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‘We should have more respect’: Paxman calls for Aberfan not to be forgotten like other Welsh mining disasters

21 Oct 2021 2 minutes Read

Jeremy Paxman has said that he fears that Aberfan will be forgotten as other Welsh mining disasters have been.

Speaking on S4C’s Heno, the former Newsnight presenter said that even the terrible disaster 55 years ago today when a coal tip slid down the mountain and engulfed Pantglas Junior School, killing 144 people, including 116 children, would fade from the public consciousness.

In his new book Black Gold: The History of How Coal Made Britain Jeremy Paxman writes of Aberfan, “soon the dead children will be forgotten”.

“Well, people will forget Aberfan, I’m afraid,” he told Heno. “In the way that they forgot previous Welsh mining disasters. There was one for example in 1934 at Gresford that is almost completely forgotten now.

“People go to a garden centre now which is on top of where men died entombed beneath them. The bodies are still down there.

“I just think we ought to have more respect for these people.”

266 men died at Gresford Colliery, near Wrexham on 22 September 1934. Controversially, the company decided to seal the colliery rather than recover the bodies.

Jeremy Paxman also added of Aberfan: “There’s nothing worse than being a parent and seeing your child go before you. I cried when I was there.”

However, he also writes in the book that Aberfan was a tragedy caused by people and not a natural disaster: “How many knew of the potential dangers, and kept silent because without the tip there would be no mine, and without the mine, the village would be likely to die.”

He also says that coal was key to the British Empire’s dominance in the 19th century. “The true secret of England’s greatness was the power unleashed by coal,” he says.

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Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Nobody from the british coalboard was ever punished for the incompetence which led to this human catastrophe, indeed the inquiry set up by the then uk labour govt was a total whitewash ☹️. Labour welsh secretary (george thomas) even took money from the disaster fund to pay for the clean up 😡. We should not be surprised by any of this – this is how the british state has always treated Wales. Whether there are labour or tory govt’s in power at westminster they see wales as being there to be exploited for its resources. And the problem of dangerous… Read more »

Dewi Davies
Dewi Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

As a Merthyr boy I remember it well.George Thomas had a lot to answer for.When Robbens suggested that the grieving parents were paid a paltry sum of £50 per child Thomas agreed wholeheartedly to this insult.Robbens couldn’t even be bothered to leave the function he was attending when he was told of the disaster.Thats on top of the money stolen from the disaster fund to pay for the tip removal. And that was a labour government as well.

Meic Dafis
Meic Dafis
1 month ago
Reply to  Dewi Davies

George Thomas hid from the Aberfan families like a snivelling coward rather than attempt to defend his appalling conduct.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Dewi Davies

George Thomas is, to my reckoning, as evil if not worse than Jimmy Saville. His action as Welsh Secretary will forever be a sain on the memorable if the Aberfan tragedy.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

I’m not replying to myself. There really are 2 of us! I seem to hold slightly milder views but, for the most part, I agree with what my namesake just said. George Thomas always looked a bit creepy to me and, from what I heard via some police officer relatives, was suspected of having similar ‘interests’ to Savile. Line of Duty storylines have ended up looking like loose documentaries, as the more facts that have been uncovered. No coincidence that, like Savile, he ingratiated himself with the top people in power and made himself virtually untouchable.

Tabor
Tabor
1 month ago

I will neve forget ,me & two others from Porthmadog went to Aberfan to volentear,our very very small effort was dwarfed by the work of the miners and others on the site .it will never leave me what happened .

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Aberfan may not be forgotten but any lessons learnt from that disaster are no longer heeded as a new generation of opportunist spivs and shysters are set loose to despoil the country yet seldom if ever required to pick up the costs of the damages they inflict.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 month ago

What Paxman might overlook with Churchill and both Tonypandy and Llanelli is that as Home Secretary he had no right to usurp the powers of the Minister for War and order troops into a civil disobedience situation. In truth he was a throwback using the tactics used a century earlier in the Merthyr Rising and the battle at the Westgate. Churchill, ever eager to see blood spilled, acted illegally and was allowed to get away with it.

Ricknorth
Ricknorth
1 month ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

Quite. Ww2 was won by allied troops not a prime minister with a reputation of sending the army to shoot innocent members of the public exercising their right to protest at deplorable living and working conditions.

Marc
Marc
1 month ago

“The true secret of England’s greatness was the power unleashed by coal,” he says. “Yes but it was Welsh steam coal” says I

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Marc

That puzzled me as well. Anthracite is indeed the finest coal in the world but the steam coal of Rhondda and Cynon is what drove the Royal Navy and the copper of Swansea that made Nelson’s fleet before steam the best there was.
Not sure his book is worth it but King Coal by Tony Hall (later Lord Hall of ROH/BBC fame) is a good short read.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

I rarely echo words of Jeremy Paxman. Aberfan should never be forgot. But it is though. I find if this were a terrorist event in England, would be remembered lIke 7/7 or Grenfell Tower, but hey it’s only Wales. The only difference is. The terrorists were the British State and the National Coal Board who placed a ticking bomb above resulting in Aberfan losing a generation Definition of murder: “The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another”. In 1963 The National Coal Board knew about locals fears, arrogantly ignored their calls, did nothing, and a mere three years… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
arthur owen
1 month ago

I am afraid that Aberfan will be forgotten.This is unfortutunate but inevitable.I for one have never mourned the victims of the Black Death or those of the Bengal famine of the 1940’s,and I was born in 1945.I agree with all the criticisms in the other posts but the normal human response is to look ahead,

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  arthur owen

Hmm. Except that Aberfan will not be forgotten in Wales. Nor will Gresford or Senghenydd.

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  arthur owen

Looks like Jeremy Paxman has done a good job.
We will not let those people, our people, be forgotten. It must be written into our History!
This is why our children must learn about our History.

David
David
1 month ago
Reply to  j humphrys

It is the same Labour party that will NOT have Welsh history taught in our schools.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  David

this Labour bashing is boring, the Senydd is currently in the process of getting a recognised GCSE in Welsh History passed the WJEC

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

Encouraging.

Barbara Francis
Barbara Francis
1 month ago
Reply to  David

What are the english government afraid of, when it comes to not allowing WELSH History to be taught or mentioned. Is it because of the brutality of the english authority when they brutality punished school children for speaking their mother tongue, but beating children of all school ages.what big men don’t have think. Disgusting and disgraceful people wouldn’t you agree.

Twm Teth
1 month ago

This is why in-depth welsh history should be taught in Welsh schools. It would educate our next generations how our country has been exploited for the gains of another.

Grayham Jones
1 month ago

The British Government still will not take the blame for the disaster they stole the coal from wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 and the water and is still stealing the water in Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 we in wales have got to stop being little Englanders and and be proud to be welsh start fighting for your children and grandchildren future in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 kick all English party’s out of wales that’s the Tories Labour and all Brexit party’s

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

I must say, I hope that this book silences those who harp on about “white privilege”.

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