In Memory of Aberfan

Aberfan is a town in Wales that suffered a horrible accident October 21, 1966. The waste from the mine had been stored as hills. One of those hills slid onto the town. It killed children in the school, teachers, and families in homes.

I have used the name Abervan in Quirni in memory of the town and the tragedy it’s people suffered. Unsafe mining practices caused the accident. The mining company made more profit by doing things fast, easy, and cheap, by dumping the coal slurry in convenient piles, or tips, nearby.

When I chose to include mining in Quirni, it was to highlight the consequences of greedy companies that make unsafe conditions for workers and residents who live nearby. Governments around the world allow mining companies to operate with unsafe conditions. They have been warned and yet nothing is done.

In the case of Aberfan, an engineer wrote a letter to the public works superintendent that pointed out the unstable tip behind Pentglas School in Aberfan. Nothing was done. That is our world. Profits will not be sacrificed to save lives.

When tragedies happen on our planet the families are paid a pittance, if anything. The governments fine the company and then do God knows what with the money, and the miners continue to work in unsafe conditions. Those conditions might improve for a time but soon fall back to the less expensive practices. In most cases it is only the miners who die. The women wait above hoping and praying their men will survive.

In Aberfan, the children died and the men dug frantically to save them.

Aberfan came to my attention because I wanted to use the names of miners killed in accidents as the names of Tenpole miners. I researched mining accidents. Welsh tragedies in particular interested me because my husband is a decedent of a Welsh coal miner only two generations ago. Because of that connection, most Tenpole have Welsh names.

Half a dozen years have passed since I made the choice to include the names of the mining victims. In that time I saw the story about Aberfan by the BBC. They revisited the tragedy. Ceri Jackson wrote a beautiful article full of photos and interviews. For the first time, I read what a child remembered about being buried alive in the fallen tip that crushed his school. I read about the anger and pain suffered not only because of the accident but because of the government’s cruel actions. There is too much to say here. It wrenches my heart.

Aberfan represents to me what I am in no way capable of relating with my limited writing skills or the short time my characters spend in Tenpole. I would like readers to feel how miners depend upon their unsafe, low paying jobs, and how much they sacrifice for their jobs while their work benefits the world.

With Quirni, I can improve the lives of my miners. Maybe readers will Google mining to see how much I’ve gotten right or wrong. I welcome any comments. In the meantime, I want the families and communities of Wales to know I use the name ‘Abervan’ with reverence. I bow my head with respect for their loss.

I have struggled with the decision to use the name. I fear it could look as if I try to use the tragedy. In order to explain why I use the name when I first wrote the story, I tried to write an introduction. It’s a poem and it’s not very good. When we edit the book that begins with the poem, I’ll have my co-author place her critical pen to it. She is a poet and if she can make it right, we will keep it. If not, I would have our readers know what Aberfan is.

If you want to read more about the tragedy in Aberfan, you can do so at the BCCs site here. The article is full of interviews and photos. It is worth the time.

Featured image, the grave sites for those lost in Aberfan. From Mirror news


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