Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Aberfan Young Wives Club

50 years ago next week on Friday October 21, 1966 , approx 9.16 a.m shortly after school assembly many tons of collier rubbish (slag heaps) swept down the sides of a  Merthyr Mountain  above the town of Aberfan after several days of heavy rain, Liquified and pouring down  this black tidal wave would engulf everything in its path in this catastrophic tragedy.A tragic memory from Wales's turbulent living history.
A new documentary will be examining how Aberfan has carried on in the 50 years since the horrifying events that took place on that day.The Aberfan Young Wives Club, to be broadcast on ITV tonight at 9pm on Wednesday, features the young women of the town who banded together to support each other and their community in the face of tragedy.
It follows the women who came together just weeks after so many mothers involved had buried their children to form a support group, which they dubbed the “Aberfan Young Wives Club”.The programme will focus on these women's vital role in keeping their community alive.
The group steadily grew in size and organised events, talks and trips, as well as helping each other in their bereavement. Some of the women will be speaking about their experience for the very first time.The film utilises remarkable archive footage as well as the moving testimony of the mothers who have met every week since the tragedy.
Aberfan was to many a result of a conflict of financial interests, which would see the death of 144 people, including a 115 innocent  children, many of whom were between the age of seven and ten along with, five of their teachers, in what is now known  today as one  of one of Wales worst mining disasters in it's history, not forgetting Senghennydd which I've written about previously when in 1913 over 400 were killed.
By the time the landslide stopped, it had demolished Pantglyn Junior School and 20 houses, severely damaging the Secondary School.

The sores and wounds of this disaster are now forever  stored in the memories  and feelings of the people of Wales because of the whole collective loss of a generation that was wiped out. We should try never to  forget  the children and adults who died, this human tragedy, that  many say could easily have been  prevented. The National Coal Board  (NCB) were repeatedly warned to move the slag heaps to a safer location, because they were also  close to natural underwater springs. Did the NCB have the decency to acknowledge their blame, to bow their head in shame, like hell no, but we were to  learn sadly far too late that the NCB was ostensibly a capitalist organisation more concerned with profit than lives.  A report by the government at the time said " Blame  for the disaster rests upon  the National Coal Board. The legal liabilities of the National Coal Board to pay compensation for the  personal injury ( fatal or otherwise) and  damage to property is incontestable and uncontested." The Government of the day was also extremely insensitive to the victims families, and people whould have to wait for years, for compensation.
So tonight I hope you can catch the programme scheduled,  remember  the people of Aberfan, a community  that is still profoundly affected by this disaster, one in three survivors still  suffering from Post traumatic stress,  nearly 50 years after this tragic event took place. People felt guilty that they were  left alive, they did not feel like survivors,there were cases of children not being allowed to play in the street, in case it upset other parents.
Let us  hope that lessons learnt from this incident can be learnt for tomorrow, and  remember that this bitter legacy still continues, what with continuing social and economic problems in the South Wales valleys still  being wrought  because of successive governments who have made lives a  continuing source of discomfort.  Combined with the failure of responsibility by the relevant authorities and the appalling behaviour of  some parties in the aftermath of the disaster.
Today, however there is very  little to remind visitors of  this tragedy, just an abstract memorial garden in the village and the childrens section in the graveyard.I hope that those too young to remember this injustice will continue to be reminded of this awful event that the people of Aberfan remember every single day.
In addition to the programme mentioned , Sir Karl Jenkins has composed a major new choral work, entitled ; Cantala Memoria - For the Children which was commissioned  by S4C, the Welsh language channel in commemoration and mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster.
Lest we forget, people before profit.

 Karl Jenkins - lament for the valley

R.I.P the little angels that were lost forever.

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