page 11


Aberfan.  21st October 1966

A poem to mark fifty years since the Aberfan disaster

of Friday 21st October 1966

Shortly after eight o’clock

On that damp October day

A thirteen year old boy

Made his way to school.

In Swanage, on the Dorset coast.

The last before the half term break

This was to be a special day:

To mark our Foundation

And offer up our thanks.

Prizes in the morning

Then a hurried lunch -

Before walking through the town

For a service of thanksgiving,

In the parish church.

At last the Vicar took his place.

Standing to address the school

He called in his deep voice

For prayers - for the school children of Wales.

But we did not know -

That shortly after eight

On that damp October day

One hundred and forty children

Made their way 

To just another primary school

At Aberfan, in the Welsh valleys,

130 miles away.

Not yet fully light on this dank and dreary day

It had rained for many days and still it fell.

The water ran down roads and filled the drains.

And, where it fell upon the hills, it soaked the ground

With murder in its heart.

The last day of school

Before the half-term break

No Foundation Day to celebrate

No thanks to offer up.

No prizes in the morning

Just the calling-card of death.

Shortly before nine the rain began to clear

And at the mountain tops blue skies appeared

To tease and mock the view.

But in the valley mist and cloud

Lay heavy in the morning air

Cutting sight to 50 yards or less.

Spoil Tip Number 7 was high up in the hills.

A mound of waste and stone and dust

Loose rock and mining spill:

Built up over fifty years

By the heavy hand of man

And corporate lack of care.

Water did what water does:

It made its way downhill.

And every drop of water took

Some speck of dust or rock

And grain by grain it ate away

To undermine that tip.

At 9.13 it made its move.

2 million tonnes began to slide

Down the hillside to the town below.

And as it moved it roared: a cruel rasp of death

Like a crashing plane they later said -

But all the while unseen by those below

Still shrouded in the morning mist

That blanketed the town.

Many thousand tons were scattered

On the hillside as it fell.

But not enough.

A quarter million tonnes

Hurtled on down

Wiping out a farm and 20 houses.


Before slamming into Pantglas School

At 9.15 A.M.

116 children and 28 adults too

Shared a brutal, early-morning death.

No prizes in the morning.

No prayers for their Foundation.

They didn’t go to church that afternoon.

Nor start their half-term break.

Instead they lie in hallowed ground

At peace and free from harm.

They aged no more from that day on

But their names will live for evermore

Dear to those that loved them.