• harveyvickie

Aberfan

The 21st October 1966 at 9’15am is the anniversary of one of the most tragic peacetime events in our history, I have to relate the facts in the only way I know – through story poetry, this is not a true story but the facts are, this is how I think a family would have coped with the events of that tragic day when 116 children and 28 adults died because of the negligence of the National Coal Board, even after the disaster the NCB rejected any claims that they had done wrong. Although my characters are fiction the facts are true.




Aberfan a village, near Merthyr tydvil,

North of the village a mountainous hill.

The coal board built it, and built it with skill

Dark man-made mountain designed for a kill


Warned time after time, one day they would slide

'They need lowering now!' the villagers cried

But greedy owners swept protests aside

They wouldn't do anything till someone had died


I had lived in Aberfan all of my life

Had two loving sons and a loving wife

The tale I will tell still cuts like a knife

A sad tale of woe, bereavement and strife


At five that morning I woke for my shift,

To be there for six, I had to be swift,

The cold foggy air, gave me short shrift

Hated being late and really was miffed


Got there on time, and clocked myself in

I picked up my pit light and snapping tin

Into the cage with the crack and the din

'Morning, ' yelled Tom, with his big cheesy grin


Tom was a good mate, I'd known thirty years

Grew up together, scraped skin, shed our tears

If you needed a friend to dispel fear

Tom was the one you would always want near


Down we descended down into the gloom,

Two mile below ground into the earth's womb

You get to the bottom, you never assume

Just one wrong step and it could be your tomb


It was ten o clock when the word got round

Something had just happened, something profound

They mentioned the village and school playground

When children were mentioned tools were soon downed


'Everyone up,' came the shout down the line

We all grabbed tools headed out of the mine

The news we heard sent shivers down our spine

The slag heap had slid at a quarter past nine


The school was under both debris and spoil

From the mountains stretching up half a mile

We all knew the slag heaps had been tactile

With shovels we ran toward the black bile


The sight that met us was straight out of hell

The slime had swamped from floor to school bell

Women were screaming a grief stricken yell

Hand's covered with blood from clawing at the shell


Pain, panic and grief were etched on their face

As we started digging at a fast pace

We knew time was precious, it was a race

For come the darkness there'd be no more trace


For the submerged houses it was too late

No one gave thought, as by the school gate

the Grans and Mothers hold hands as they wait

For word of their children, word of their fate


A hole appeared at the front of the school,

the sludge wasn't so thick there, more of a pool

They wondered how God could be so damn cruel

As children were pulled out, from the cesspool.


One by one they were carried to the gate

Plucked from that hell and a terrible fate

Deeper in the room we could not infiltrate

For the roof was moving under our weight


'Get back lads!' the foreman called out in vain

'Get back lads' you're putting the roof under strain

'Just wait, the helpers are bringing a crane',

His words fell like stones in the heavy rain.

.

We both had our children there, Tom and I,

We didn't know how, but we must try and buy

As much time as possible, as time will fly

If we didn't act quickly, our children would die!


I looked over at Tom, his powerful physique,

I looked at his face, there were two white streaks,

Where tears of anguish had ran down his cheek

His body was strong, but his spirit was weak.


It was almost eleven, more men had come

We were ushered away from the deep chasm

Hearts were broken that terrible Autumn

When spoils of the rich began to succumb


An army of people were now at the scene

Fresh hands were digging, where we had just been

Digging for children all under thirteen

While young volunteers set up a canteen.


My own boys were seven and nine years old,

When I woke today, I couldn't have foretold,

What today would bring, what it would hold

If I had known, my own soul I'd have sold


I was fearing the worst, I must admit,

Had a bad feeling, since leaving the pit,

Was ready to give up, ready to quit

As parent and husband, I felt unfit.


'Quiet' someone cried, but nothing was heard

Just the fall of the rain, not even a bird,

Everything was silent, and nothing stirred

No one dared speak even one single word.


By night there were thousands upon that black tomb

All hope was lost, just bodies to exhume

Over one hundred missing, in those classrooms

And Mothers still waited in dark and gloom


I searched for my wife among the crowd

Pushed through people, called her name out loud

Back to the school gates through people I plowed

Returned to our cottage, with my head bowed.


As I walked in the hall at dead of night,

My wife ran toward me, held me so tight,

'I tried to find you but you weren't in sight,

Find you and tell you, the boys were alright'


'They both had flu symptoms,' she started to say,

I thought the best thing was to keep them away,

I gave them both mixture- their pain to allay

And it was the last day of term anyway


I didn't believe it, couldn't believe my ears,

I fell down on my knees, broke down in tears,

In one loving moment, she'd erased my fears

I prayed to God for the first time in years


Early next morning, from the bedroom I crept,

Looked in on the boys, watched as they slept,

I thought of their lost friends, I could have wept

How their future would change, they had no concept


I stepped from my door, Tom stood outside

That big man fell into my arms and cried

'there's no one left, my children have died

I said there's a chance, but knew I had lied


That was the last time I saw him that week

The outlook was bad and looking so bleak

Children had died in the shadow of that peak

The National coal board hadn't made a squeak


The After shock


Chairman Lord Robens was in no great hurry

Had a meeting at the University of Surrey,

When told of the disaster, said 'look, don't worry,

We'll get it cleaned up, the coal and the slurry'


They set up a fund for compensation

Millions donated, by a saddened nation,

To the coal board it seemed a mild irritation,

Tried to cover it up with controlled oration.


They used raised funds, to remove their own mess

No thought for the villagers under duress

When the story broke they tried to suppress

No consideration or feeling, no finesse


The survivors don't laugh don't go out to play

For fear of upsetting the parents who pray

For the children they lost on that fateful day

The day that God took their loved ones away


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