‘Lulu’ co-author Ron Onions covered Aberfan 50 years ago.

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October 20, 2016 by dontbringlulubook



From Don’t Bring Lulu; Her Family’s Tale of Trial and Triumph by Ron, Doris and Sarah Onions.

Ron.‘It was during this period that I became involved in the most heart-rending story of my whole career, the Aberfan disaster. This occurred on 21 October l966, when a mountain of coal waste suddenly slid down onto a school and some houses in the heart of a Welsh mining village. The children had just arrived for morning assembly. Some were pulled out alive during the course of a horrific day,  but 116 children, as well as 28 adults, were to lose their lives.

Early film coverage from BBC Wales revealed the appalling scale of the disaster, and a fast car was laid on to take reporter Robert Williams and myself to the stricken village. We were accompanied by the deputy editor of BBC TV News, Andrew Todd. The film crew arrived separately and we based ourselves in the miners’ social centre, as well as we could. There was mud and slime everywhere, but at least we had somewhere to prepare updated film reports as we worked through the night and following  day.

Our film coverage was edited in Cardiff and transmitted to London for inclusion in all bulletins on both BBC channels. Inevitably the scenes from the stricken village had a huge impact all over the world. On the day of the funeral, I felt that adding words to our film of what was about to take place in Aberfan’s hillside cemetery would be superfluous – not to say intrusive in some way and that the cameras should just record the natural sound of the vast burial ceremony. In the event, as the hundreds of mourners came slowly to the gravesides of their loved ones, the film on its own, without commentary, said everything that could possibly be said about this devastating moment in the history of Wales.

Later, the National Coal Board tried to blame excessive rain for the disaster, but an official inquiry pinned sole responsibility for what had happened on the Board itself.

The picture, copyright of the Onions’ family, shows Ron Onions covering the story, based in a miners’ club. He’s looking at a copy of the Daily Mail (a broadsheet in those days) which splashed a banner headline showing the death toll in the Welsh village.

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