Heartbreaking scenes from South Wales, an echo from a grim industrial past. Like most Valleys boys of my age I have some coal dust in my being. In my home village of Abercynon you could see the pit head winding gear at the end of the road. From Mountain Ash Comprehensive School I could see the flames and smell the sulphur of the Phurnacite plant, which made ovoids from coal waste. The river Cynon was devoid of life, running black with coal dust.
All of that has been gone for twenty years. The Valleys are now green and the rivers teem with fish again. The only real reminders of an industry that once defined a country to the outside world are now to be found in some excellent museums. Our coal mining heritage stands alongside our castles and abbeys, in the new industry of tourism.
My father was briefly a miner. Both my grandfathers and many other ancestors going back 175 years were miners. For me it’s part of my family history and the social and industrial story of south Wales that has for long been a fascination.
So I know there will be people like me all over Wales and among my fellow Welsh diaspora who will feel sorrow tonight. Every town and village in Britain has a war memorial. Most towns and villages in south Wales also have a memorial to miners killed in pit disasters. The churchyard at Llanfabon, on the hillside above Abercynon, has a row of grave stones for the unidentified bodies from the Albion pit disaster of 1894 when 290 miners were killed.
Now Pontardawe will have four more names to add to the south Wales roll of industrial honour. Our thoughts should be with their grieving families and friends tonight.