Remembering Aberfan

Aberfan

Liz, October 21, 2016

Most days I drive down the A470 to work. Half-way down, just south of Pentrebach, I go past the sign for Aberfan.

Fifty years ago, the dual carriageway through the valleys into Cardiff didn’t exist. So the 1.4m cubic feet of coal slurry and debris that slammed through the village and engulfed the school flowed straight over where the road now is.

I’ve always think of the kids when I drive past the exit. So many from one small community. What a quiet place it must have been in the months and years afterwards. And of course, all of us at Wordtree were thinking of Aberfan when we stood for a minute’s silence in Cardiff’s Millennium Centre this morning to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster.

What I didn’t know before I watched all the BBC’s coverage of the 50 year anniversary was just how obstructive, disrespectful and hateful the Coal Board and the government were to the families at the time.

The class-ridden, must-respect-your-betters society of 1966 meant that the Coal Board got away with lying through its teeth – to the distress and indignity of the families whose kids were killed. And it meant that the community was forced to pay to remove the waste mountains from money sent as donations from all over the world to help them rebuild. The Coal Board didn’t pay for its own mistakes. It barely acknowledged them. No-one went to jail. No-one even lost their job.

I highly recommend watching (if you haven’t already):

Surviving Aberfan

Aberfan: The Fight For Justice

Aberfan: The Green Hollow (is going to screen for the first time this evening at 9pm on BBC1)

It’s shocking viewing – not just for the needless loss of life, but for the utter bloody mindedness and callousness of the authority figures. The contrast with the selflessness of the community and the miners and firefighters who just all pitched in together to get the kids out couldn’t have been more stark. Thank God we live in more enlightened times today.

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