October 22, 2006

From slag heaps to Palaces of Gold


Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. This is an online memorial to those who died. This is how it is introduced:
On the 21 October 1966, 144 people, 116 of them children, were killed when a tip of coal waste slid onto the village of Aberfan in South Wales.

These pages were initially set up as part of a project to catalogue and conserve an archive of material relating to the disaster held at Merthyr Tydfil and Dowlais libraries. Their objective is to act as a starting place for those interested in finding out about the disaster. They provide an overview of the circumstances surrounding the disaster and, more importantly, a guide and link to the more detailed sources of information available elsewhere.
This is how Leon Rosselson memorialised the same event:
If the sons of company directors,
and judges' private daughters,
had to got to school in a slum school,
dumped by some joker in a damp back alley,
had to herd into classrooms cramped with worry,
with a view onto slag heaps and stagnant pools,
had to file through corridors grey with age,
and play in a crack-pot concrete cage.

Buttons would be pressed,
rules would be broken.
Strings would be pulled
and magic words spoken.
Invisible fingers would mould
palaces of gold.

If prime ministers and advertising executives,
Royal personages and bank managers' wives
had to live out their lives in dank rooms,
blinded by smoke and the foul air of sewers.
Rot on the walls and rats in the cellars,
in rows of dumb houses like mouldering tombs.
Had to bring up their children and watch them grow
in a wasteland of dead streets where nothing will grow.

I'm not suggesting any kind of a plot,
everyone knows there's not,
but you unborn millions might like to be warned
that if you don't want to be buried alive by slagheaps,
pitfalls and damp walls and rat traps and dead streets,
arrange to be democratically born
the son of a company director
or a judge's fine and private daughter
Leon Rosselson's site is here.

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