The media has been full this week of the tragic tale of the deaths of four miners at the Gleision colliery in the Swansea Valley. Heartfelt condolences have been sent from all quarters to the families of those men.
Reporters have been buzzing around like bees around the proverbial honeypot, and whilst nobody could deny this is not news and worthy of reporting is it really necessary for them to be so intrusive?
We have read in the press the touching messages left by the families – their heartfelt messages to their husbands / fathers. Do we need to see them splashed all over the papers? Do we need streams of interviews with neighbours to convince us of how awful this is?
ITV contacted my father via our Communities First office to ask if he would do an interview with them. His connection with Gleision? Absolutely nothing. He is an ex miner, and was interviewed by them as part of a programme they did some time ago on the Cambrian Colliery disaster. His response contained several mild expletives! The gist of it was you’ve got to be joking.
You see people of a certain age around here remember all too well the grief of families and the devastation to communities that mining accidents brought about. The people who complain about the closure of the mines probably never worked in them or had family who did. They haven’t seen the damage to the health of individuals – the men who came up with ‘dust’, who survive only with the help of oxygen cylinders.
They certainly could not have seen the likes of the disaster in the Cambrian Colliery in 1965 when 31 miners died in an explosion. I was a small child at the time so will not pretend to remember it. But I have heard all the stories, seen the film clips and videos, watched grown men cry as 45 years on they recounted their memories for a DVD commemorating the event.
It was stated that the death toll might have been even greater if not for the fact the colliery was being run down in readiness for closure and half of the 800 workforce had already been transferred into other collieries.
My father was one of those who had been transferred elsewhere.
So along with everyone else I have huge amounts of sympathy for the families of the victims this week. I cannot imagine what they must be going through. But as I watched the news unfold my overriding thought was that I am glad the mines have, by and large, gone. Political and economic arguments aside, the cost of coal was too high.