Friday, 19 April 2013


Heroes whose lives will never be the same again, an hour after

Underground, calamities’ punctuate,
sometimes the price of coal paid by a life of man. 

But here, here, this place, this Aberfan,
spoil tipped upon a mountain side,
spring-fed, rain-drenched, mass liquefied
slides with almighty roar, overwhelms  
demolishes all within its path;

they come, off shift, black-faced, lights on,   
heart-wrenched mind-numbed, they dig for children, 
innocent lives lost erased through negligence.

Those who should shoulder blame
show easiness of lies defy intelligence;
corrupt ineptitude, callous indifference,
plunder disaster fund to rid remaining tips.

Unuttered words cry out, locked behind the lips
of children guilty to have survived.

There is an aftermath of grief and guilt to last a lifetime here.


At approx 9.15, on the morning of 21st October 1966, over 40,000 cubic metres of debris from a colliery spoil tip cascaded down the side of Mynydd Merthr onto the village of Aberfan, its immense force destroying all in its path and engulfing Pantglas Junior School and eighteen houses.

Great efforts were made by rescue teams but only a few lives were saved.  The death toll was that of 116 children and 28 adults

The National Coal Board were blamed for extreme negligence and the indifference to the plight of the residents and victims of the disaster by its chairman Lord Robens and his plundering of the Disaster Fund to pay for removal of the remaining tips led to his much damaged reputation.  However, he and the entire board of the NCB retained their positions.

                           The last day before half-term
                           Aberfan - The Disaster
                           The Aftermath

 Anna at dVerse asks us to write about catastrophe.  She writes:  

“In the midst of catastrophe we can become silent, shocked by events, withdrawing into our grief. Most of us empathize greatly with the suffering of others. As poets we may then wish to express our solidarity through words. To write what is unspeakable, unfathomable, and incomprehensible. As such the poetry of disaster is often fragmented. Catastrophe rarely leaves us with clear narrative and an understanding of causality. The suffering of thousands or millions can overwhelm our ability to find a voice with which to cry out.”

I found this task very difficult and chose to pay my homage to the victims and survivors of Aberfan.

Image:  Courtesy of HealeyHero – History of Mining - and used under the Creative Commons License


Gail said...

Chills...very sad and very well written.

Anonymous said...

This was such an awful event, which I remember studiing at school. To think of those children who happened to not be at school that day feeling guilty for living, when others were responsible is such a terrible shame.

aka_andrea said...

and those at fault suffer nothing but a damaged reputation....

very well told story and wonderful way to pay homage to those who were lost.

Cressida de Nova said...

Excellent poem. Chilling tragic and sad.May those responsible receive the karma they deserve.

kkkkaty said...

This was awful, reminds me of the coal mine disaster and the miners in Chili not too long ago...many other incidents...well penned.;)

Björn said...

The guilt to have survived is so well captured and so sad. And a great reminder of accidents happening and then forgotten ...

Claudia said...

oh heck...i never heard about this...what a disaster.. i can imagine how the aftermath of grief and guilt lasted a lifetime...well written anna

Frances Garrood said...

Beautifully done, Anna. It was a dreadful, heart-rending tragedy.

Martin said...

"Unuttered words cry out, locked behind the lips of children guilty to have survived."
Such a great line. I imagine it was difficult to write this but you have given them a voice. I dare not guess how long such a disaster haunts those who have witnessed it.

Anna Graham said...

It is rending to know that those responsible for the deaths of so many suffered only a tarnish on their reputations and weren't even removed from office. Thank you for bringing this to our attention and honoring the children and townspeople.

Helena said...

Boy, was that deep. It stirred up my emotions to the max. So poignant.

Heidi said...

Beautiful Anna. I had never heard of this before either. I can imagine that it was very hard to write about, it is such a tragic event. You pay such a lovely tribute. Thanks for the education today.

Brian Miller said...

ugh...what a hard reality...first coal mining is a brutal job...wrecks the earth and strips many of the towns when it runs out leaving shells....been down into a mine...its an intimidating be the cause of death though for the surrounding town in a sad as well...

Optimistic Existentialist said...

What a beautifully tragic powerful.

Jenny Woolf said...

It always seemed such a terrifying thing. Almost apocalyptic - the mountain literally engulfing you. This was a good piece of writing