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