Gleision one year on: A million gestures of support
IF you ever needed proof of how the Gleision Colliery disaster touched the hearts and minds of people around the world then you only need look at the fund set up to help the bereaved families.
A staggering £1 million was given to the Swansea Valley Miners' Families Appeal in just 12 months.
The fund was set up in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy by Neath MP Peter Hain, who wanted to do something practical to help the families, all of whom lived in his constituency.
Wayne Thomas, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers in the South Wales Area, Tyrone O'Sullivan, chairman of Tower Colliery, and Dr Barry Cennydd Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, were subsequently appointed trustees.
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The emphasis was on securing the future of the children of the miners through the setting up of trust funds for them.
Donations rolled in from around the world with sums ranging from £5 given by a kindly granny in Aberdeen to £10,000 in gate receipts from a charity rugby game between Neath RFC and a miners XV.
Commenting on the phenomenal manner in which the fund took off, Peter Hain said: "We got it up and running over night and that proved crucial because it meant I was able to give the address out on the news and by the end of the first day we had raised £20,000; by the end of the weekend we had raised £50,000.
"Then the postman arrived in the office, not just with the normal bundle of mail but with sacks of mail. We had volunteers in and my office staff had to put their normal work to one side. We were meticulous with it, you had cheques and letters by the hundreds that you wanted to acknowledge, proper records were kept, and subsequently audited.
"Not a penny went on administration costs, it all went to the families. It was absolutely magnificent, it just kept coming for weeks."
Trustee Wayne Thomas added: "I don't know of any fundraising in the UK that has achieved that much in such a short time.
"Over the past 12 months we've seen tremendous support and fundraising events for the families in so many different ways. More than £1million has been raised from across the UK and global donations.
"Personally, the most humble time was opening letters that enclosed money from people who had never been in the mining industry but could relate to what the families were going through.
"It was enlightening to see the support they had from so many people who could relate to the grief they were going through.
"The scale of it, from large companies to individuals right across the globe has been absolutely fabulous.
"I personally spoke to the father of a man who was killed in the Pike River disaster in New Zealand and they couldn't sympathise enough."
Mavis Breslin, who lost her husband Charles in the disaster, echoed the views of all the families when she said: "I am so grateful to the community, it has been amazing.
"I would like to thank everybody. Pensioners were sending letters saying 'I can only afford £5', it was humbling.
"Wherever I have been able I have written to say thank you."