The scene at Aberfan
The scene at Aberfan

THE ABERFAN DISASTER
50 years on 1966-2016

Links to the history of the Aberfan Disaster

The events of 21 October 1966
The Aftermath
Witness Accounts
— On the Mountain
— In Aberfan
— Pantglas Junior School
— The Rescue
— Bereavement
— Anger and Determination
— Recovery
Memorial
Tributes
The Disaster Site Today
External Links

At 9.15am on Friday, 21 October 1966, the eyes of the world turned in horror to the tiny coal-mining village of Aberfan in Wales. Even today, 50 years later, recalling of the name of Aberfan still brings tears to the eyes of older people.

With a roar, many thousands of tons of colliery waste swept down from a huge spoil-heap above the village of Aberfan. This massive breakaway from the tip overwhelmed two farm cottages on the mountainside and killed their occupants. It crossed a disused canal and overwhelmed a railway embankment. It engulfed and destroyed a school and twenty houses; did minor damage to a second school and other dwellings in the village before it finally stopped. A deathly silence followed.

The story of the 1966 Aberfan disaster is well chronicled in books, poems, websites and even in folk songs. However, nowhere on the Internet has there been there a comprehensive list of those who lost their lives in the horrendous events of that October morning. This reflected the view of the community of Aberfan who felt that their loss was private to the individual families concerned. They had been badly affected by the intrusive and insensitive questioning of journalists whose concern was for a sensational story. Indeed, a combination of grief, Welsh reserve, guilt and many other factors meant that they never discussed the event and their loss. You can read some first-hand accounts on the Recovery page. The moving memorial in the village is a corporate expression of commemoration of the lives of those who died.

In the ensuing 40-plus years, we have lived through the terrible events of 9/11 in the USA, 7/7 in London and many other terrorist and natural disasters. In services of commemoration of those events and others like the centenary of the end of World War I, one of the most moving parts has been the simple, unembellished reading out of the names of people who died. The events became personal and not abstract moments in history.

These pages are sensitive to the historical wishes of the community but now 50 years have elapsed and the world has changed. I have listed the names of those who died and included moving eye-witness accounts and with the objective of making a personal commemoration and tribute to the 144 people who paid the true price of coal. Subsequently, I have been contacted by survivors and relatives expressing gratitude that those who died are commemorated by name.

Karl Jenkins – Lament For The Valley

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster in Wales, Sir Karl Jenkins has composed a major new choral work, Cantata Memoria – For The Children. Cantata Memoria was commissioned by S4C, the Welsh language TV channel, to mark 50 years since the Aberfan disaster.

Licence: Standard YouTube Licence

Paul Dicken aberfan@hiraeth.wales

  • William Derek Graham

    I was at Middletown Primary School, Northern Ireland when I heard about the Aberfan Disaster. I remember the list of Donations towards the Appeal being displayed on the classroom wall. The incident made me feel very sad indeed. I was about 10 years of age.

  • Derrick Thomas

    Hi l have lost my little red poem book abook of poems about the disaster l purchased it in Nantymoel can any one tell who wrote it and if l can get another d.thomas674@aol.com

  • Wena Evans

    On Saturday October 22nd the Liverpool Welsh Choral are dedicating their concert to the memory of those who died, played a part and still grieve for that day 50 years ago.
    We wish Aberfan all the best for their future.
    Gan anfon ein dymuniadau gorau.
    X Wena Evans; Cadeirydd LWC.

  • Diolch Wena. Wela i di yn y cyngerdd,

  • Susan

    I was seven when the awful Aberfan disaster happened and remember my mum and dad talking about it and being very upset. My mums cousin was Audrey Davey the social worker who helped the bereaved parents. It’s so shocking to see all of the photos I feel so sorry for the familys who lost their loved ones that awful day. Susan ( Llandudno )

  • Wendy Warne

    Beautiful lament

  • Aberfan – 21 October 1966 – This song is offered as a tribute to those families. I was a young mother when this dreadful catastrophe happened to the people of Aberfan. It has haunted me ever since, that bright eyed children could go to school and never return alive.. in a country at peace. But what happened later, was just disgraceful!
    https://www.facebook.com/PoetryasCommunication/videos/1431570143522988/