“What hymns were played during the funeral services following the Aberfan disaster of October 21, 1966?” I posted this question at Old Merthyr Tydfil Forum when searching for more information about what happened at Aberfan. Questions essential to my composition, Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue).
Here is one of the first responses I received:
“My name is Jeff Adams. I used to live in Aberfan (left in 1966 to join the Royal Navy). I used to attend both Pantglas schools and used to, as a boy, play on those tips! You are lucky. I have been reading as much as I can get my hands on over the past few months regarding the disaster. Although the local mines had safety inspector engineers the tips did not…unbelievable.
The service itself lasted just 15 minutes (perhaps to spare more grief among the families?). The first hymn on the sheet was:
‘Loving Shepherd of thy sheep,
Keep thy lambs in safety keep;
Nothing can thy power withstand,
None can pluck them from thy hand.’
The Salvation Army played the music. It continued:
‘…Loving Saviour thou didst give,
Thine own life that we might live…’
The Bishop of Llandaff read from the Bible. (Among others) The Lord’s prayer was said. Second hymn was, ‘Jesu Lover of My Soul,’ to the tune of ‘Aberystwyth,’ composed by Joseph Parry (19th. century Merthyr composer) :
…’That of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of thee;
Spring through up within my heart-
Rise to all eternity.’
5000 silent people on a Welsh hillside, the bitter cold unnoticed. Fifteen mintues later it was all over.
Taken from the book Aberfan : The Story of a Disaster by Tony Austin Pages 143-144. I suggest you get it from your local library-you’ll be upset throughout it and angry at the National Coal Board for its outright arrogance.”
Of these two hymns, I chose to arrange “Loving Shepherd of Thy Sheep” for Aberfan, calling this section of the music “Final Hymn”.
Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. All donations are tax deductible. Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.
Photo courtesy of AP Archives Aberfan, October 1966