Saturday, October 21, 2006

Birthdays and Aberfan...

Today’s special: My wife Gill is celebrating her birthday. We’ve had a great family day with our two grown-up daughters. We’ve walked in sunshine drenched woods, scoffed cream-teas at the Haycock, and let her win at ten-pin bowling…! Later we have a table booked at The Village Balti.

But as everyone knows, it’s also 40 years today since the Aberfan disaster. Like me, Gill was a teenager in 1966. Unlike me, she was born into a Welsh valleys mining community.

Her father went down the pit – and like most miners, Evan Bedford Thomas suffered a terrible disease-ridden end to his life.

Gill trained as a psychiatric nurse at University Hospital, Cardiff – where she later nursed some of the parents who had lost their children at Aberfan.
Reading an archived story on the BBC website today, I was not surprised to learn that Aberfan survivors still lead stressed lives.

Aberfan killed 144 people, including 116 children when their school was engulfed with thousands of tons of black slurry.

What makes Aberfan even more indelible is the fact that it was a man-made disaster which was wholly avoidable. Working miners who survived, wrongly blamed themselves for creating the tip that slid onto the school, killing their own children and grandchildren, but the real blame of course lay elsewhere.

A few months ago when Gill and I last spent a weekend visiting relatives in South Wales, we stopped off at Aberfan for the first time.

We were curious, but somehow disappointed with the Memorial Garden apparently opened by the Queen, on the spot where the doomed Pantglas School once stood. There was no roll of honour – although I understand there is a list of the names of the victims at the cemetery where many were finally buried.

Some time later, I was talking to a group of teenagers and mentioned Aberfan.
They’d never heard of it.

We must do more than simply say: “Aberfan: nuff said”.
Not just for the sake of those who died. But also for the sake of those who still live everyday of their lives with the trauma that is Aberfan.

1 comment:

Brynley said...

We had lunch in the new conservatory at The Haycock, a bit of a treat.

I remember Aberfan. A huge wave of emotion at school. The collection came round and I had no money on me at all.

As someone from the village said recently: 'No counselling in those days'.