How Green was my valley?

Aberfan_disaster,_October_1966

Last weekend we had ex-Hurricane Ophelia.  This weekend we are being battered by storm Brian.  The north Atlantic jet-stream is feeding us our annual diet of gales and storms to blow away the autumn leaves and cleanse the land for the winter ice.

It’s nothing new, for all the talk of climate change.  Perhaps we have made it worse, perhaps not.  Ireland experienced a stronger storm back in 1961 when Hurricane Debbie struck.

In 1966 it was relentless rain combined with unsafe practices of the National Coal Board (NCB) in Britain that resulted in the Aberfan disaster.

The NCB broke regulations when they placed a spoil tip from the coalmine on a hillside peppered with natural springs.  The tip then broke further regulations by being overused.  It should have been shut down but was not.  In Sept/Oct of 1966 South Wales experienced three weeks of almost relentless rain.  The combination of the rain from above and the springs below liquefied the spoil.

On the morning of Oct 21st, 1966 the children of Aberfan sat at their desks at 9am and were beginning the roll call.  It was the last school day before the mid-term break.  The coal tip slipped, liquefaction occurred and the wall of shale, stone and muck became slurry that flowed in a wave down the mountain.

The ‘dark glistening wave’ broke into the village of Aberfan and engulfed the school.  Half the students were killed.  Twenty eight adults and one hundred and sixteen children died.

The good news is that some of the senior managers in the NCB were promoted for their excellent handling of the PR side of the disaster.  They did trojan work supporting the future of Coal in Britain.  No employee of the NCB was ever disciplined for the breaches that caused the disaster.   Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

“How green was my Valley then, and the Valley of them that have gone.”  Richard Llewellyn (1939)

Where was God? : by Ron Cook.

Where was God that fateful day
At the place called Aberfan.
When the world stood still and the mountain
Moved through the folly of mortal man.
In the morning hush so cold and stark
And grey skys overhead.
When the mountain moved its awesome mass
To leave generations of dead.
Where was God the people cried
Their features grim and bleak.
Somewhere on their knees in prayer
And many could not speak.
The silence so still like something unreal
Hung on the morning air.
And people muttered in whisper tones
Oh God this isn’t fair.
The utter waste of childhood dreams
Of hope and aspirations.
A bitter lesson to be learnt for future generations
But where was God the people cried.
The reason none could say
For when the mountain moved its awesome mass.
God looked the other way.

 

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A poem for Summer’s end.

Brecon

Sun Setting over Wales from Brecons

XXXIX (from Last Poems); by A.E. Houseman

When summer’s end is nighing
and skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
and all the feats I vowed
when I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
would lose the slanted ray,
and I would climb the beacon
that looked to Wales away
and saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
the hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
and hushed the countryside,
but I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
in converse high would stand,
late, till the west was ashen
and darkness hard at hand,
and the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
the lessening day might close,
but air of other summers
breathed from beyond the snows,
and I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
and come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
that ever can ensue
must now be worse and few.

So here’s an end of roaming
on eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
for summer’s parting sighs,
and then the heart replies.