South West Wales

Gleision miners: Archibishop on community's 'great sense of loss'

Pontardawe service
Image caption First Minister Carwyn Jones (far left) addressed the service which was led by the The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies (far right)

The Archbishop of Wales has talked of a community's "great sense of loss" following a memorial service for four miners killed in the Swansea valley.

Charles Breslin, Phillip Hill, Garry Jenkins and David Powell died when the Gleision mine flooded in September.

First Minister Carwyn Jones, speaking at the service, said the mining tragedy had touched people across the world.

Harry Patterson, five, who died in an accident outside his Alltwen home two days before the tragedy was remembered.

'Hearts are breaking'

The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, led the service while the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, a miner's son who grew up in a village close to the Gleision mine near Cilybebyll, also spoke.

The archbishop said God could not take away grief and sorrow but he could help shoulder it.

"If we find what happened at Gleision and what happened to Harry devastating, why should we think that God does not?" he said.

Image caption Charles Breslin, Phillip Hill, Garry Jenkins and David Powell died when the mine flooded on 15 September

"The only credible image to my mind is the God who weeps with his world when it weeps and who is always on the side of those whose hearts are breaking."

The first minister spoke about the death of Harry and the great challenge that his family faced in coming to terms with what had happened.

He then spoke of the difficult hours that the families of the miners faced during the rescue attempt as they waited in the nearby Rhos Community Centre for news.

Mr Jones paid tribute to all the emergency services who attempted to save the men.

"We have, of course, an old tradition of mining in this valley," he told the service at St Peter's Church.

Silent reflection

"The people who have worked in this valley have always known the risks of mining but it was their living for so many years.

"If we are honest, we thought that the days of losing loved ones underground were behind us. Unfortunately, we were wrong."

Mr Jones said the deaths of the miners had touched people - not just in south Wales but across the world.

Addressing the families directly, he said: "Today, all of Wales remembers with you. God bless you in your loss."

The memorial started with a silent reflection, before members of the five families lit candles in remembrance.

The pupils of Alltwen Primary School sang Shine Jesus Shine as a tribute to their young school friend.

Representatives from the emergency services who tried to save the miners also attended.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, Neath MP Peter Hain, assembly members, and local council leaders were among several hundred people making up the congregation.

Image caption Harry Patterson (on the right, with his brother Dylan) died in the same week as the mining tragedy

The public service, which began at 14:00 GMT on Friday, was organised by Neath Port Talbot Council.

Mr Hill, 44, Mr Breslin, 62, Mr Powell, 50, and Mr Jenkins, 39, died and three others escaped when the drift mine flooded.

Their bodies were recovered from the mine on 16 September after initial hope that rescue teams might be able to find them alive.

Post-mortem examinations confirmed all four men died as a result of flooding in the pit.

'Overwhelming' response

Hundreds paid their respects at the miners' funerals last month.

An appeal fund for their families has raised almost £700,000, a response described by Mr Breslin's widow Mavis as "overwhelming".

She, along with Lynette Powell, who lost her husband David, spoke publicly for the first time earlier this week about how their lives have been turned upside down.

"When our husbands died... you're just in this bubble and you still are to this day," said Mrs Powell.

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