General Poetry posted July 4, 2014

This work has reached the exceptional level
A disaster waiting to happen

Aberfan 1966

by Eric1

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

Share A Story In A Poem contest entry


The Aberfan disaster happened on a cold foggy morning on 21st October 1966 at exactly 9.15am, the spoil tip (soil and debris from mines)dwarfed the tiny village and school, after days of continuous rain the mountain began to shift, witnesses and survivors recall hearing a noise, much like a Jet engine, they could all hear the noise but the village was shrouded in fog and the top of the slag heap was not visible.
The school day had just started and the pupils were in assembly singing 'All things bright and beautiful'. After they had finished Assembly, they made their way to their classrooms, that was when the slag heap struck, burying the back of the school under thousands of tons of debris, The road alongside which had terraced houses and a farm on it's boundaries was also lost with loss of life.
The worse thing was that had the assembly been delayed for a mere two or three minutes loss of life would have been considerably reduced, as it was, 116 children between one and fourteen years were killed outright, also 28 Adults.

This was the most shameful episode in the National coal boards history, Lord Robens, the then Chairman was being invested as Treasurer of the University of Surrey, he was told of the disaster and still went ahead with his investature, he turned up at Aberfan over 36 hours later stating that he had been directing operations from London, a blatant lie!
An appeal was set up and soon reached it's first million, later the National Coal board plundered the fund to pay for taking down and removing their own slag heaps.
There is now a beautiful lasting memorial in the village, to remember all the children.

Aberfan = Aber-van
Crack = Laugh/fun
Snapping tin = sandwich box
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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