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Cundy, L. (2016). Aberfan. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 10(3):246-249.

(2016). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 10(3):246-249


Linda Cundy

If you were born before, say, 1960 and were living in the UK, you may remember. Perhaps, like me, you can recall coming home from school at the end of a week, full of stories from class and plans to play with school friends over the coming half term holiday. Tired and hungry, maybe you looked forward to watching children's television that Friday afternoon, but if there were children's programmes that day, they are not what stayed in my mind. On Friday 21st October 1966, what I remember is the television news—and Aberfan.

Most of us had never heard of this tiny village in the south Wales valleys before—there was no reason why we should—and it is tragic that we know of its existence now. Because, that Friday morning in 1966, the community was devastated by a disaster that claimed the lives of 146 of its own members, 116 of them pupils at the village junior school. Most of a generation were lost. Haunting images in black and white (that, looking back, seem appropriate to the occasion) of rubble and grim faces, tears making channels in the coal dust on their cheeks as rescue and recovery operations took place. Everyone in shock. I do not remember seeing bodies excavated from the classrooms of Pantglas. Perhaps this footage was shown later, after the watershed. Because this was the first major disaster covered live by mobile television units in the UK, bringing the scale and the detail of this human tragedy into our homes. Real people, just like us. Real children. School was supposed to be a safe place, but this one was consumed by a moving mountain of slurry and debris from the colliery where many of the pupils' fathers, uncles, and brothers worked.

Everybody who saw the footage and heard the shock, rage, and grief of bereaved parents was shaken by the event. Schools around the country collected items to send to survivors. I did not realise it at the time—in fact I have only realised now—but the tragedy of Aberfan would be a defining event for me in my own life.

I went to art school and afterwards, in 1980, moved to Wales with my partner to continue painting. We moved into a tiny miner's cottage in the Taff valley.

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