‘As more dead bodies came into the chapel, I realised the immensity of the catastrophe’

Before the catastrophe we’d had a Monday-night youngsters’s meeting, Sunshine Corner, the place we sang choruses, I’d play the piano-accordion and inform tales. There have been 40 or more youngsters. We lost over 20 of them that day, and likewise these from the Sunday School.

Children are very resilient, although, it’s stunning. I put collectively a narrative to attempt to consolation them; it was about Billy Blackbird who lost his expensive good friend Tommy Thrush whereas he was singing in the timber and the story continued till Billy Blackbird came to phrases together with his loss. We had a particular refrain we used to sing too.

“Away far beyond Jordan
We’ll meet in that land
Oh won’t it be grand
You sang it with gusto. I wanted them to feel that the other children weren’t lost.” 

My son and daughter went to a college in Merthyr Tydfil and someone as soon as stated to me, ‘Aren’t you glad you did not lose them?’ And I stated, ‘I lost nearly 50 children and I was father in God to them all.’ That was how I noticed it, they have been all my household.

I’ve by no means informed anybody this however generally I’d get up in the center of the evening in floods of tears. I’d discover myself sitting up in mattress, weeping. Many nights that occurred. People say, ‘You should have therapy,’ however I say, tears are there to be shed. And if Jesus can cry, I don’t really feel ashamed to.

In 1970 I left Aberfan and moved to Hastings – Methodist ministers have been anticipated to maintain transferring and I’d completed seven years, the most. I didn’t like leaving them however issues had settled down, although you clearly always remember.

I final returned to Aberfan for the fiftieth anniversary and led the service. Some of the ladies from Sunshine Corner, of their 60s by then, queued as much as give me a hug, and oh it was pretty.

The village had modified considerably, although. The colliery had gone. Loads of individuals I’d recognized had died. As with all horrible tragedies, finally one other era comes alongside, and of course individuals overlook. But I’ll all the time be pleased about the time I had with the youngsters of Aberfan.

Reverend Irving Penberthy, 90, is minister at Oakehampton Fairplace United Church. He has two youngsters, six grandchildren and 5 nice grandchildren. He lives in Devon.

55 years on: what the youngsters of Aberfan say about Reverend Irving Penberthy

  • Denise Morgan: ‘Though I was only 11, I could relate to him as a young child. I can still see him singing all these songs. He was calm and he gave you that calmness. He was happy, he wanted everyone to be that way.’
  • David Davies: ‘He was a big player in the recovery of the village by setting up youth groups through the church.’
  • Gaynor Madgwick: ‘He kept that sunshine spirit in the children. We were so traumatised, he took away that trauma. He helped me. Lovely, lovely, lovely man.’
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