When I was looking into the Aberfan disaster, my initial response was that there's little information about any adults who died. Not much about family units, nor relationships. Most of the focus at the time was on "the village that lost its children" as that was "the big story" as the media saw it.
I felt sad for the adults and thought I'd "quickly look them up/see their stories", only to discover that almost nothing's ever been written about them. This took me on a journey of over a month's solid 'research' trying to work out who is who, where did they go .... and some people are simply no more than a name on a "list of the dead".
This page is the result of some of my findings, all done with a budget of £0, which is why some detail has not been ascertained.
I apologise to any family members if I've got anything wrong. My intention was to "give the adults a voice". They died too and they deserve the recognition that they existed and not the anonymity of being just a name on a list.
1-10 Moy Road, Aberfan
If you look on Google Streetview at Moy Road Aberfan, you might notice that the house numbers on one side of the road start at number 11. "Where are 1-10 Moy Road?" you might ask!
On Friday 21 October 1966 a cataclysmic catastrophe overtook this small Welsh mining village, resulting in a terrace of houses being completely engulfed in coal slurry and all the occupants killed. Other houses in the same road were similarly destroyed from the slurry, rendering them uninhabitable and some unsafe.
Numbers 1-10 Moy Road, Aberfan were opposite the school and they were demolished. Some of the land was used to change the road layout a little and the rest to build some new houses.
On that day in 1966, the Aberfan disaster took the lives of many of the residents of Moy Road. From the list of those who lost their lives it can be seen that the following people who lived in those houses died:
- 1 Moy Road: Evelyn Mary Jones, aged 61. Trying to find anybody called Jones in Wales is a thankless task, but it's possible that Evelyn was the mother of Glyn Jones, but as there are 40+ Glyn Jones' born in the span of years possible, it's no simple task to double check that... so this is on the back burner for when I've more time.
- 2 Moy Road: Sidney Russell, aged 53 and his son Graham Edward Russell aged 26. Sidney left a widow, Blodwen May Russell, mother of Graham; Blodwen passed away in 2002. There might have also been two daughters in the family, who would've been survivors.
- 3 Moy Road: Richard Jones, aged 48. Richard was married to Katie Elizabeth Jones (Kitty), Kitty was widowed by the Aberfan disaster.
- 4 Moy Road: Evan George Carston, aged 64 and Margaret Jayne Carston, aged 61. They had a grown up family member who survived them as they'd already moved out and had a family of their own.
- 5 Moy Road: nobody died at this address, I wonder where they were! It is possible that Gerald Tarr lived here. Gerald had just completed a night shift and got into bed when the slurry hit his house and half demolished it. He was rescued in the nick of time before he drowned from the water that was cascading down the street. He was trapped under his door as it caved in, but managed to work really hard to be saved at the last minute. He was a lucky Aberfan survivor who nearly didn't make it to safety. Wife Shirley Tarr was at work, so not at home at the time.
- 6 Moy Road: John Morgan Evans, aged 65, Marjorie Christine Evans, aged 36 and Katherine Elizabeth Evans aged 3. James Arnold Evans was widowed when his wife Marjorie was killed, with his daughter Katherine. It's possible they also had another child who survived.
- 7 Moy Road: William Henry Rees, aged 67 and Andrew Rees, aged 14. It is possible though that Andrew didn't die at home, but at school across the road, or crossing the road to get to school. William Rees didn't die on 21 October with the rest, but six days later, he died of injuries received in the disaster according to his gravestone. William left a widow, Joan. Joan was one of the "happy endings" I was looking for when I started to look into everybody as she lived to be aged 99, dying in 2000! I say "happy endings", as I hope she had a good 34 more years and wasn't simply very sad all that time.
Joan and William were the parents of Leonard Rees, who was the father of Andrew Rees. Andrew's parents being Leonard and Almyn. Almyn died in 1998 and Leonard died in 2005.
Although the residents of 8-10 Moy Road escaped with their lives, the houses were unstable and uninhabitable, so were demolished.
78-84 Moy Road
78-84 Moy Road was a row of terraced houses located next to the school, the back gardens looked up to the coal tips that would one day engulf them.
Today, this space is occupied by the children's play area that's to the right of the Memorial Garden on Moy Road.
77 Moy Road
- 77 Moy Road: This house still exists, I've included it as it is significant. 77 Moy Road was next to the school and was the home of the caretaker, Mr Stephen Andrew. He had two boys at the school and a wife and new baby at home. He'd been that morning to get the heating going and to unlock the school. He'd then popped home and was just returning to the school when he heard the noise on the mountain and realised what was happening - he dashed home and got his wife and baby outside, then dashed to the school as he knew his boys were inside. He was one of the first on the scene digging, but not before he'd shut down the fire in the boiler. His two lads, Kelvin David and Malcolm were buried in the school debris.
78-84 Moy Road, Aberfan
- 78 Moy Road: This is where John Collins' wife Gwyneth lost her life. Their two boys Raymond and Peter were in separate locations, yet still both also died. Raymond was killed by the slurry as he walked to school with his two friends Robert and Andrew. Peter was sitting in his classroom at the Pantglas Junior School when the slurry hit it, burying him alive.
- 79 Moy Road: Frederick Richard Hanson was here, aged 78. Also at this address was Lewis Jones, aged 46 and Glenys Gabriel Jones, aged 46. Glenys and Lewis had married in 1939. Glenys was probably the only child of Frederick Hanson and his wife Annie (nee Gabriel), who married in 1920.
- 80 Moy Road: Here there were three people, Tydfil Jane Taylor, aged 73, with William Charles Thomas, aged 60 and Myrtle Irene Thomas aged 54. A quick look at the records indicates to me that Tydfil is Myrtle's aunt (Myrtle's mother's sister). Tydfil was (probably) a spinster.
- 81 Moy Road: This was the home of Patricia Evans, aged 32 and her two children, Hywel Lloyd Evans, aged 7 and Gareth Evans aged just 3 months. The father, William Lloyd Evans (Bill) was at work when the event occurred. He came home to discover he'd lost his family and his house.
- 82 Moy Road: This was the childhood home of brother and sister Albert Gerald Mytton, aged 54 and Lucy May Mytton aged 64. The house had been their parents' house before them. They had a brother, Edward J Mytton, who had gone to Australia to be a miner, but he was blinded in WW1 and was subsequently being sent home to England when he contracted an illness and died. His mother had attended his funeral and been sent a plaque and medals. So when 82 Moy Road was destroyed, along with it went a lifetime of family treasures and mementoes and brother Edward's medals. This loss of family members and treasured belongings will have been felt by the remaining siblings of Albert and Lucy.
- 83 Moy Road: Catherine Jones, aged 75, lived at this house. Cassie, as she was known, was a widow, her husband having pre-deceased her in 1958. She had at least one child.
- 84 Moy Road: Brian Elvet Harris was aged 24 and lived at this address. It's not clear whether he died at the house, or if he was elsewhere in the village that day. Brian had married Janet just three years before. As the only deceased person from that address, I could make the assumption that the couple were living with other people and maybe he'd just finished the night shift at work and gone to bed. That is certainly the case with a survivor of Moy Road, who was in bed when their house started collapsing around them.
Housing the Homeless
When you have a catastrophic event, the homeless need to be housed. The villagers of Aberfan didn't want to be displaced. They still had family close by, jobs, friends - and there was still a lot of work to be done in the community in the big clear up. Perchance picking over your plot for some small fragments of your life that could be found.... a shoe, a photo .... anything!
A temporary caravan site was set up, with 37 families taking up residence there while they sorted out the next stage of their life. Some people could just move in with family for the immediate days, but ultimately you need to get your life back on track and get back into regular housing. The short-term caravan park solution worked quite well, except for a couple of arguments when the Coal Board, who owned the tip that'd killed the village's children wanted to charge the caravan residents for their electricity and other services!
If you've ever tried to trace people in Wales, you'll have quickly discovered that in a lot of cases there are 4-40 potential people they "could be"! With so many commonly used first names and surnames, even if you get to grips with that you'll discover that a lot of them use their middle name or a nickname if they're interviewed or quoted in the press.
I hope the above is correct, I believe it is. But, I do reserve the caveat of E&OE.
When researching I found one website that found it strange that one particular site didn't give people's date of birth - what they'd failed to realise is that it would cost £10 per individual certificate to get that information - and so they'd have needed nearly £1500 just to put that information in. All my research has been done with a budget of £0 and has taken me 200-250 hours to compile.
- SHARE, DON'T NICK: I'd appreciate it if you didn't copy/paste any of the above (that's theft), but would, instead, link to this page if you found it useful. Thank you.
Shirley on October 21, 2018:
Hi,Evelyn Mary Jones is Glyn and Doreen’s mother.Doreen is in her eighties,her husband was a Policeman in Merthyr now in his nineties.
Dedicated Content Curator (author) from United Kingdom on October 18, 2016:
Thanks for that. It's a jigsaw isn't it!
You try to piece it together from little pieces, but sometimes you've not got enough pieces until they present themselves.
Mel on October 14, 2016:
Have just been reading the new book "Surviving Aberfan". They interviewed all sorts of people, one of whom is Gerald Tarr. He doesn't actually say what number Moy Road he lived at (along with his wife, who was elsewhere at the time of the slide) but he does say that Brian Harris was their next-door neighbour. On the documentary Aberfan: The Untold Story there is a fleeting glimpse of an old street map which shows that terrace, and there is a no. 85. Think this must've been the Tarrs' home. Either that, or they were lodging with Cassie Jones (but he doesn't mention anyone else being in the house at the time.)
Dedicated Content Curator (author) from United Kingdom on October 07, 2016:
Hi David Small
Thanks for that information about Brian Harris. There are 1000 little stories aren't there, the little details.
You have to feel sorry for him, that he'd survived an accident but the Giant Hidden Hand still found a way to reach him :(
David Small on October 07, 2016:
Hello, we lived in 84 Moy Road from 1960 to 63.,before moving to Knighton in mid Wales. I was told Brian Harris died, as he was at home recuperating from a car accident.
Mel on October 06, 2016:
Thank you. I will google the archives centre in Cardiff.
I agree we will never find all the answers. And we don't need to.
I daresay the people of Aberfan and roundabout have had more than their fair share of intrusive journalists, etc over the years and doubtless there have been intrusive researchers too, don't want to be one of those!
Dedicated Content Curator (author) from United Kingdom on October 06, 2016:
I'll admit I had to drag myself away from it as it was eating up my time. You just end up with more questions than answers!
For the farmhouse, it's possible that they were about to leave to walk to the school; being so close they'd have had time and/or maybe they were even running late, or phoned in sick.
The archives centre is the main one in Cardiff.
Be careful how much time you spend .... I felt it was a "personal story" told best by those who were there, so I left it as it is, without the intensive research required, as I felt that was best left to those who are local to the issue and actually knew the people (if you see what I mean).
The telling of a tragedy is personal to one involved in it - I see my research as highlighting their message rather than providing all the answers.
All the best to you! It IS captivating isn't it....
Mel on October 05, 2016:
Thank you for answering. Yes, the replication of the same names is a problem (I came across a similar thing when doing family research in Scotland where until quite recently children were very often given exactly the same name as the parents/ grandparents.)
You do mention in one of the other articles here that Michael Collins the little boy was prob. a nephew. I've come to that conclusion too, since I wrote the other day. (Can't be certain, of course.)
I've also noticed there's little about the farmhouse. I did wonder why a 13-year-old and a 7-year-old were both at home on a schoolday; they could have been ill, of course. On one site (can't remember where) someone mentions how "the family" had just gone out on a shopping trip to Mountain Ash. . .I don't know whether this was the same family as that of the dead Fitzpatrick children or whether there was more than one farmhouse involved. Gaynor Madgwick in her recent book writes how there were 6 children who died in houses rather than in the school. I think 5 of these are: the Fitzpatrick children, the little girl Catherine Evans who died with her mother at Moy Road and the two Evans boys Gareth and Hywel Lloyd who died with THEIR mother (Patricia Evans). Am not sure about this last one but again Gaynor Madgwick makes mention of a girl who was ill and who died in the house of her grandmother along with the grandmother (she doesn't give the child's name.) Could this child have been spending the day with either Evelyn Jones or Cassie Jones? (Then there's the further question of who exactly this child was. I see from the list that several children called Jones perished. . .but this could have been the child of a daughter not a son and thus, with a different surname.) I don't think it can have been Sheila F. because Gaynor M. makes clear that the child was a pupil at Pantglas Junior.
I found this when I did my other research, the whole thing becomes a great detective trail, throwing up more puzzles as you go. I think it's great you've been able to find out so much. If you could give me the address of the archives centre you mention, I'd be grateful. I don't live in or near South Wales and wouldn't be going there in the near future anyway (as you say elsewhere, that would be inappropriate) but, in due course, I might go.
The deaths at the farmhouse are doubly difficult to check out because there are no Fitzpatricks recorded in Aberfan cemetery, and no Susan Probert either.
Thank you again.
Dedicated Content Curator (author) from United Kingdom on October 05, 2016:
I can't answer your questions I'm afraid, the above is just what I discovered over a month's searching. Some could be wrong, it's my take on who people were and their relationships and what they could've been doing at the very moment of the disaster.
I struggled with too many people with the same name and no access to original records too :)
As for the farmhouse, there was very little for me to find. It seemed to be the grandmother looking after her grandchildren, but nigh on impossible to push that any further without going to the archives centre, which wasn't possible for me. I was 'driven' to find as much as I could about them, but their story was overwhelmed by people's focus on the children. Again, it was an issue of many people having the same name and "it could be" ... but nothing I could put down in writing without fear of having gone terribly wrong. I thought it was Susan Probert, but you can only look/wonder so long before you have to move on (nobody pays me for this research/writing time and it took me a whole month, so I had to stop at some point). I had gone through all the old records/Censuses to try to build the family tree, all time-consuming and I still didn't end up with an answer I was happy with.
I wish you well with your own researches, more information will no doubt come to light later this month as more stories are told in the Press when the spotlight falls on Aberfan again.
Mel on October 03, 2016:
Me again. (I'm sorry, I don't know your name?)
In the Collins house, according to the Durham Colliery site, there was also a child by the name of Michael Collins, who also died. Was he a nephew, do you think, living with them?
Reading what you have written about Brian Elvet Harris, I wonder if his wife had just gone out when the disaster happened? (Shopping? To see a friend/relative?)
Do you know anything about the people who died in the farmhouse? There are two children listed on the Durham Colliery site as Sheila Fitzpatrick (13) and Michael Fitzpatrick (7), who I am inferring were siblings. In other sources, mention is made of a grandmother. . .could this be the Susan Probert who is on the same list but not shown with any address?
Thank you again.
Mel on October 03, 2016:
Thank you very much for this. I am researching the Aberfan disaster and have been puzzling (fruitlessly, for the most part) over how these people were connected to each other. You've just answered a lot of questions!
Is it possible the little Hywel Lloyd Evans died in the school rather than in his house?
You mention Andrew Rees. In one of the documentaries currently on YouTube, a man (who still lives in Aberfan I think) called Howard Rees talks on camera of how his three friends were sitting on a wall when the "avalanche" of coal came down. One of those friends was Andrew Rees. Howard Rees witnessed this and was fortunate to escape death himself.
I am wondering if you have further information pertaining to the other children? (I have found the Durham Colliery site very helpful in establishing SOME of the relationships.) Thanks again.