Paul Todd

From North-East England to Southern Ontario
Paul Todd
From North-East England to Southern Ontario
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Aberfan – October 21st, _2006

Rating: 3.3
It’s been forty years since “Aberfan”,
One hundred and sixteen children
Did not live to be woman or man,
Their fragile bodies broken!

A village fair is Aberfan,
Hid in the Martyrs vales,
Nestled amidst the green and gold
Of beautiful south Wales

But deep beneath her scenery
Lies the diamond black of coal.
To ransom this dark gold they sold
The Merthyr collective soul.

They sunk deep pits in Mother Earth
And mined the coal to sell,
But mines spit more than coal and dust,
Slurry they spit as well.

The garbage rock and dust and dirt
The does not burn is piled,
A blight on verdant pasture that
Is hideous, reviled.

And we all know that slag-heaps move,
We played on them as kids.
Our fathers' would have tanned our hides
If they'd known what we did!

But build a slag-heap on a hill
That’s watered by a stream?
The NCB knew this would be,
A Nightmare, not a dream.

They had been warned and warned again,
Of these they took no heed.
They went on piling up the slag:
Theirs was an evil deed.

Those murdering 'persons' knew full well
The spring fed from the hill
Would turn the slurry into slime
That, given time, would spill.

October dragged Autumnal feet,
With heavy skies and grey;
As if to wash away the dirt
It rained day after day.

The men on number 7 tip
Were worried by the storm.
They watched in horror as it swelled;
Could they prevent that harm?

In Pantglas Junior school it was
The last day of half-term.
The children sang their harvest hymns
But had no heart to learn.

At 9.15 in the morning
Of October Twenty-first,
God blessed the tardy children,
And, those on time, He curs’d.

Like some primordial monster
The soakened slurry fell,
Unleashing on the junior school
A blackness dug from Hell!

A rumble, growing louder,
Till it drowned all with its din.
The slag-heap crushed the stone-walled school
And buried those within.

While some escape, and many try
To save themselves and others,
That awful blackness traps them all;
Whom it doesn’t crush, it smothers.

And then – an eerie silence as
The dark void fills each room,
Encasing those dear children and
Their teachers in a tomb.

Then, through the silence, people come,
Miners, fathers, mothers.
While there will be relief for some,
There’s mostly grief for others.

They sought hard for their children,
Digging through the rock and mire
While deep in their hearts, broken,
Burnt an ever-growing fire.

They dug all through the daylight,
They dug through darkest night,
And each pew in Bethania church
Held a devastating sight.

The lifeless body of a child
Each by a blanket hidden
Was laid to rest in peace when it
Had been pulled from the midden.

One hundred and forty-four victims
Died in the Vale that day.
Twenty-eight of them were adults,
The rest, children at play.

Lord Robens was too busy to
Attend to Aberfan.
Receiving another honour,
Such an important man!

And when he bothered to attend
He lied about the cause.
The NCB were not to blame,
It was hidden springs, of course!

But the people of that valley
Were much wiser than him!
They’d played in that stream on the hill
Before it was filled in.

And, at the inquest, folk would take
No heed of Coal Board lies.
They knew who’d killed their little ones,
They knew whom to despise.

‘This is the truth - these words we want
This inquest to record,
'Asphyxia, no, sir! Buried alive
By the National Coal Board.'’

And who would pay the price for this,
The foul neglect and lies?
Why, no one from the NCB!
Spit in Welsh miners’ eyes!

“And, if you want those slag-heaps moved,
You’ll have to pay the cost.”
Well, Aberfan has dearly paid
With every life it’s lost!

Don’t ask how they recover
In their Welsh idyllic bliss.
Truth is – there’s no recovery
From tragedy like this.

It’s been forty years since “Aberfan”
And not a day goes by
When a young survivor from Pantglas school
Wonders how they did not die.

They feel a sorrow and a guilt
For being still alive.
When all their friends were lying dead,
God, how did they survive?

Many of them that live there still
Take tablets for their pain,
But they don't take those pills, sir, no
When it begins to rain!
The fear lies deep inside of them:
They won't get caught again!

And resentment and bitterness
Have, over the years, grown
‘Tween those who lost their children
And those that had lost none.

No, Aberfan will never truly heal
While memory lingers.
There’ll always be some hurt ones there
To wag their tongues and fingers.

There’ll always be some nosey fool,
Or morbidly sick tourist
Who wants to visit Aberfan
To see what they have missed.

The folk of Aberfan deserve
Our honour, respect, love,
Not idle stares and curiosity.
Remember, when you’re giving thanks
To Whom you deem above,
“But for the Grace of God, it could be me! ”

Epitaph

Don’t ask if I believe in God
Or in the good, sweet Lord.
The proof that there is no such thing
Exists in just one word:

“Aberfan”.
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COMMENTS
Bill Wright 20 April 2016
Brilliant poem, dreadful topic.
0 0 Reply
Guy Lip-more 22 June 2014
Very sad and excellent poem, I echo your epitaph.
0 0 Reply

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