Monday, 21 October 2013

Senghenydd memorial service 14th October 2013

Anne, myself and our Daughter Amy were down in South Wales last weekend, to attend the dedication service and unveiling of the Welsh National Mining Memorial, which has been erected to commemorate all those miners who have lost their lives in the numerous pit disasters within the principality.

The memorial has been erected in the village of Senghenydd (a few miles north of Caerphilly) where at 8.10am on 14th October 1913, the single worst pit disaster in UK history, and the third worst in world history occurred.  A massive explosion ripped through the Universal Colliery, claiming the lives of 439 men and boys as young as 14 years old, in the process rendering about 300 women widows and leaving some 500 children in the village without a Father.  The explosion was apparently so violent that the cage was blown back up the full height of the shaft, in the process decapitating the banksman at the surface.

The ceremony was very well attended and was reported on both local and national TV news and the large crowd plus about 300 dignitaries were very well entertained before and during the ceremony by my good friends of the Aber Valley Male Voice Choir, led by Choirmaster Geraint Evans (I’m sorry Mark Langrick, but with great respect, I’m afraid its absolutely true that no-one does male voice choirs like the Welsh).  Mind you, I suppose I am biased, as I had the opportunity to sing with them a couple of years ago at a charity event. 

The actual memorial takes three forms – a circular “walk” with paving flags inscribed to mark each of the many individual pit disasters, a memorial wall to which have been fitted a series of ceramic tiles – one each for every individual who was killed in the 1913 explosion and also each of the 81 killed in an earlier explosion at the same pit in 1901 - and finally, a statue, depicting the spirit of Welsh miners (and I feel , of coal miners everywhere) in never leaving behind one of their colleagues, if at all possible.  

Whilst the ceremony was in itself quite poignant, the most chilling moment came for me and for quite a few others standing nearby, when at the very end of the ceremony the original steam hooter from the old pit was sounded.  The noise was absolutely chilling and made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck…..just think of how it must have sounded to all those poor womenfolk 100 years ago and what they must have thought, when they quickly realised what had happened…….

For many years, the Mining industry suffered a reputation for having just about the worst safety record.  In fact, the truth of the matter was that the construction industry had an even worse record in terms of the number of individual accidents causing injury or death – it was just that the numbers affected by each individual incident were inevitably much lower than at these significant mining disasters.

In an attempt (a successful one by and large) to improve the health and safety record of the construction industry, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations were brought into force in 1994 and these were substantially re-vamped and updated in 2007.  The CDM Regulations provides a straightforward but comprehensive framework of safety rules which have to be applied to all construction projects in this country.  Larger projects in addition, have to be notified to the Health and Safety Executive and a CDM Coordinator has to be appointed to oversee the Health and Safety aspects of the project and to ensure that the CDM Regulations are adhered to.

Taylor Tuxford Associates will be pleased to provide advice to all Clients at the commencement of a project in regard to the potential impact of the CDM Regulations and in regard to Construction Health and Safety in general.

Commercial over…..

So, I can hear you wondering, why on earth did Rhys and his Family trail 200 miles down to South Wales and back again, just to see a statue being unveiled?

Very simple – my dear late Mum Doreen was born in Senghenydd on 2nd July 1916 and her elder Brother Edward was born in the village on 13th October 1914 – precisely 364 days after the disaster.  And most pointedly, their Grandfather (my Great-Grandfather) Edward Gilbert was one of the 439 who perished on that October morning, aged just 55 years.

We were very proud to represent the Yorkshire elements of the Gilbert ‘clan’ at the ceremony and also paid a visit to pay our respects directly to Great Granddad, who rests in the nearby cemetery in Penyrheol.

Rhys Taylor