A story from 1966 about homework and tragedy.

Recorded in a small town in the Netherlands.

Read more about the Aberfan disaster.


So I grew up in the English Midlands in a fairly big town called Walsall, which is in the Black Country. But my dad came from Wales. So I went to school in Walsall and the story starts in 1966, which was the first year I went to junior school. And this happened in the first week that I went to school.

When I was in the first year of junior school, something really awful happened in our family. My dad came from a really small mining village in Wales called Aberfan, which probably nobody would have ever heard of. But in that year I went to school, there was a horrible disaster in the village and one of the slag heaps- that was all the rubbish that was taken out of the mine – slipped and fell on the junior school in the village. So of course, if we’d lived in the village, I’d have been in that school. So it was a really horrible thing, very upsetting in my family, and my granddad still lived in the village. So my dad went back to Wales to try and help.

Anyway, because we’d just started at junior school, and we had to do our first pieces of work, one of the things we were set to do was to write a diary about all the things that were happening. And so of course, I wrote in my diary that it’s been this horrible disaster and lots of children have been killed. And my dad’s gone back home to see if he can help because there were lots of clearing away, the slag went right into the village, it was in all the streets, was right up to the door to my granddad’s house. So there was lots of clearing up to be done.

And I wrote all this in my diary, and then the teacher was really angry with me and I didn’t understand why this was and I had to go and see the head. And I was sent with this lad who was sitting next to me, who I didn’t really know because we’d just started school. And evidently the stories in our diaries were exactly the same. So I can remember being completely confused, because the teacher was saying “one of you must be telling a lie”. And I think “how could you lie about something as awful as this”. You know I still remember this traumatic event. But this lad next to me – who hadn’t understood what a diary was, and obviously didn’t know what to do – had just copied what I had written. And as we went to school together I knew this lad, and it wasn’t the first time he got into trouble. Mind you it wasn’t the last time either.

That’s my story. So it’s got a whole set of really awful things happening. But it’s got this really stupid thing, which this lad next to me copied what was happening in my life and wrote it in his own diary.

[Carys]: And now you know what I’m going to ask you


[Carys]: what’s the moral of the story?

If you cheat, change a few of the details.

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