Although much of the infamy surrounding the Universal Colliery at Senghenydd concerns the horrendous loss of life that occurred in 1913 when 440 men and boys perished, this last week marked an equally poignant anniversary.
It is 115 years since the 1901 disaster which claimed 81 souls. On May 24, 1901, as the night shift were exiting the mine, several explosions rocked the colliery. Though thankfully most of the mineworkers were out of harms way, 82 remained trapped, with only one surviving. Such was the extent of the damage, it took 6 weeks to recover all who had perished.
The greater tragedy still was that lessons were not learned from this shameful loss of life. More than 1,000 men and boys died in a similar explosion in a mine at Courrières, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France in 1906. The Mines Act (1911) sought to prevent future incidents through more stringent safety regulations, however, the Universal Colliery failed to implement these prior to the 1913 disaster.
The Aber Valley Male Voice Choir is very mindful of its position as a custodian of our local heritage. The role of the Aber Valley in the often tragic story of Welsh industrialisation and ‘profit before people’ is of vital historical importance to us and the wider community. With debate still ongoing about the role of ‘fracking’ and other alternative energy sources in Wales, it is poignant for us to remember what can happen when we exploit our natural heritage without proper mindfulness.