The Generation We Lost by Nik Eveleigh

typewriter

All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God…

*

“I was told I should report here. What do you need me to do?”

“Shovels are over there, buckets are behind you. Dig or help carry it away.”

*

Each little flower that opens
Each little bird that sings…

*

“I’m sorry Mrs Jones but you’ll have to move back. They’re going as fast as they can.”

“I just need to know if Tommy is OK. He is OK isn’t he? He said he was feeling sick this morning but you know what they are like on last day of school…”

*

The purple headed mountain
The river running by
The sunset and the morning
That brightens…

*

“We need this bloody rain to stop or more of it’s going to come down.”

“Then dig faster.”

*

…the ripe fruits in the garden
He made them every one.

*

“What time is it? Does anyone know what time it is?”

“Just gone ‘leven Sarge.”

“Over here! I’ve got something. Looks like a rugby ball.”

*

He gave us eyes to see them
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty
Who has made all things well…

*

“We need more buckets. The boys from Bargoed and Taff Merthyr say they’ve got their shovels with them but we need more buckets.”

*

“Off to your classrooms now boys. No dawdling after assembly.”

“Yes Sir.”

“What’s that you’ve got there Williams? New ball is it? You’ll have fun with that next week I expect.”

“Not mine Sir. It’s Tommy’s.”

“Either way, first step to the Arms Park is through my classroom boys so off you go now.”

“Yes Sir!”

*

“We found more. Five kids, one man. Teacher I ‘spect.”

“Are any of them…?”

“No. They were all in his arms.”

*

“Everyone under their desks just to be safe. Nothing to worry about, probably a plane taking a wrong turn. Jones! Williams! Bring that ball to me. You three girls come as well, there’s room if we all cwtch up. Let’s see if we can sing louder than that plane, ready? Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus…

*

Nik Eveleigh

Author’s note.
At just after 9.15am on the 21st October 1966 profound tragedy struck the small Welsh mining village of Aberfan. Persistent heavy rain led to the collapse of a mining tip, from which 150,000 cubic metres of mud, slurry and mining spoil slid down from the mountain above Aberfan, smashed through a farm and some terraced houses before smothering the Pantglas Junior School.

144 people – 116 of them children – lost their lives. Aberfan lost a generation.

If the slip had happened half an hour sooner the school would have been empty. Half a day later and the children would have been on half term holiday.

The characters are fictitious but much of the narrative is woven around known facts, such as:-

  • The hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful was sung at the assembly just prior to the disaster.
  • There is an eyewitness account of several children being found in the arms of a teacher.
  • No one was found alive after 11am.

To clear up some of the Welsh, the word cwtch is a Welsh word for a cuddle, and the words “Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus” being sung to the children is the first line of the Welsh hymn, Calon Lân.

 

Header image: “Aberfan Cemetery – geograph.org.uk – 1728261” by Tom Jolliffe. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aberfan_Cemetery_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1728261.jpg#/media/File:Aberfan_Cemetery_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1728261.jpg

8 thoughts on “The Generation We Lost by Nik Eveleigh

    • Thanks Tobbe. This was one of those rare pieces where it all slotted into place with little effort and I’m so glad it’s been well received. Appreciate the read and the comments as always!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Nik, I consider this heartbreaking story superb! You have taken a true natural disaster and created a powerful, yet gentle, gem. The hymn was a touch of genius!
    Best always, June

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much June – lovely to hear from you. I was actually researching a totally different piece of Welsh history a few months back when this story found me and I’m glad I was able to respectfully give this terrible event a place in people’s thoughts again. I grew up not particularly far away from Aberfan and my dad was one of the policemen called out on that day so it has always had significance for me – perhaps now though I saw it as real people and not just a page in history for the first time. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment – you are a true LS treasure!

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  2. Hi Nick! Jon Savage, in his 2015 published book ‘1966’ makes the observation that the Aberfan tragedy was the reason that The Green Green Grass of Home reached number one in the uk charts on Dec 1st of that year and stayed there for quite a few weeks. A connection I knew nothing about. I’ve always found it an emotional song and that’s down to Mr Jones’s performance. Your ‘on the spot’ telling of the story is a reminder of that horrendous morning, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Richard – didn’t know about the book or about the Tom Jones connection so thank you for mentioning them! I still can’t comprehend what that morning must have been like for both the living and the dead but I’m glad I was able to reflect on it in this piece and remember them in my own way. Appreciate you reading and commenting as always.

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    • As ever you are far too kind with your praise Mr Cron…and as ever I will accept it with a smile 🙂 This one meant a lot to me and treating it with respect was all I wanted to do – thank you my friend.

      Like

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