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Aberfan: 45 years on

by Marrick on October 20, 2011

On the 21 October 1966, 144 people, 116 of them children, were killed when a tip of coal waste slid onto the village of Aberfan in South Wales.

The history of the tragedy is well documented elsewhere, but briefly for some 50 years up to 1966, millions of cubic metres of excavated mining debris from the National Coal Board##Q##s Merthyr Vale Colliery deposited on the side of Mynydd Merthyr, directly above the village of Aberfan. Huge piles, or ##Q##tips##Q##, of loose rock and mining spoil was built up over a layer of highly porous sandstone that contained numerous underground springs, and several tips had been built up directly over these springs. Although local authorities had raised specific concerns in 1963 about spoil being tipped on the mountain above the village primary school, these were largely ignored by the NCB##Q##s area management.

Early on the morning of Friday, 21 October 1966, after several days of heavy rain, a subsidence of about 3–6 metres occurred on the upper flank of colliery waste tip No. 7. At 9:15 a.m. more than 150,000 cubic metres of water-saturated debris broke away and flowed downhill at high speed. The slide hit the local school and one hundred and sixteen children were killed. In all one hundred and forty-four people died in the incident and it has left a scar on the memories of those of us who remember the day.

I##Q##r rhai a garwn ac y galarwn o##Q##u colli

These are the names of the 116 children who died that day. Remember them.

Amiette Smith
9 years old

Andrew Rees
14 years old

Angela Vaughan Hopkins
7 years old

Angela Williams
8 years old

Anne Catherine Lee
8 years old

Annette Hughes
9 years old

Anthony David Hill
8 years old

Anthony John Sullivan
10 years old

Anthony Joseph Watkins
10 years old

Anthony Wayne England
8 years old

Arthur O##Q##Brien
8 years old

Avis Elizabeth Sullivan
9 years old

Barbara Eileen Murray
9 years old

Brian Davies
8 years old

Brian Michael Gough
9 years old

Carl Minnett
7 years old

Carol Anderson
9 years old

Carol Ann Carpenter
9 years old

Carol Williams
10 years old

Catherine Elizabeth Evans
3 years old

Cheryl Mortimer
8 years old

Christine George
10 years old

Christine Prosser
9 years old

Corwyn Thomas Reakes
10 years old

Daphne May Fudge
8 years old

David Morgan
9 years old

David Paul Roberts
7 years old

David Trefor Davies
10 years old

David William Williams
8 years old

Dennis Arscott
8 years old

Desmond Carpenter
10 years old

Dwynwen Griffiths
9 years old

Edward Clive Mumford
11 years old

Edwin Davies
8 years old

Edwina Bartlett
9 years old

Eryl Mai Jones
10 years old

Gareth Davies
10 years old

Gareth Evans
3 months old

Geoffrey Derek Needs
10 years old

Gillian Gough
8 years old

Gillian Irene Jones
11 years old

Graham Williams
8 years old

Howard David Prosser
9 years old

Howell Lloyd Evans
7 years old

Ian Dougall
9 years old

Jacqueline Powell
8 years old

Janet Jones
9 years old

Jean Launchbury
10 years old

Jean Winifred Evans
11 years old

Jeanette Lynne Brown
10 years old

Jennifer Haines
8 years old

Jill Elizabeth Parfitt
9 years old

John Anthony King
9 years old

John Islwyn Jones
10 years old

Joseph Wilkshire
8 years old

Julie Jeannine Regan
9 years old

Julie Price
8 years old

June Margaret Williams
10 years old

Karen O##Q##Brien
8 years old

Kay Bowns
10 years old

Keith Williams
9 years old

Kelvin David Andrew
10 years old

Kevin Thomas Jones
9 years old

Layton Kerrie Reakes
9 years old

Linda Anderson
10 years old

Linda Hodkinson
8 years old

Lorraine Rosa Isobel Richards
10 years old

Lynn Harding
9 years old

Malcolm Andrew
8 years old

Maralyn Carol Howells
9 years old

Maralyn Minnett
10 years old

Martine Anne Short
9 years old

Maureen Mary Evans
8 years old

Megan Olwen Robbins
10 years old

Merrill Barnard
11 years old

Michael Collins
10 years old

Michael Jones
13 years old

Michael Fitzpatrick
7 years old

Necia James
9 years old

Norma Mumford
10 years old

Pamela Heaman
10 years old

Patricia Probert
12 years old

Paul Davies
8 years old

Paul Jones
9 years old

Peter Collins
10 years old

Peter Williams
10 years old

Philip Mumford
9 years old

Randolph Tudor
10 years old

Raymond John Collins
14 years old

Richard Phillip Goldsworthy
10 years old

Robert Breeze
10 years old

Robert Coffey
14 years old

Robert Garfield Jones
9 years old

Robert George Minney
10 years old

Robert Orville Jones
8 years old

Roger Colin Summers
7 years old

Roger Dyfrig Hayes
9 years old

Royston Barrett
10 years old

Royston Carl Davies
9 years old

Royston Hodkinson
9 years old

Sandra Leyshon
9 years old

Sandra Pauline Donovan
10 years old

Sharon Lewis
9 years old

Sheila Fitzpatrick
13 years old

Stephen Vaughan Hopkins
10 years old

Susan Jones
9 years old

Susan Mary Crotty
10 years old

Susan Meredith
8 years old

Sylvia Frances Richards
9 years old

Terence Malcolm Davies
10 years old

Thomas Probert
7 years old

Trevor Timothy Gray
9 years old

Valmai Mary Owen
8 years old

Victoria Marie Symonds
10 years old

Vincent Clark Parfitt
13 years old

Yvonne Drage
11 years old

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ABERFAN

 

An unknown village in the vale,

Secluded from the noisome world;

Within its borders, children played and sang,

And, from the hills behind, their echoes rang

While Aberfan lay still, in deep content.

 

The people lived on coal, black diamonds

Deep hewn by skilled and gallant men.

They knew the risk they ran.

 

The early morning kiss and tender smile,

So shyly given before the sun broke o##Q##er the hill,

Might always be the last.

Yet down the mine they went.

 

They toiled below the ground

In lurking darkness.

Their songs and chat accompanied

By menacing sounds of water,

 

Dripping, dripping, dripping.

 

They read the signs, ominous and dark

And scrambled skillfully away

Before the roof fell in.

They did not always win.

 

Entombed were many men

And up above stood women

 

Praying, waiting, weeping,

Not daring e##Q##en to hope

Much less despair.

 

This was their lot.

 

The mine became a tomb

And, in the place of warmth to cheer the heart

It spoke of cold, the chill of death

The insufferable winter in a life of spring.

 

Then came the day.

The hills of God stood firm.

The man-made heaps of slag

 

Began to move.

 

Weight immeasurable,

Force irresistible,

Crushing all before.

A farm, the homes of men below,

And, in their cruel and senseless spate

They could not even wait

For little children to escape.

 

The Junior school was crushed.

 

Pant Glas with all its hopes,

Its dreams, its noble expectations;

 

Pant Glas, built by the toil of men below

To open up new worlds for young ones up above;

 

Pant Glas – how fair a name! –

Was buried ##Q##neath the slime and mud

Brought from the mine.

The bud of life

Was utterly destroyed.

The mine had won again,

And seemed to mock

All human striving

To build for children the promise

Of a fairer and a kinder world.

Alas! was it all in vain?

 

Merthyr Vale – the Martyrs vale!

Why should the martyr be a child?

Why claim the young for sacrifice?

Wherein lies guilt and blame?

On whom should fall the shame?

We do not know.

 

We only know

That Aberfan no longer

Lies secluded in the hills of Wales.

 

It is the centre of the world;

 

The world in which the tales

Of human courage, human grief are told,

Deeds of valour wrought,

Nobility achieved, but never sought,

A world of sorrow and of cruel fate

Made splendid by the simple, now the great.

 

For generations yet to come,

When tales are told

Of courage, human pity,

Noble grief, majestic sorrow,

When men recall

The heroism of frantic men

Undaunted in the face

Of ruthless, blind and senseless slag,

With simple pride and uplifted heart

Then shall they say to every man:

 

“This was the glory of Aberfan”

 

The late Reverend Dr. Emlyn Davies of Aberfan

29 October, 1966

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