Category Archives: Aberfan

Aberfan documentary wins award

dadThe winners of the 2017 Sandford St Martin Awards were announced during a special ceremony held at Lambeth Palace on 7 June 2017.

 

 

My father-in-law, the Rev Irving Penberthy (left), featured prominently in All Things Considered: Aberfan 50 Year Anniversary the programme which won the prestigious Radio Award for the Religious Programmes Department, BBC Radio Wales.

The citation read:

On the morning of 21st October 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, an avalanche of colliery waste slipped down the mountainside, swept through houses, and overwhelmed Pantglas Junior School. It killed 144 people, 116 of them children. In a region familiar with colliery tragedies, the disaster at Aberfan represented a peculiar horror – by its scale, and more by the ages of most of its victims. It ripped the heart from the community, sparked huge controversy, and prompted practical support from around the world. To mark the 50th anniversary week of the disaster, ‘All Things Considered’ reflected on what the event did to the faith of people caught up in it. Some who found their beliefs shaken to the roots became atheists. For others, faith became more firmly rooted and it’s shaped their lives ever since.

It was a joy to work with producer Karen Walker to set up the interview she and presenter the Rev Roy Jenkins conducted with Dad. He had not spoken previously publicly about his work as the Methodist minister in Aberfan and they were very helpful in their approach.

The resulting programme is moving but ultimately hope-filled. You can find it here.

Aberfan: a hymn in remembrance

disasterjpgThe next two weeks are full of difficult memories in our family. The name Aberfan has scarred the whole nation of Wales but for my wife’s family there is a deeply personal resonance as the 50th anniversary of the tragedy is marked on October 21.

My father-in-law, the Revd Irving Penberthy (pictured below), was the Methodist minister in Aberfan when the disaster happened. Many of the 50-strong Sunday School died and he spent days comforting families as they discovered what had happened.

His immediate job was to go with them into the makeshift morgue and be with parents as they found their children. Then, as the village discovered how to live again, he rallied the community to build a community centre, to sing together, to learn how to laugh once more, to rediscover faith.

dad-at-aberfandad

He now lives in Devon and is the only surviving minister from that day. He has been interviewed by a number of media outlets including the BBC and we will be taking him to Aberfan to speak at one of the 50thanniversary memorial services.

Next Sunday, Radio 4’s Sunday Worship broadcast at 8.10am will feature a short interview with Dad. On the same day, All Things Considered on BBC Wales programme at 09.03 will also be about Aberfan.

The following week, October 23, BBC TV’s Songs of Praise will be about Aberfan and will feature Dad reflecting on his experiences 50 years ago.

He has also been interviewed by a reporter for Wales Online, covering the Western Mail and South Wales Echo, so it’s likely there will be some coverage in those papers too.

On October 21 the BBC are also broadcasting a live Daily Service at 9.45-1000 on Radio 4 long wave. The Revd Roy Jenkins will be presenting.

As part of the reflecting on  everything that happened, I have written the following hymn. It will be sung at the service where Dad will speak and is being sung at the start of the service on Radio 4 on October 16 and also will close the Songs of Praise broadcast on October 23. On that occasion it will be sung by Treorchy Male Choir.

 

The tune, as fits a Welsh reflection, is Dim ond Iesu (Here is love, vast as the ocean).

God who knows our darkest moments

meets us in our brokenness:

walks beside us as a whisper,

holds our pain in his caress.

God, who leads through shadowed valleys,

where death’s bleakness dims our sight,

speaks a peace beyond our knowing,

floods our anguish with his light.

 

Far beyond our grief’s horizon,

as Creation holds its breath:

Love Divine, revealed in Jesus,

tears apart the chains of death.

Servant son and humble healer,

by your cross and life laid down

you have carried all our suff’ring

and you wear the victor’s crown.

 

Lift us up, now, risen Saviour

to the place where mercy plays,

where our broken hopes and heartache

find their healing in your gaze.

This is love, that God has saved us!

This is love, that Christ has died!

We rejoice that love has conquered

and has drawn us to your side.

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