Photographs of the
The disaster in Aberfan,
Wales taken October 30th through December 25th, 1966
On the 21st of October 1966, 144 people, 116 of them children,
were killed when a man-made mountain of coal waste slid onto the village of
Aberfan in South Wales. The elementary school building was the first
structure in its path and the school was demolished by a thousand tons of black
Over one hundred images from the collection of
photographs taken in Aberfan in November and December of 1966 will go on display
in the main exhibit hall of The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, Wales
on April 9th and continuing through June 18th. Admission is free.
adolygiad Cymraeg yn dilyn / A Welsh review
The image which immediately draws our
attention on the cover of this book is the
face of a young boy standing behind large,
ugly sacks of coal. He makes us feel
uncomfortable as he stares straight into the
eye of the camera and into the eyes of every
one of us as we pick up the book. That is
the power of the black-and-white photograph
– a power which makes the small red
decoration above the cover image appear so
useless and insignificant.
This volume comprises a selection of
photographs by the American photographer
I.C. Rapport. Becoming a father for the
first time in 1966, he was touched by the
reports on the Aberfan disaster broadcast on
television in America. He was successful in
gaining a commission from Life
magazine to report the way in which the
community of Aberfan was starting to cope
with its loss. He arrived at the village
just as most of the reporters and
photographers were leaving, and he stayed
there for two months to record the
vulnerable lives of members of the community
in their grief.
The sad and beautiful images linger in one’s
mind, especially those showing the
loneliness of the children. The rain, and
the heavy, dark clouds regularly give a
melancholy feel to the images – I can almost
feel the all-enveloping dampness whilst
turning its pages. There are some
unpretentious photos conveying the disaster,
and noting the first faltering steps taken
to face the future. One of the most striking
images is that of the first baby to be born
after the disaster, safe in the mother’s
arms, whilst in the background the coal tips
look down in a threatening manner.
As a background to the photographs there is
an analytical essay by Jenny Williams. There
is also a foreword by the photographer,
bearing witness to the depth of his
convictions and confirming his talent to
create oral pictures – but the power of the
photographs themselves are the main strength
of the book. It was beautifully designed and
printed by Dinefwr Press. This title
deserves a prominent position on our
bookshelves – so that we shall not forget.
The book, Aberfan - The
Days After, by I.C. Rapoport with an Afterword by Professor Jeni Williams, containing all the photographs in the National Library collection
was published by Parthian Books of Cardigan, Wales - April 2005
HARD COVER: (approx) $55.00 (PLUS
SOFT COVER: (approx) $30.00
AVAILABLE THROUGH AMAZON.COM
PART OF THE COLLECTION
LIFE Magazine headline: "Sea of Sludge upon Green Aberfan"
Where once the school
stood, a small child stares at the void and the remaining "tips"
Coal and children. That's what it
boiled down to.
Old minor stares out the window of the
Macintosh Pub at what was the schoolhouse. Blaming himself and
others, he feels he dug the slag and heaped it upon the hills above
father and mother visit the grave of their child three weeks after the
Moy Road. The street where the elementary school
stood, back behind the white van, and under the black hulking coal tip in the
Thirty-five years have past. The
boy's name now escapes me. His brother was killed in the schoolhouse.
He told me he wondered why he had survived. God's will, I said. Make the best of
the life you were given. Where is he now?
His name was David. His
father was Llew the Milk. They lived on a dairy farm a half mile out of Aberfan
on the road to Merthyr on the side of the village closest to the
schoolhouse. Llew Milk raced there when he heard the terrible news and
began digging with the miners and road workers and other volunteers. And
as each child's tiny corpse was found they were handed, man to man to woman to man, in
a morbid chain of grief. Llew Milk suddenly found himself holding the lifeless
body of his own son in his arms. He broke from the line carrying his boy
to the road where the bodies were lined up when a nurse grabbed him, and said
those unforgettable words: "This boy's alive."
David in his pasture staring up at the
Davies - survivor
I believe her name was Cheryl. Her
brother was killed in the disaster. The trauma of the events left
her speechless and she wouldn't leave her father's side. Not for a
Milkman delivers early one morning three
weeks after the disaster. In the background is the devastation of
the elementary school and the dozen private homes
The gravedigger. He'd spent a lifetime
burying the sick and the elderly but never in his dreams could he have
imagined this. One hundred and forty-four souls laid to rest.
Seeing the broken families standing helplessly over the mass graves, trying to
tell their little ones they were sorry that they could not save them.
Beneath the looming coal tips a
mother visits her child.
A survivor visits the cemetery
In the Macintosh Pub, hardly one block
from the schoolhouse, a man who has lost everything is comforted by
Prices of These Photographs
The mine had shut down for several days after
the tragedy but soon the Coal Board brought the men back to work.
Grieving or not, coal had to be mined and slurry had to be taken out and
"tipped". The elevator brings the miners to the surface
after a days work one mile below the surface of Aberfan.
Young Miner, after showering.
Impossible to clean the coal dust from his eyes.
Three men survey the fallen tip.
Prices of These Photographs
Above the cemetery.
Everyday since the tragedy this mother waits at
her door for her son to come home from school.
Above the cemetery and the village, a boy lies
down and covers his head in grief.
of These Photographs
Three mothers leave the gravesite and walk back
to the village of Aberfan.
Man who lost everything: his wife,
his child, and his home. Nothing was left.
The first bride in Aberfan after
of These Photographs
Young lovers at the Macintosh.
The trauma of the events of the past month has them clinging to each
Laughter returns to Aberfan. As painful as it is, life must go on.
Survivors of the
First baby born in Aberfan after the
disaster. Seen through the sheer curtains, other coal tips
still threaten the town.