody heard the noise. Gaynor Minett, an eight-year-old at the school, remembered four years later:

‘It was a tremendous rumbling sound and all the school went dead. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone just froze in their seats. I just managed to get up and I reached the end of my desk when the sound got louder and nearer, until I could see the black out of the window. I can’t remember any more but I woke up to find that a horrible nightmare had just begun in front of my eyes.”

The slide engulfed the school and about 20 houses in the village before coming to rest.

‘Then there was total silence.’

George Williams, who was trapped in the wreckage, remembered that ‘In that silence you couldn’t hear a bird or a child’.

144 people died in the Aberfan disaster: 116 of them were school children.

About half of the children at Pantglas Junior School, and five of their teachers, were killed.

LINK

A shy and fragile leaf now greens

In a bright and plastic room
On tender stems it offers forth
To cast its earthen womb
Fed by a valley’s tears
That watched it leaf and grow
To tell of ones that sleep the night
In Aberfan below

One day those sleepy flowers
Will leave that sunsealed land
And wink away the night
That no one understands
To tell us why that summer fades
In a single afternoon
And why that day in Aberfan
Did autumn come too soon.

Max Boyce.

11 thoughts on “ABERFAN

  1. I, TOO,REMEMBER IT. THERE WAS AN INQUEST & ONE OF THE BEREAVED PARENTS GOT UP AND SHOUTED THAT THE VERDICT SHOULD BE ” BURIED ALIVE BY THE NATIONAL COAL BOARD”, BUT A LOT OF MONEY WAS COLLECTED. I WONDER WHAT HAPPENED TO IT?

    NOT THAT I’M BEING CYNICAL. PERISH THE THOUGHT!!

    OH, HANG ON; SORRY! A TRULY LOVELY MEMORIAL WAS BUILT & DEDICATED, WITH ALL KINDS OF “DIGNITARIES ” TAKING PART TO SHOW THAT THEY CARED.

    BUT THE KIDS ARE STILL DEAD.

    RIGHT?.

  2. I remember it. I was 4 years old and in Pontypridd with my mother. Lots of sirens of the emergency vehicles on their way up to Aberfan is something that I still remember. Loads of people also dashed up to try to help, including many miners from around the area as they finished their shifts. My husband’s father went to help as well. My husband was 16 and wanted to go with him but his dad wouldn’t let him go. His father never spoke about it again – just couldn’t bring himself to remember the horrors he saw. I know a few people who helped dig out the children and none of them will speak about it. I also know people who lost children. It devastated the community. RIP Little Ones x

    1. My dad too Krystina. All coal miners in the area went over to help do whatever they could.

      I remember them coming off shift and heading straight over the mountain to Aberfan… I remember them coming back home too..

      Many were, like you have said never the same after.

      A tragedy that devastated so many lives and is still fresh in the memories of those who are old enough to remember it. 🙁

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    MAJESTY TWELVE by William Cooper Copyright © 1997 William Cooper All Rights Reserved.

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  5. I grew up in Aberfan and remember this as if it was yesterday. Thank you for remembering too. RIP.

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