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The bells of San Jose

Betsan Powys | 19:23 UK time, Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Photo from collection at heritage room at Senghenydd village's community centre

Photo from collection at heritage room at Senghenydd village's community centre

Forgive a personal blog post.

Back in the Sixties, before I'd started primary school, my first experience of a classroom proper was in Senghenydd.

My mother taught there and in the days before rules and regulations would have made such a thing beyond the pale - and Mrs Davies the headmistress wouldn't have been allowed to turn a blind eye - she used to take me with her.

I loved it. I sat with Mara and Ann and the twins Mark and Patrick. I got to go to the carnival. I was told about the mining disaster in Senghenydd and as a child, simply couldn't fathom the horror.

You'll understand then, perhaps, that this letter from the First Minister to the President of Chile - where the sound of bells marked survivial today - has struck a chord with me.

Dr Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera Echenique
President of the Republic of Chile
Palacio de La Moneda
Agustinas
Santiago
Chile

Dear President Piñera

I write to congratulate you and the people of Chile on the remarkable rescue of Los 33 at the San José copper-gold mine near Copiapó.

As a nation with a history of mining dating back to the Bronze Age, the people of Wales have followed the events of the last ten weeks with great admiration and solidarity.

We have memories of many mining disasters where sadly the outcome proved very different. The names of these tragedies - Senghennydd, Gresford, Cilfynydd and many, many more - are part of our national consciousness. Those experiences mean we feel a deep sympathy with mining communities worldwide.

We have admired the courage of those trapped and shared the emotions of their families. It has been a joy for us to witness the skill and determination of the rescuers and to join the celebrations of your people.

One of our country's poets, Idris Davies, once wrote of how the bells of Wales echoed the feelings of our people:

"O what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney.
Is there hope for the future?
Cry the brown bells of Merthyr"

As the terrible events of the 5th August unfolded to the world, the bells recovered from the Cathedral of Santiago disaster in 1863 were travelling between Wales and Chile.

Just as the words of our poet provide a link with events of the past, today, they reflect the spirit of your miners and the resolve of all involved in their rescue.

You have shown how hope can triumph over adversity - and on behalf of the people of
Wales, we offer you our best wishes and congratulations.

Yours truly

CARWYN JONES

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