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.