AN APPEAL to fund the first ever Welsh National Mining Memorial is being launched by the First Minister on the site of Britain’s worst ever pit disaster.
The Rhymney Valley wept on the 14th October in 1913 when Senghenydd Colliery suffered an explosion, killing 439 men and boys from towns including Nelson and Llanbradach.
Carwyn Jones AM was today unveiling plans for a powerful tribute to mining communities throughout Wales at the Universal Colliery.
The memorial, costing £200,000, is expected to be close to the site of the original mine.
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The project, developed by the Aber Valley Heritage Group, will feature a statue designed by artist Les Johnson as well as a landscape garden and wall of remembrance.
It could be unveiled on October 14, 2013 – the centenary of the Senghenydd blast.
Jill Jones, a volunteer for the group, said not only would it pay tribute to the miners who lost their lives in disasters, but all those who paid the price for Wales’s mining heritage.
“With the Senghenydd disaster, lots of people were listed from the town but they came from all over, just to work – it was a disaster that affected us all,” she said.
“There were 160 disasters in Wales, claiming close to 6,000 men and boys. But then you add all those who were killed during their normal working lives through disease, we are talking thousands and thousands.
“But the price these men paid has been forgotten, and that’s wrong. It was their sacrifices that this country was built on.”
It is hoped the memorial will become a focal point of remembrance for the mining industry in Wales, with the likes of New Tredegar and Rhymney represented alongside others.
Councillor Harry Andrews, leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council, said: “We fully support this exciting scheme to recognise the generations of men and boys across Wales who worked underground – many of whom lost their lives in the process.
“The tragic history of the Aber Valley, together with its significant contribution to the Welsh Coal industry, makes it a fitting location for a Welsh National Mining Memorial – the very first of its kind in Wales.”
The First Minister said: “Mining is central to the story of Wales. It has shaped our history and communities and its social and physical legacy is still with us to this day.
“There was a time when mining tragedies were sadly all too common and only recently we saw four men lose their lives at the incident at Gleision, an event which was a sharp reminder of the dangers of the industry.
“It is only right that we have a permanent memorial to those – both in the past and present – who go underground in search of coal.”
Wayne Thomas, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary for South Wales, said the memorial would highlight both the importance of the mining industry to Wales and also act as a reminder of the sacrifices workers made.
“I think people have forgotten that,” he said.
“We have seen some high-profile media coverage of the Gleision disaster, which was horrific and unprecedented in my lifetime.
“Those kind of instances were regular occurrences on a daily basis.”
He added: “It’s important that we look back and recall exactly how difficult it was.
“But even with all those difficulties and hardships, which I have never found in my lifetime, they still had the vision to put forward the NHS, for instance, and workers co-operatives.”
Broadcaster Roy Noble, who used to teach in Senghenydd and was expected at today’s launch as patron of the Aber Valley Heritage Group, said the memorial would help educate future generations about the lives lost in the industry.
“It really is hugely important to remember the true cost of coal,” he said.
For information or to donate, contact the Aber Valley Heritage Group on 029 2083 4445 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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