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Aberfan, Fifty years. Hiraeth by Huw Jones


Jeff Ellis

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On 21 October it will be the 50th anniversary of the 1966 disaster at Aberfan, when a coal waste heap avalanched in a South Wales mining valley and engulfed a primary school.

116 small children, their headteacher and four teachers died, together with people in neighbouring houses... a total of 144 victims.

It happened at 9.15 in the morning and despite heroic efforts nobody was rescued alive after 11.00 that morning.

Huw Jones wrote a magnificent story here recounting a boy's emotional survival at the loss. It would be fitting at this time to read it here... http://awesomedude.com/huw_jones/Hiraeth/index.htm

A particularly moving locally written blog of the disaster can be read here... http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/aberfandisaster.htm

An unsung hero of the following night was the volunteer miner who stood on the remains of the waste heap (which was still moving). He stood there in the dark with a siren to warn the rescue teams if the tip started to accelerate towards them... His task was to sound a warning until he was killed... a great man. I never heard of his name.

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Thanks so very much for pointing this one out, Jeff. A tremendous story that really makes the reader feel like you are right alongside the characters, for better and for worse. I can't begin to imagine the trauma that people went through in Aberfan.

(And it was great to read it in a single sitting rather than over the course of weeks of anxious waiting!)

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Well, today Friday 21 October 2016 has been a sad day for my part of South Wales.

It's hard to appreciate the scale of the impact in that village, especially on the other children, the survivors.

In one class, only 4 of the 24 children survived, imagine... when you start classes again there are only four of you. Your friends are gone.

In the junior school, there was a "year" with only two boys left.

One of them was trapped for two hours with his face pressed against the cheek of a dead classmate.

Half the children disappeared from that village that day, in a few minutes.

When the Queen visited two days later... a four year old girl (too young to have needed rescuing) presented her with a bunch of flowers, with a card that said

"From the remaining children of Aberfan"

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When the Queen visited two days later... a four year old girl (too young to have needed rescuing) presented her with a bunch of flowers, with a card that said

"From the remaining children of Aberfan"

I was told some years ago that she kept that card in her personal collection rather than the archives. Don't know how true that is, though the source I got it from was in a position to know, it would be nice to think it is true.

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BBC4 (still available on iPlayer in UK) broadcast Karl Jenkins "Cantata Memoria" his requiem for the lives lost at Aberfan.

There is a truly horrific moment in it, and that's rare in choral music.

The chorus is huge, with a number of adult choirs and a very large childrens choir in the centre.

At the moment in the music that corresponds to the waste heap sliding... the childrens choir turns its back on the audience.

Suddenly, the reality of what 116 children look like strikes home.

It's a very striking hour of music. With Bryn Terfil singing pieces such as "Buried Alive by the National Coal Board" it could hardly be less than striking!

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The complete Karl Jenkins "Cantata Memoria" (music only) is on YouTube with a playlist that plays from start to finish. It's at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGKK3qz6iVU&list=PLrXXa5JyDNKGLSKwKjzNLzjyd0FdcFrpG&index=1.

Colin :icon_geek:

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