For Whom the Bell Tolled by Alan Roberts

I’ve shown Alan Robert’s writing before. As one of my students he’s produced some hilarious accounts of the things that happen to him.However this one is different; in fact it couldn’t be more different. Alan was a very young policeman at the time of the dreadful event that happened in Aberfan this day, fifty years ago. Alan admits that the images, the sights that confronted him have lived with him ever since.

 So I thought it only fitting that I should post his reflective piece today…

 October 21st 1966.

If only their Mam’s hadn’t woken them that morning.  If only they’d been unable to attend class.  If only. If only.  But that early morning no one thought ‘if only’ as the unlaced shoes raced late over black, uneven asphalt of Aberfan’s pavements, summoned by the ringing bell?  Above, mourning black clouds hung low over the village shedding their gentle tears as though they knew what was to unfold. 

Mothers washing breakfast dishes, staring through the water trickles from their kitchen windows, looked out to the man-made mound whose unseen movement would shortly envelope little loved ones.  Beneath their feet, fathers hewed the still black gold from its tight held seams unaware of the silent, shifting spoil simmering above. Perhaps a manager detailed the previous day’s haul; rubbing hands at the prospect of the Christmas bonus. 

            As the morning mist meandered its way down the Valley, the familiar, rhythmic ticking of a tinplate clock resting on a school desk welcomed the early arrivals, their satchels ready to take home the half-term’s work. 

Tick-tock.  Tick-tock. 

Shortly after nine the monstrous pile slipped from its dumping ground and tumbled headlong down the hillside, engulfing Pantglas School in its baleful battering-ram path.  One hundred and sixteen young Welsh lives lost forever.

This blackest day surpassed all previous black days in the annals of mining tragedies.

            Anger and rage centred on an apathetic National Coal Board, whose acronym might have meant, ‘Non Caring Bastards’. 

Suffer little children?  Everyone prayed they hadn’t. 

©  For Whom the Bell Tolled  Alan A Roberts     October 2016.    

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