Dawn 1Dawn 2

Despite temperatures in double centigrade figures, apart from the enticing dawn skies, today was very dull with gale force winds. This meant that our afternoon drive around the forest was not conducive to photography. We finished up Christmas shopping in Brockenhurst.

Before that, I scanned another batch of negatives from the 1983 North Wales holiday.


It is perhaps appropriate to begin with mist rising at sunrise across a valley in Corwen.

Cottages in landscape

Later views across the land were much clearer.

Matthew, Sam and Becky

Here, Matthew, Sam, and Becky explore the fields around the farmhouse at which we were staying;

Matthew and Louisa

and Louisa is enthralled by something Matthew has pointed out.

Scrap metal 1Scrap metal 2Scrap metal 3

Blending so well with the rugged hillsides were the rusting metal of a car scrap yard,

Abandoned machiery 1Abandoned trucks

Disused slate mine 1

and the abandoned artefacts of a disused slate mine, itself adding heaps to the mountain terrain.

Becky, Louisa, Jessica, Sam and MatthewTerraced houses 2Terraced houses 3

In the foreground of this picture, Becky carries Louisa, and Jessica leads Sam towards another visitor in the doorway of a mine building.

Terraced houses 1

It was only in revisiting these images of terraced and semi-detached houses, perhaps once the homes of quarry workers, that I thought of Aberfan.

‘The Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, on 21 October 1966, killing 116 children and 28 adults. It was caused by a build-up of water in the accumulated rock and shale, which suddenly started to slide downhill in the form of slurry.

Over 40,000 cubic metres of debris covered the village in minutes, and the classrooms at Pantglas Junior School were immediately inundated, with young children and teachers dying from impact or suffocation. Many noted the poignancy of the situation: if the disaster had struck a few minutes earlier, the children would not have been in their classrooms, and if it had struck a few hours later, the school would have broken up for half-term.

Great rescue efforts were made, but the large numbers who crowded into the village tended to hamper the work of the trained rescue teams, and delayed the arrival of mineworkers from the Merthyr Vale Colliery. Only a few lives could be saved in any case.

The official inquiry blamed the National Coal Board for extreme negligence, and its Chairman, Lord Robens, for making misleading statements. Parliament soon passed new legislation about public safety in relation to mines and quarries.’ (Wikipedia, on which there is much more information.)

This is one of the abiding memories of my young adulthood, and, indeed, parenthood. The whole of the UK, and possibly much of the world, was in shock, especially because the school had borne the brunt.

Succulent pork loins baked with a mustard and almond topping; piquant cauliflower cheese; mashed potato; and crisp carrots, Brussels sprouts, and green beans were the items on our dinner plates this evening. We enjoyed eating them. Jackie finished the chardonnay, and I started on a bottle of Mendoza Parra Alta malbec 2015.


  1. What a horror story! Life is so cheap in some places. As if someone with a “Lord” in front of his name would care. Parasites. Makes me sick. I have no appetite for your excellent dinner this morning. 🙁

  2. I was very young and newly married just three weeks when Aberfan occurred and it is still the first thing that arises in my mind whenever I hear the name of that place. It made a global impact I think because of the tragedy with the school. Your photo’s bring home again the idiocy of building a village right beside the mining operation and thinking its okay to add the heaping of slag heaps to the quarried hills. It’s hard to credit it happened almost fifty years ago!!
    I wanted to comment on how often you publish photos of the young Matthew holding his younger siblings or playing with them or arranging things for them to do – he was it seems the ideal older brother. I find it very touching.

    1. Thank you, Pauline. I was, of course, a recently widowed single parent. Matthew is still a much loved older brother, uncle, and now, for the first time, a father himself

  3. The contrast between the idyllic farmland and the rolling hills of Wales with a mining town and the slag heaps is so stark. We have raped this wonderful Earth and left all the signs out in the open because we don’t seem to care.

  4. As soon as I saw your title, I was transported back in time to that dreadful day and hearing the news on the radio. The horror of it is almost incomprehensible.
    Your dinner sounds really delicious.

  5. My Dad was Welsh and we often travelled through the valleys in my childhood. Whilst I was too young to remember the disaster, he certainly did and it affected him deeply.

  6. A story so horrible and sad…..and it never reached where I was at the time, though there were troubles enough there, too…which makes me realize once again what an equal-opportunity visitor tragedy really is on this small, dear planet.

  7. What a variety of photo’s. The beautiful dawn sky at the beginning is just a delight followed by the sweetest picture of Louisa and ending with the hard greyscape” of the mining town all took me on a sweeping tour. Thank you for the history of Aberfan. I was not familiar with this event, I am now!
    Dinner sounded divine!

  8. I remember that horrible disaster so well. I went out with a collecting box towards it. People gave generously but it was too little too late. The most disgusting thing is that it could have been prevented if only the Council had listened to its people.

  9. You have do much in this post, Derrick! I love children. I enjoy sunrises and sunsets where colors go crazy across the sky. This was a gorgeous beginning.
    I liked all of the views of your 1983 North Wales trip. Beautiful and rustic, too.

    1. Derrick, I also felt terrible for the disaster you described in Aberfan. This news was a part of history I had not heard before. We had a recent new film called “33” about a coal mining disaster. Yours there had so many more effected. 116 children. 🙁 🙁 The way it could have been prevented makes me sad.

  10. That must have been a terrible time in Aberfan, for the past two weeks the eastern coast of our country is getting incessant rains and along with man created problems of big cities, it has been a terrible time for the people living there. In this case it is nature’s fury and human stupidity and greed.

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