Very Moving Visit to Aberfan Memorial Garden


AT 09:15 on the 21st October 1966, over 140,000 m³ of slurry waste tipped onto a mountainside by the National Coal Board started to move down the hillside. Its path was to flow directly into Pantglas Junior School where the children had just walked through the doors and sat down in their classrooms with their teachers taking the daily register at the start of their day. Tragically, over 116 school children and 28 adults subsequently lost their lives in the one of the worst and most tragic incidents of modern history in South Wales. After visiting a friend recently I noticed I was only a short distance away from the site of the Aberfan Memorial Garden, so decided to visit and to pay my respects.

There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this awful tragedy, but what I can add is that when one enters the memorial garden there is a certain almost tangible presence, a tranquility that felt real. Very real. Maybe it is what we as human beings want to feel or want to think in such moments, but for me, it was real. Here was I, standing on the very spot where hundreds of helpless schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 11 yrs perished under the slurry, right at this point under my feet. As I pondered the unspeakable horror these poor children must surely have suffered during their last moments, of them being shrouded in blackness, scared and panicing, one could not help but be moved and humbled by such an experience. The beautifully maintained gardens complete with poignant weeping willows, fresh cherry blossom, monuments and benches placed by children and officials alike, are all an apt and fitting tribute to those poor souls who lost their lives here back on that awful morning in October 1966.

Only one wall remains of the original school building, shown here on the left as it stands today, and in the lower middle section of the image on the right after just missing the path of the slurry. It remains there, steadfast and resolute.

It was early spring when I visited, it was quiet, I could hear the birds singing, I could see leaves were beginning to appear, and I could see a breeze was lightly blowing through the few trees on the hillside above the garden. It was a short, but very moving visit. I had planned on writing a longer tribute, but much has been written already by those far more qualified than I so I will leave it as this.

Aberfan Memorial Garden is a truly beautiful place, somewhere to reflect and ponder, to gather ones thoughts, and importantly… a place that must be kept for future generations so as to never forget the 116 beautiful children and 28 adults who lost their lives on this very spot.


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