Skip to main content

Remembering the Aberfan Disaster

Remembering the Aberfan Disaster, 50 Years On

Tonight we went to a commemorative service to mark the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster. It was held at St. David's Parish Church, on Merthyr High Street, with prayers, readings, hymns, and a performance by the Ynysowen Male Voice Choir which was established as a fundraising body in the aftermath of the disaster.

I knew I would cry as soon as I knew I was down to attend, and of course I did. Because it's the kind of tragedy that should never have happened, and could have so easily been avoided with greater intervention. It reminds everyone in public service that when people bring their concerns to you, like the residents of Aberfan did to the Coal Board, the Council, and others, there is a duty on you to look into it and be satisfied that they are unfounded. That the systems in place to reduce human error are adhered to, and aren't simply a box ticking exercise.

Because reading the newspaper stories about the disaster this week made me think of the sinking of the MV Sewol in 2014, a tragedy that was unfolding as I discovered I was pregnant with Marianna, and left parts of Ansan another community that lost a generation to poorly regulated industry. These things can still happen if we're not vigilant, and put saving money above the safety of the workforce and the general public.


The Aberfan Disaster

9:15am, 21st October 1966 was a Friday morning, the last day of school before the half term holidays. In Aberfan the weather was foggy but dry, a relief after days of heavy rainfall. At Pantglas Junior School children had just made their way to their classrooms for morning registration, following assembly in the main hall. There was a sudden roar, like an almight thunder clap, and one teacher told his class to get under their desks, fearing the noise was a jet plane crashing.

They had scarcely left their seats when some 1,400,000 cubic feet of slurry smashed into the northern side of the building - where the classrooms were situated - demolishing much of the structure and burying pupils under up to 30 foot of debris. Within minutes an entire generation was dead; the final toll was 116 children, almost half of the school roll, and 28 adults, including 5 teachers.

Rescue crews worked tirelessly, their numbers swelled by men from the surrounding pit towns who came straight from the coal face to help, and press converged on the village. Few were pulled from the aftermath alive however, and by noon on that first day it was a recovery mission, something which took a week to accomplish. The bulk of the dead were buried in a mass funeral on October 27th 1966.

Aberfan Graves



What I have always found so very chilling about the Aberfan Disaster is how incredibly awful the timing of it was. Just half hour earlier and the school would have been all but empty. Just five minutes earlier and almost every child would have been gathered in the assembly hall, a part of the building that was relatively untouched by the slide.

Just a day later and it would have been the weekend, a week later and the school would have been deserted, its pupils enjoying the half term holiday.

I remember watching a documentary on it when I was about ten or so, and one mother's recollection of how she had sent her son to school, even though he wasn't feeling well, has played on my mind ever since. Her sense of guilt, of remorse, for doing what she thought was the right thing, and yet turned out to be her own child's death sentence.

It just doesn't bear thinking about.

Aberfan Disaster
Aerial view of the disaster.



For all that, the very worst thing about the Aberfan Disaster was that it wasn't some unforeseeable accident. The Merthyr Vale colliery had been dumping spoil on the mountain above Aberfan since 1916, and residents had been increasingly vocal with their fears about the practice. In 1963 Merthyr Council complained to the National Coal Board about their tipping policies, and in 1965 Ann Jennings, the Headmistress of Pantglas School, presented a petition to the Council on behalf of the mothers of the schoolchildren, warning that the school would be at risk if the slag heap moved.

Still spoil continued to be tipped in the Pantglas area, even with the known risks of flooding and movement. Until that Friday morning in 1966 when the heap finally did move, demolishing a farm and a row of terraced houses before reaching the school. The National Coal Board, chaired by Paul Robens, did little more to acknowledge their culpability in the aftermath, even refusing to fund the removal of the remaining spoil around Aberfan, meaning the money had to come from the Disaster Fund which had been raised by public subscription.

It was Robens too, in 1972, who steered in a Health and Safety framework that was largely reliant on employers self-regulating as opposed to outside inspection - something which would reign supreme until the 1990s when EU legislatory influence forced employers to be more proactive and preemptive when it came to potential hazards. Whatever happens in the years to come, I think we shouldn't lose sight of the good that stricter legislation has wrought.

Because even 50 years on, all it really takes is complacency for history to repeat itself.


A minute's silence will be held tomorrow morning at 9:15am, right across the UK, in memory of all those affected by the disaster.


Popular posts from this blog

Over 200 UK Refer and Earn Offers for 2022

So many stores and services offer special rewards and discounts for recruiting them new customers. No matter what you're into, there's a refer and earn offer for you! Some of these translate to straight up free and easy money through cashback or reward sites, others require you to be an existing customer or jump through several hoops. There are over 400 offers listed on my Codes, Coupons and Discounts Pinterest board, and I am (slowly) working on updating this post to reflect the cream of the crop! CASHBACK, SURVEYS, REWARDS & DEALS 20 Cogs . Get £20 when your friend completes 20 cogs (i.e. offers), and 5% of their earnings for life. You also need to complete 20 offers yourself before you can cash out. Airtime Rewards . Get up to £1.50 bonus credit for each person who signs up with your referral code. Mine is 9CKQXLH8. Cashback Earners . Earn 5.00 CashCoins and 10% of their earnings from purchases. 20 CashCoins minimum payout. Cashback Kingdom . Both get a bon

British Food

A/N: On a previous blog wrote a whole series of posts on British life, explained for American fiction writers. This week I'm reposting the entry explaining British cuisine... Britain is world renowned for its stodgy, uninspiring cuisine. (Which should explain the deep suspicion Britons have of most foreign cuisine, unless it's been suitably adapted for the British palette.) BBC sitcom Goodness Gracious Me explains it best via the 'going for an English' sketch - a play on the popular British past time of 'going for an Indian (i.e. curry)'. " What's the blandest thing on the menu? " asks one character, later encouraging another, " Just have something a little bland, huh? Waiter, what have you got that is not totally tasteless? " Because, the truth is that traditional British fare is far from a taste sensation for those who haven't been raised on the stuff. Still, read on, and you can judge for yourself... Breakfast  The be

Free Magazine Scans

Click the pictures below to find full cover guides to various teen magazines (primarily collated to make scale miniature magazine covers but I figure they'll also be useful for collectors and anyone into media history) and scans from my own magazine collection. I've also got a couple of kids' books I didn't want to part with - The Squirrel and Little Owl Book of Pets . The unwieldy size of my bookmark folders convinced me I needed a reference post for online magazine archives. Or, more accurately, free online magazine archives. Whether you're looking for leisure reading or research avenues, you're bound to find something useful in this list. :) ☆ Archive for the Unexplained - UFO mags galore. ☆   The Magazine Rack - over 140,000 digitised magazines! ☆   Lantern - thousands of vintage film magazines. ☆ FANZINES  - a number of online archives now exist for these including  FANAC  (SF), ScoTpress  (Trek), Sandy Herald Collection  (media fandom, major

Simply Cook Review

I kept seeing ads and deals for Simply Cook everywhere, so as there was a special offer on at OhMyDosh! Rewards (£3 for the box and £3.50 cashback) I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a try. What Is It? Recipe kits packed into boxes which fit through your letterbox. The usual price is £9.99 for a kit of 4, with each one serving 2-4 people depending on your serving sizes. All you need to do is buy the fresh ingredients required and follow the instructions. Here is Simply Cook's own helpful diagram: Does It Work? For me, as the person just eating it, it was awesome. Everything tasted great - the mushroom penne in particular was so good I went back for seconds - and I liked that the sauces weren't as rich as Anthony would usually make them. For Anthony, who cooked them, they weren't as impressive. He complained that the food was bland and that it was actually quite a lot of faff, as Lidl didn't stock everything we needed which meant another trip ou

Free Fabric Samples x 200

Choosing upholstery and soft furnishings can be a nightmare - especially if it arrives and isn't quite what you expected. Fabric samples are a great way to avoid costly mistakes, as well as providing a fab source of material for your crafts box. Here are over 200 places offering completely free fabric samples in the UK: