Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Six Bells Colliery Disaster, 28th June 1960

On 28th June 1960, at approximately 10.45, a huge  underground explosion suddenly blasted through the confined roadways of  the West District of the Old Coal Seam at Six Bells Colliery at Aberbeeg, near Abertillery as 48 men were at work..
As the colliery hooter sounded and word of the explosion spread, crowds gathered quickly, as they had at every disaster since mining began. Wives, parents, children waited desperately for news.  Some kept vigil without break for more than twelve hours.
While rescuers tunnelled through tons of fallen rock more than a thousand feet beneath them, people supported one another as best they could: they wept together, prayed together. The Salvation Army poured cups of tea, and ministers of various denominations led a service in Bethany, where many of the men still underground had been in Sunday School as children.
Soon they would be back again , but only because the schoolroom behind the chapel had now been turned into an overflow mortuary. 
Of the 48 men at work in ‘W’ district of the Old Coal Seam, 45 were killed in the explosion, the worst post-war colliery disaster in British coal mining history. .
The tragedy, which a public  inquiry found was caused after a falling rock was thought to have ignited gas and coal dust, left families, friends and the whole Valleys community in shock as the extent of the major mining disaster was slowly revealed throughout the day. Revealing the terrible cost of coal.
On the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 2010, a giant  steel sculpture of a miner standing over 20 m tall, named "Guardian of the Valleys" was unveiled by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. Designed by Llangrannog based sculptor Sebastien Boyesen, this beautiful moving  memorial is made from thousands of steel ribbons. Around the plinth are inscribed the names of all the men who died in the disaster. in tribute to those who lost their lives. It is regarded as a Welsh answer to Anthony Gormley's  Angel of the North. It  also serves as a sober reminder of  human losses in the entire South Wales Coalfield.

Sic Bells Colliery Memorial, Abertillery, South Wales

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