Posted on Wednesday 16th May 2012
Clydach Vale’s Glyn Davies, a former miner involved in the Cambrian Colliery disaster, will proudly lay the memorial wreath at the annual Remembrance Service for all who lost their lives in Clydach Valley's Cambrian and Blaenclydach Collieries this month.
The proud 87-year-old will join former miners, members of the community and pupils from CwmClydach Primary School, at the important event, which takes place at Cambrian Memorial Park on May 17 at 12.30pm.
He is doing so in the hopes that no one ever forgets what men and boys went through underground, the sacrifices they made and how future generations, even as they change and grow, continue to recognise the importance of mining and miners in their history and heritage.
Rhondda was the coalmining heartland of the world and within just fifty years almost 900 men lost their lives in pit accidents and explosions while many others suffered long term illnesses due to the cruel “dust”.
“Black Gold” transformed the South Wales Valleys forever and its lasting legacy must not be forgotten.
Glyn was just 15 when he was captured in an iconic image of young miners leaving Gorci Drift in the Second World War, just months before a shattering accident in which seven men died.
He survived this tragedy, but his friends did not, and went on to respond to the devastating Cambrian Colliery accident in 1965, in which 31 men died and many others were injured.
It is these tragedies, and the many other deaths that have taken place, that inspired a group of former miners to not only create the Cambrian Memorial Park, but to ensure it is maintained and that a remembrance service is held every year.
Everyone is welcome to attend this year’s event, which has been organised by former Cambrian Colliery official Bill Richards, supported by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Father Philip Leyshon from St Thomas' Church, Clydach.
It will include readings, poetry and a performance by pupils from Blaenclydach Primary School choir. Mayor Cllr Sylvia Jones will officially open the event. Should there be inclement weather, the service will move to the nearby St Thomas' Church.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the event, where they can pay their respects and even bring flowers, which, by courtesy of Hilda's the Florist, Tonypandy, can be tied with decorative ribbon to the pit wheel spokes or similarly decorated and placed in holders in front of the renovated and landscaped memorial stone area.
Glyn, now 87, was just 15 years old when he was captured on film after a hard day’s work at Blaenclydach Colliery, known as Gorci Drift, during the Second World War. He had begun work at the pit just a few months before, against the wishes of his father, who also worked in the pits all his life.
The picture was taken just months before a disaster at the colliery, when seven men were killed and 53 were injured when a man-rider train, known as a Spake, ran out of control on the steep drift. Glyn narrowly missed the accident and one of his friends was killed.
Following the closure of this pit in 1947, Glyn moved to the neighbouring Cambrian Colliery and was working above ground when he was called to the mouth of shaft number one and told there had been an explosion in its underground workings.
Glyn then spent the next 12 long hours at the pithead, waiting over that period for signals from below ground, ones which indicated there were recovered bodies at the shaft bottom, waitying for return to the surface. On each occasion the cage emerged, Glyn and others, in almost total silence, gently removed the stretchers and their lifeless burdens, carrying them with great dignity to temporary resting places on a workshop floor.
A total of 31 men were killed and 15 were injured in what is one of the most tragic coal mining incidents in Wales.
A devastated Glyn returned to his terraced home in close-knit Clydach in the early hours of the morning, unable to speak to the people who still stood on their doorsteps, anxiously awaiting news and updated.
He was so upset, he was unable to speak to his wife, Sally, who was waiting for him at home and made it his mission to attend the funeral of every single one of the men who were killed.
Nearly half a century later, Glyn still tears up then he thinks of that awful day, and, as he explained: “It was a terrible day and one that none of us will forget.
“It is why we hold the memorial service and why we have worked so hard over the years to secure not only the Cambrian Memorial Park, but also the commemoration to those killed at Gorci Drift and the flooding tragedy at Blaenclydach School.
“It is important that we remember and commemorate, especially as generations change. At the moment, there are many young people who have a grandfather or great-grandfather who worked in the pits. Soon that will not be the case as time moves on. We need future generations to keep it alive, as part of our heritage, that is why I am so pleased Blaenclydach School are involved this year.”
Glyn was made redundant in 1966 when Cambrian Colliery closed, because, aged just over 50, he was considered too old to move to another pit.
He spent his retirement working in the community, gathering funds and organising the events needed to raise money for the memorials – Cambrian Memorial Park, the Gorci Drift memorial plaque that can be seen at the Council offices and the remembrance of the terrible flood at Blaenclydach Primary School.