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Aberfan

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Aberfan

Post  Hieronymus on Sun Oct 09, 2016 10:56 pm

It is 50 years on 21st October since a pit slurry heap collapsed and engulfed a primary school and nearby homes in Aberfan. I was 10 when the disaster happened, my sister was 8 and my brother was 6. We were the same age as many of the children that died that terrible day.

I bet virtually everyone of us on here remembers what they were doing when the news frst came through and how they felt when they saw the horrifying pictures on TV that evening. I have never forgotten those images of desperate people searching in the blackness amd filth; I just remember how everything and everyone was so black and dirty.

Below are a few extracts from a 'film poem' created by Welsh poet Owen Sheers telling the story of Aberfan. It is also worth clicking on the link (https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/09/aberfan-50-years-owen-sheers-the-green-hollow-film-poem) and reading the accompanying piece about how the 'film poem' was made. It is a long article but worth the effort and I found this bit particularly heart breaking:

"There were moments when the archival research also caught me unawares. Coming across a handwritten list of the dead and its accumulation of single-digit ages filling a column. Or reading a local newspaper report of an inquest into the deaths of 30 of the children, and of the moment when, after one name was read out and the cause of death given as asphyxia and multiple injuries, a father stood and responded with “No, sir, buried alive by the National Coal Board. That is what I want to see on record.”

It seems the NCB had been warned time and again that the slurry heap was dangerous and yet they did nothing. Shockingly, no one from the NCB was sacked, and not a single person offered to resign following the disaster  Crying or Very sad

The Green Hollow by Owen Sheers – extract

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Aberfan disaster, the Welsh poet and playwright has written a ‘film poem’ based on the voices and memories of those involved. The following passages are extracts from a work that will be broadcast on the BBC later this month

Click here to read Owen Sheers’s piece about making the work

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Mansel (in the white shirt, centre), a medical student who travelled home to Aberfan that day.
Owen Sheers Sunday 9 October 2016 09.30 BST


Gwyneth (secretary in the mayor’s office in Merthyr Tydfil at the time)


Around eleven we assembled in the chamber,
to be informed of the plans.
‘We’re setting up mortuaries,’ they said.
‘Wherever we can.’ We were stunned, numb.
But of course, had to carry on.
There was so much to be done.
At around four, the women, 
as well as the men
were asked to go to Aberfan.
Once there, we gathered in a hall, 
unsure what would happen.
But then John Beale, Director of Education,
he came in, school registers under his arm.
He wanted to account for the children
so began to read out their names.
But their sound on the air, what it conjured,
was too much for him. He broke down.
And anyway, nobody knew –
who had survived, and who had not.
So each of the women was given a street,
and told to go down it from door to door,
asking each family a single question
against the grain of natural law –
I was twenty two. Each time I knocked
I prayed the answer would be yes, he’s here,
or yes, she’s asleep upstairs.
But of course, all too often it wasn’t.
I’d write down the name, or the names,
the ages – 7, 8, 9.
We’d talk, if they wanted.
Then they’d close their door, softly,
the hand of a husband or wife on their shoulder,
and I’d carry on,
with my list of numbers, names and ages,
willing for it not to grow any longer.


Mansel (medical student who travelled home to Aberfan that day)


It sounds odd to say it now,
but what it resembled, that scene,
was like something from the gold rush –
like one of those old photos 
where every man has staked out his pitch,
to prospect for wealth.
Except these men 
were digging for something else
and for something more precious too –
their little ones. 
Their sons, daughters, nephews, nieces
still stuck in that school.
I walked on into it all,
the slurry like dark cement –
asked if I could help.
But there was no one to treat,
that’s what the local GP said.
At least, not yet, not from under the rubble.
Soon enough though, those diggers
were getting into trouble.
Most had never worked so hard in their life,
so began collapsing with pains in their chests.
I did my best to see them right,
treated sprains, cuts – but it wasn’t enough.
How could it be, in that landscape of pain?
With that great black tongue
lolling out of the mist,
and just there, nearby, the mothers
holding each other, knee-deep in the grit, looking on 
at what that slipping tip had done.

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Miners and rescue volunteers clearing and stabilising the colliery spoil tip above the village. Photograph: Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Sam Knight (journalist on the Merthyr Gazette at the time)


When the day started fading
they brought in arc lights,
powered by canisters of gas.
Towers were erected, from which they shone
across that whole expanse 
of ruin and slurry and black.
Everyone was covered in muck,
me included. I’d worn my best suit
to go and see John Beale,
but now you’d have thought
I’d spent the day down the pit.
But we hadn’t. It had come to us.
Everyone knew that now.
And when it did, like some heartless pied piper,
it harvested the best of that town.
It was time for me to go.
Dusk was giving to night.
I wanted to see my wife.
The Merthyr to Cardiff line had been cut,
so I caught a bus.
I was the only one on it, and like that,
held in the brightness of its upper deck, 
I travelled home alone,
through the darkness,
being sick at my feet as it went.
From what I can’t say.
Exhaustion, sadness, who knows.
The body has its ways
of telling when we’ve had too much.
But as the bus sailed on
down that dark valley,
with me, a dirty grain in its light, 
even with my eyes closed, being sick,
I couldn’t help seeing
one specific sight.
The curtains of a house in a short terraced street
I’d passed earlier that day.
They were closed, which in Wales 
not at night, means only one thing –
a house where the seeds of death
have been sown.
I walked on, but as I did
I looked down the rest of that row,
which is when I saw –
the curtains, they were drawn
in every window.


Sara (beautician)


Aberfan, it’s known isn’t it?
Anywhere you go, you say the name,
and people are like ‘Oh’, nodding,
thinking of the disaster.
But that’s not the whole story.
I mean, if it was, they must think
we’re a miserable place,
sitting round crying, long in the face.
But that’s not true.
Take the Young Wives Club.
I know it grew from what happened, 
but then it grew beyond it too – I’d say that’s fair?
Buses to London, theatre trips.
From what the ladies tell me in this chair,
I reckon that’s mostly what they do!


Anne (survivor)


The way I see it, more and more,
is that we’re all carbon, aren’t we?
At least that’s what Tom keeps telling me.
And what happened here,
it was the most terrible weight.
The worst you can imagine.
A weight on lives, families,
the community, the town.
But what happens to carbon under pressure,
if you keep pressing down?
Well, at first, you get coal.
A darkness that burns.
But keep pressing, long and hard enough
and some of that coal turns diamond,
and some of that darkness, light.
Now I’m not saying we’re all diamonds
here, of course I’m not. 
But I do think that when so many
have felt the same pressure, 
at exactly the same time,
then sometimes, in places,
we’re pushed through ’til we shine –
an unexpected brightness,
made both of that darkness
and that sharing of weight,
its source buried under years,
but there, deeply rooted
in our memories, a day, a date.


All extracts © Owen Sheers


The Green Hollow will be broadcast by BBC1 Wales on Friday 21 October, 9pm, and on BBC4 on Sunday 23 October, 9pm

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Re: Aberfan

Post  silvers on Sun Oct 09, 2016 11:10 pm

I remember it well.

I was 19 and still in my first job.

Very, very sad.

Sad
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Re: Aberfan

Post  canary-dave on Mon Oct 10, 2016 4:31 am

silvers wrote:I remember it well.

I was 19 and still in my first job.

Very, very sad.

Sad

I remember it too, it was the worst thing I can ever remember. I was 18 and also in my first job. It still mkes me feel sick today!

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Re: Aberfan

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