On the 21st of October 1966, a colliery spoil tip collapsed above the village of Aberfan. The tip began sliding down the hill, destroying farms and houses before it reached the Pantglas Junior School. 2016 marks fifty years since the tragedy, which caused the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults. There are many elements to Aberfan and its aftermath – personal stories, political and social injustice, international responses – and the repercussions can still be felt today. For anyone interested in learning more about it, here are recommendations from our collections.
We hold a copy of Gaynor Madgwick’s Aberfan: Struggling Out of the Darkness, a personal account of the catastrophe from a child’s perspective. Gaynor was eight years old when the disaster happened and she describes the day in vivid detail. There are other personal accounts in our oral history collection. These include Joan and Cyril Vaughan. Joan was a member of the Aberfan Young Wives Group and Cyril the Chairman of the Community Association. Their interview offers an insight into the ways that the community grieved and adapted following the tragedy. We also have the recorded memoirs of Howell Williams, a teacher at Pantglas Junior School. The pamphlet Aberfan and the Teachers specifically examines the role of teachers during and after the tragedy, paying tribute to those killed on the day and those who supported the community afterwards.
Is it still raining in Aberfan? is a history of Aberfan from the nineteenth century onwards, combining historical accounts with individual narratives. While it does devote a large section to the disaster (including interviews with survivors, parents and local figures), the book functions as a general history of the village, showcasing other elements that are often overshadowed. Another valuable historical text is Aberfan and Merthyr Vale Community News 1972-2001. This compilation of newspaper clippings spans the twentieth century. It lays out the political wrangling that begun during the tribunals: the shifting of blame, the callous attitude towards the community and subsequent arguments regarding funding allocations. Copies of the tribunal are also available to view. For literary responses to the disaster, we hold a copy of Aberfan – Our Hiraeth. This poetry and prose collection features numerous local contributions.
We have prepared a small display which highlights some of the Aberfan related items in our collection. Please feel to visit and browse the display or to get in contact if you require any further information.