Friday, October 20, 2006

Remembering Aberfan...

The Aberfan Disaster, which took place 40 years ago tomorrow, is my earliest memory of a news event. As I have said before on this blog, I have absolutely no recollection of England's 1966 World Cup win, but I clearly remember my mother watching the TV ashen-faced as the pit village catastrophe unfolded just a few months' later.

I guess that was part of the reason why, as a reporter on the South Wales Echo nearly three deacdes later, I felt drawn to highlight some of the terrible injustices suffered as a result of the coal industry in a campaign called Heroes of Coal.

The history of coal in the UK has been one of appalling industrial exploitation and official neglect, right up to the previous Government's flat refusal to compensate those former miners now suffering from chronic bronchitis and emphysema. But even against that backdrop, Aberfan stands as the most notorious episode of all.

The people of Aberfan never wanted the publicity that came with the disaster and, as Melanie Doel of BBC Wales writes in this piece, tomorrow's anniversary will be marked by quiet reflection in the village. But our thoughts will be with them nonetheless.

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skipper said...

I was a student at Aberystwyth University when it happened Paul, and it totally shocked us all out of our perennial alcoholic torpor. Car loads of the lads drove down to help dig people out- though most pulled out were dead my ashen faced fellow students reported. Easy to forget how awful that tragedy really was.

Colin Campbell said...

My Grandfather Walter Lumsden worked at the Francis Colliery from age 13 to about age 40, when he was lucky enough to be given a part time surface job. He lived for another 50 years, but would have been dead if he didn't get out then. He had a neverending list of horrific stories about life down the mine. Not quite as dramatic as Aberfan, but gruesome all the same. One injury and one death at a time they were taken out. Coal mining, a grim occupation.