Memories of the Six Bells mining disaster

Friday 25 June 2010, 15:23

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Neil Donovan was 12 years old when the explosion at the Arael Griffin pit at the Six Bells Colliery occurred on 28 June 1960, killing 45 men. Here he remembers the days immediately following the disaster:

"I became aware of 'an accident' at Arael Griffin at lunchtime when I was outside Bryn Gwyn school eating lunch. At that time we didn't know that the accident was so serious. That awareness came later.

"At lunchtime we could hear the hooter at the pit going continuously. This signifies a serious accident but, personally, I didn't know that, having just moved down from the Midlands.

"In an area where heavy industry is the main employer accidents and injury are commonplace and part of life, but obviously not on the scale of this disaster.

"The day after the accident I was doing my early morning paper round which covered Richmond Road, Marlborough Road and the bottom end of Six Bells on the Warm Turn side of the valley. I went under the railway bridge to deliver some papers and went past the Colliery entrance.

"I remember it was about 7.30am and there were a few people and police quietly waiting at the gates and blue NCB ambulances waiting inside the gates. There were some miners around the ambulances and some stretchers being unfolded ready for use.

"I'm guessing that at that time rescue efforts were still under way and families were still hoping for the best outcome. I think the words 'optimistic stoicism' probably explains the prevailing mood.

"I don't remember the days following as such, just the funeral cortège going up the hill to the cemetery at Brynithel. I lived on Somerset Street and from the opposite side of the road could see the cars and hearses in the distance.

"I remember that, like today, it was very sunny and the funeral procession seemed to be endless, although I suppose it took about two hours. I think only then did the enormity of the disaster and the realities of the coal industry sink in for me.

"I remember the media interest though news reports from the scene on black and white telly provided by Rediffusion, but being so close to the scene we didn't need to see the screen image - the reality was almost under our noses".

View a slideshow of images relating to the Six Bells mining disaster.

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