Anger and Determination

I was helping to dig the children out when I heard a photographer tell a kiddie to cry for her dead friends, so that he could get a good picture – that taught me silence.
Rescue worker

During that period the only thing I didn’t like was the press. If you told them something, when the paper came out your words were all the wrong way round.
Bereaved father

The brave front of the people of Aberfan cracked on Monday at an inquest on 30 of the children.
There were shouts of “murderers” as the Coroner of Merthyr, Mr. Ben Hamilton, began reading out the names of the dead children.

As one name was read out and the cause of death given as asphyxia and multiple injuries, the father of the child said, “No, sir, buried alive by the National Coal Board”.

One of the only two women among the 60 people at the inquest at Sion Primitive English Methodist Chapel at Aberfan, shouted out through her tears, “They have killed our children.”

Then a number of people called out and got to their feet. The coroner tried to restore order and said: “I know your grief is much that you may not be realising what you are saying.”

The father repeated: “I want it recorded – ‘Buried alive by the National Coal Board.’ That is what I want to see on the record. That is the feeling of those present. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate.”
Merthyr Express 

It was impossible to know that there was a spring in the heart of this tip which was turning the centre of the mountain into sludge.
Rt. Hon. Lord Robens of Woldingham, Chairman of the National Coal Board, to a TV reporter

A man who lost his niece at Aberfan broke through a police cordon to talk to Lord Justice Edmund Davies – the man who head the inquiry into the disaster – as he toured the stricken village on Tuesday.
The man, 61-year old Mr. Philip Brown, a disabled miner, told the judge: “Don’t let strangers pull the wool over your eyes.”

The judge spoke to Mr. Brown for a couple of minutes and then moved away to continue his tour.
Afterwards Mr. Brown said “I asked him if I could speak to him for five minutes. He told me, ‘Most certainly.’ He is a real gentleman.

“I said, ‘Don’t let strangers take up the mountain and pull the wool over your eyes. If you must go up, go up with a local man who knows the real facts.’ “

… “I told him the spring at the head of the mountain had always been there.

“It was not a hidden spring. The National Coal Board must have known about it because everyone in the village did.”
Merthyr Express

I was tormented by the fact that the people I was seeking justice from were my people – a Labour Government, a Labour council, a Labour-nationalised Coal Board.
Bereaved husband and parent

The Aberfan disaster was very much a disaster of the Valleys; it could have happened in any part of them. It was the crowning disaster of a dangerous industry, and its victims were the innocent.
Aberfan community worker

Why there is bitterness?

” During my childhood I played on that monstrous mountain of slag, and in my youth I rummaged coal from it. Everyone knew that one day – some day – this hideous scar on the landscape, this indiscriminate dumping of colliery refuse, would bring disaster. But little did we think that when it did happen, it would leave such devastation and heartbreaking sorrow in its wake.”

These words are written by a native of Aberfan, an ex-pupil of Pantglas school. They are contained in a letter to the editor expressing heartfelt sympathy to all those people who are suffering in this hour of indescribable tragedy.

There is today sadness in the hearts of everyone who lives in a mining valley. But there is bitterness too.
The coal mining communities of South Wales have lived so long with death as a companion that they reconcile themselves to accepting the peril that hangs over them.

Everyone knows that coal tips move. Everyone fears that one day the tip above their village will come rumbling down into the valley, but it is a possibility that they accept.

Without the tip above Aberfan the Merthyr Vale Colliery could have closed down. Without the colliery. the village would itself have died.

This is the terrible fear that ate into the minds of the people of Aberfan.

Now the worst has happened. Tragedy of the most devastating kind has struck. A village has lost its children. Is not the bitterness, therefore, understandable?
Merthyr Express Editorial

My first impression of Aberfan was terrible. I couldn’t imagine, I never imagined that it was like that. The village was dirty, my house was dirty, everything was dirty. The tip had left mud and slurry everywhere. I was fortunate in one way because I had no conception what this tip had done to us at Aberfan. It wasn’t until a long time after till I came to terms with this. Then instead of being a passive person as I was before I became a fighter for Aberfan. I felt that we had a duty to the children who were left and those who were yet to be born. And it was a duty that we must build a better Aberfan for the children that were coming.
Bereaved parent on returning to Aberfan after the disaster

The villagers had done admirably in rehabilitating themselves with very little help. A Government gesture was needed to restore confidence and only complete removal of the tips would do this. Many people in the village were on sedatives but they did not take them when it was raining because they were afraid to go to sleep. Children did not close their bedroom doors in case they should be trapped.
Official note of Aberfan social worker’s comments at meeting with Welsh Office

They took the money out of the disaster fund to pay for the removal of the tips, which was to me shocking. Absolutely unbelievable. And that’s always been in me. I think they [the NCB] owe us. They owe the people of Aberfan a debt. Call it a debt of conscience if you like. I don’t think we should beg for this And we need the money. There’s the Memorial Garden to be maintained. And the cemetery. For many, many years to come. Where is it going to come from in later years when we’re gone?
Bereaved parent, speaking in 1996.

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