The Children of Aberfan


Today was the 54th Anniversary of the day the children died at Aberfan. I was ten years old, too young to follow the news, too young to take an interest in what was around me. Certain things stick in the mind though, because I heard so much about them. One such was Aberfan.

Today, if money were not so venerated as to be held greater than human lives, a hundred and more men and women would be entering their Sixties. They would have lives and loves and successes and failures, good times, bad times. men and women would have been born who are in this world only ghosts, possibilities denied. What would any of those never born have done? What achievements were withheld from us because money meant more than human lives?

Who amongst us have lived lesser lives, seen duller, more awful times because the man or woman they would have met, fallen in love with and married wasn’t there at that crucial moment to meet them for the first time?

We all of us only ever lead contingent lives, dependent upon the world and the people around us, who change our lives and fates in every moment, by decisions that create ripples. I have often joked that if a long-demolished newsagents in Openshaw, in 1966, had placed a different DC Comic in their window one Friday afternoon in March, I would have never met the woman I married. But it’s true, as it is for everybody.

The children of Aberfan never had that chance. They, like the kid in Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’, never got to go to school, never got to fall in love, never got to be cool. We remember things like armistice Day and VE Day every year, and rightly so. But we should remember with equal vigour the stains on our reputation and dedicate ourselves with all our vigour to ensuring that we will not allow such things to happen again.

That is how we pay our proper respect to the children of Aberfan.

2 thoughts on “The Children of Aberfan

  1. I’d never heard of that. I’ve just Googled it. What an awful tragedy. 116 children! I would have been 10 months old. A sensitively written, thought-provoking piece, Martin. Thank you.

  2. Sorry to have been the cause of your enlightenment, George. Only a few such things penetrated my litte word, like the Torrey Canyon Disaster, Kennedy and Aberfan. I understand that when the news first broke, people all over jumped in cars with shovels to join the rescue. I try hard not to think about it too often.

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