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Memorial to Aberfan lives on

By Harlow Star  |  Posted: May 15, 2007

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WHEN 144 people - including 116 children
* were killed in a landslide in the Welsh mining village of Aberfan in 1966, the sense of loss and sorrow reverberated across the country.

Pupils at one school in the Observer patch were so moved by the tragedy that they decided to raise money for a special memorial, which is still thriving four decades on.

DIGGING FOR LIFE: Rescuers toil in vain for survivors in the rubble of a colliery waste tip which slid down a mountain at Aberfan and killed 144 people in its path, including 116 children at a junior school

Children and staff at Spellbrook Primary were delighted to hear from Welsh historian Alan Rees recently that 1,500 trees bought by their predecessors 40 years ago still stand near the site where so many lost their lives.

Retired Spellbrook teacher Ursula Broughton told the Observer of the sadness her young charges felt on that fateful morning on October 21, 1966.

Pupils at Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan were leaving assembly when a colliery waste tip containing rock slid down a mountain, destroying 20 houses and a farm before ploughing into school buildings.

Five teachers died as well as 116 children, mostly aged 7 to 10. A handful of youngsters were pulled alive from the rubble.

"Naturally the children were moved and upset by the pictures and news of what had happened to a similar school to their own," she said. "Like everyone at the time they wanted to make some mark of their sorrow and send a token of their concern."

They collected £20 16s for trees to be planted on a nearby tip.

Mrs Broughton, who lives near Colchester, said: "We felt that they would grow and live as those children would not have the chance to do. It would also be something positive by helping to stabilise a tip and prevent another slide."

So in April 1967 - six months after the landslide - a mixture of larch, pine, birch, alder and mountain ash trees were planted in an acre of the St Tydell Forest by three Aberfan boys, Peter Bowen, Bryan Price and David Evans, on the steeply sloping hillside.

And just last month David, now a 59- year-old Forestry Commision worker, told his local paper of his amazement at discovering a plaque which had been erected in the undergrowth to mark the occasion.

"We lost seven little girls from our street - the whole community felt the impact of the disaster," he said.

"It's very satisfying to see the trees we planted all those years ago flourish."

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