Merthyr Vale

A sombre trip today to Aberfan, scene of the 1966 Aberfan Disaster in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed.

To get there I took the train to Merthyr Vale, walking distance to the former mining village of Aberfan.  Disaster that struck on October 21st 1966 when coal waste slurry slid down the hillside and engulfed the town and junior school.

When coal is mined some waste spoil is produced.  In Aberfan the waste from the nearby Merthyr Vale coal mine was dumped in a series of tips on the nearby hillside o the west of the village.  Some of these were created on top of springs so the waste gradually became very wet.  This together with heavy rainfall  in the three weeks preceding the disaster meant the tip waste became sodden and turned into a slurry and slipped down the hillside engulfing the school and some houses.  The subsequent enquiry determined that it was known at the time that the tips were created on top of water springs.  Nobody was charged nor was the National Coal Board ever fined following the disaster.

I can’t remember England winning the World Cup but I can recall the day of the Aberfan disaster.  I remember my parents tuning into the evening news on the radio.

Walking from the station I passed a sculpture of a miner.  A memorial garden has been created on the site of the former school.  Many of those killed are buried in the nearby Bryntaf Cemetery. The rows of graves each have a white stone arch.  A visit to both locations was certainly a moving experience.

One of the photographers that recorded the rescue mission was David Hurn, someone I had the privilege of meeting a year ago. One of his pictures is taken from above Aberfan and looks at the route the coal waste took down into the village.  I too took a walk up the mountainside and looked down.

Aberfan 1966 and Aberfan today

Postscript: I revisited Aberfan year later with my friend Ian.  On that day, after visiting the Remembrance Garden and cemetery we were waiting at for a bus and got chatting to a lady.  She was a child at the time and narrowly missed being one of the victims.  A chilling conversation.  The Merthyr Vale Colliery closed in 1989.

Date of trip: 11 Mar 1919

See progress to date: A-Z of Railway Stations