A Poem for Aberfan

aberfan

The Ballad of the Aberfan Disaster

 

A junior school called Pantglas

Where miners’ children went to class

Learning sums, and history, and English lit

Then you headed on down to the pit

 

Where all the men toiled underground

That was where the work was to be  found

Digging and sweating their daily toil

With coal the prize, and slurry the spoil

 

A man’s work, then home to welcome instant slumber

Producing the tonnage, it all  was  but a number

Day shifts, night shifts, relentless, you see

To meet the targets of the NCB

 

And as the coal flowed out, so the slag heap high grew

Towering over the hillside, a part of the view

Buts as the spoil burgeoned, as the edifice soared

Warnings of danger were resolutely ignored

 

For underneath the slopes, their sides strangely bowed

Underwater springs burrowed and  trickled and flowed

Eating away at man’s unnatural dump

To undermine this transient hump

 

Such that on the day of 21st of October ninty sixty six

The dice fell just wrong for this noxious mix

Just as the children had morning enrolled

The deadly consequences of negligence would unfold

 

With a roar that dwarfed a jet engines’s sound

The water shook loose the unstable ground

Becoming slurry all dirty and pungent and brown

The viscous gurgling load unburdened itself down

 

Into the valley a devils morass

Hurtling, inexorable towards Pantglas

Spitting, and spewing and venting its wrath

With hundreds of children in its monstrous path

 

Growling and scouring, roaring like thunder

Everything in its path disintegrating asunder

Relentless, and blind, all about, it devours

Including one hundred and sixteen young flowers

 

A further twenty six felt its dull blow

A forty foot torrent , with nowhere to go

News of the massacre spread just as fast

With all converging on the school at Panglas

 

They came from Metrhyr,  the Taffs and the Deep

To dig them out to awaken their sleep

With axes and shovels and pick axes too

To do whatever it was possible to do

 

Yet nature is savage, even when you do what you oughta

Nothing can temper a natural slaughter

And although they dug fast, they did what they could

Almost all of the victims died where they stood

 

A village, a nation, a country assembled

In grief, while the NCB lied and dissembled

As children’s bodies were prepared for cold ground

Chairman Robben stayed away to take a silk gown

The honour of Chancellor of Surrey University

As a hundred and forty- four lay still, for the world to see.

 

He claimed he knew nothing, that nought could have been foreseen

The reports saying different simply could not have been

A human disaster, an apocalyptic catastrophe

Of which men in striped suits denied all responsibility

 

But the world rallied around donating in hoards

To lighten the load of the devils rewards

The Coal Board gave nothing, conceding no ground

Yet took from the fund 150,000 pounds

 

To level the heap, to make good their mistakes

Stolen from money donated for wakes

Resenting the intrusion, regretting the fuss

No lives on their conscience- “our fault ? No, not us”

 

And for months after, young children could not play outside

Instead being forced indoors to stay and hide

By parents not wishing to pain the other bereaved

Who  suffered such anguish and silently grieved

 

Fifty years on, an entire generation is missing

Oblivious to today’s mournful reminiscing

But remembering still, from where the death poured

T’was from the offices, of Roben’s National Coal Board

 

 

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One Response to A Poem for Aberfan

  1. thanks for writing that Gary, the story need to be told and remembered. at the time my boyfriend was nearby at an RAF base and went to help and wrote me a very touching letter about his experience. It took me years to understand how it happened and that it was no accident, well done to that community for striving to uncover the facts. Cathy

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