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Hydref Du | Black October

On the morning of Friday, 21 October 1966, tragedy struck a small mining village in south Wales.  The valley around Aber-fan had been piled high with spoil from the nearby Merthyr Vale Colliery, and shortly after 9am, ‘Tip 7’ began to move.

Within minutes a vast landslip of shale and coal dust hurtled down the mountain, mixing with underlying water and engulfing everything in its path. 1,000 tonnes of colliery spoil wiped away two farm cottages, several houses, and tore into the side of Pantglas Junior School.

144 people lost their lives in the disaster, 116 of them children, triggering a profoundly emotional response not only in Wales but also throughout the international community.  

Thousands rushed to help with the rescue effort while sympathies and financial support poured in from other countries as well.

Over a period of fifty years since that black October in 1966, a myriad of poets, writers, photographers, musicians, media professionals and others have commemorated the tragedy and the lives lost in their own unique way.

A special exhibition will be arranged at The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth from the 17th of September until the 14th of January 2017 which will focus on the response to the disaster, and allow the Library itself to remember that which was lost.

The exhibition will include:

  • Various photographs of the disaster and the days that followed
  • Remembrance literature, including poetry, and articles
  • A collection of stills from ITV Cymru Wales news programmes
  • A coal installation which has been created especially for this exhibition to remember anew, fifty years later.

During this period, there will also be an opportunity to see a photographic collection by I.C Rapoport as part of The Days After exhibition which commemorates the Aber-fan disaster and record the residents’ attempts to come to terms with life after the tragedy.

Photographer I. C Rapoport said:

 “In New York I watched news report after news report from Aber-fan and, with my 4 month old son lying nearby, and was deeply affected by the tragedy. I had an overwhelming desire to photograph that Welsh mining village—after the first horde of journalists had finally given up the story of the disaster—to photograph the life that ensued.”

Linda Tomos, National Librarian added:

"It is fitting that the National Library commemorates the Aber-fan disaster through this special exhibition. Although half a century has passed, the event is still fresh in the memories of all of us and the grief remains. In visiting the exhibition, not only is the scale of the disaster for the whole nation apparent, but also the enormity of the loss to the families who lost their children and loved ones is striking. It is very hard even today to comprehend the extent of this tragedy.”

Further Information

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