Aberfan Wife’s letter reveals no hard feelings over late Queen’s delayed visit

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A letter sent to the King by one of the Aberfan Wives has revealed there were no hard feelings over Queen Elizabeth II’s delayed visit to the disaster site.

The tragedy that struck in 1966 when a spoil-heap landslide crushed Pantglas Primary School and left 116 children and 28 adults dead was one of the UK’s worst disasters.

On advice, the then-monarch waited eight days before going to the South Wales mining village despite the Duke of Edinburgh, Lord Snowdon and then-prime minister Harold Wilson visiting the scene the following day.

Her decision not to go sooner to the site attracted criticism and was said to have been one of the greatest regrets of her reign.

1966 Aberfan Disaster
The scene at Aberfan, Glamorgan, after a man-made mountain of pit waste slid down onto Pantglas School and a row of housing killing 116 children and 28 adults (PA)

The note has emerged in a new book which charts Charles’ relationship with Wales and is being released ahead of his coronation.

Charles: The King And Wales by Huw Thomas, BBC Wales’ business correspondent, looks at how the new monarch embraced the Aberfan community as his mother had done before him, but also covers a number of other topics including his championing of the Welsh language.

In the book are extracts of Ms Davies’ letter in which she told Charles that if the Queen had visited sooner it “would have been unwise”.

Royal visit to Wales – Day Two
Queen Elizabeth II talks to bereaved parents who lost their children in the Aberfan disaster of 1966, Marjorie Collins, Elaine Morgan and Jean Gough, during a tour of Ynsyowen Community Primary School as part of her Diamond Jubilee visit to Wales (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

“Also, when he accompanied the Queen the week after, they could not hide their emotions.”

She added: “It was wiser for them that they left it for a week to return.

“I know Her Majesty has felt that she should have come to Aberfan sooner, but that would have been unwise as there was so much removal working being done.”

Aberfan disaster 50th anniversary
The aftermath of the landslide which engulfed Pantglas Junior School – killing 114 children and 28 adults in Aberfan (BBC/PA)

The Queen and the royal family’s relationship with the community has endured throughout the decades since.

During his visit to Cardiff to mark his accession, Charles invited representatives from Aberfan to meet him as King at Cardiff Castle.

Among them were members of the Aberfan Wives group – relatives of the children who lost their lives during the disaster – including Ms Davies and Denise Morgan.

Aberfan disaster 50th anniversary
The then-Prince of Wales meets Marylyn Morris at the Aberfan Memorial Garden on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

Ms Morgan said: “I don’t think she came as the Queen, I think she came as a mother too.

“Because she looked around and she could see the devastation and the look on people’s faces.

“I really do believe she came as a mother that day, to sympathise and empathise with the terrible tragedy that happened in Aberfan.”

Aberfan disaster 50th anniversary
The graves of the victims of the Aberfan disaster in the village’s cemetery (Steve Parsons/PA)

“I think that’s shared by the whole of Aberfan.”

Visiting the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park to meet the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team on Thursday, the Prince and Princess of Wales were introduced to two of the Aberfan rescuers.

Bob Thomas, 75, and Nick Richards, 79, helped in the aftermath of disaster and spent some time talking to William and Kate about the experience of clearing the debris, which Mr Thomas said was like trying to move “dry concrete”.

Aberfan disaster 50th anniversary
The memorial garden to the victims of the Aberfan disaster that was built on the site of Pantglas Junior School (Steve Parsons/PA)

After listening to Mr Thomas, William told them: “It’s a real pleasure to meet you both. My grandmother told me many times about Aberfan.”

Mr Thomas replied: “Your family did the right thing in not coming immediately, because it would have been a distraction.”

The royal couple visited a memorial garden built on the site of the primary school for the first time on Friday.

Charles: The King And Wales by Huw Thomas will be published on May 1.

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