4:30pm Thursday 26th September 2013
AN ELDERLY woman who has suffered a “lifetime of depression” because of the Senghenydd mining disaster will not be attending its centenary memorial service next month because she cannot be guaranteed a seat.
Olwen Tewkesbury’s daughter, Angela McDonald, said her 93-year-old mother will not be in attendance on October 14 because “there is no guarantee of a space, yet alone a seat”.
Her father, Thomas Morgan, lost two of his brothers, David and Josiah, in the Senghenydd disaster.
Thomas and his other brother, John, committed suicide years later because they could not cope with the loss of their brothers.
Money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Caerphilly County Borough Council and local community councils’ fundraising totals in excess of £100,000 to commemorate the death of 439 miners in the Senghenydd pit disaster in 1913.
Volunteer-led Aber Valley Heritage Group, which has organised the memorial service, say there is not enough room to properly accommodate the 5,000 people expected at the event.
Many local people and relatives have also come forward to sponsor individual name tiles for a memorial wall, including the family of Mrs Tewkesbury, who now resides in a nursing home in Windsor.
In 1925 Olwen Tewkesbury, who was five years old at the time, found her father after he had hanged himself.
Mrs McDonald is upset that priority has been given to financial supporters of the event, rather than the families affected by the tragedy.
She said: “I contacted the organisers a few months ago asking for details about the memorial service and was informed that entrance to the service was by invitation only – 300 VIPs.
“They state that they ‘don’t know what space we will have on the day’ for visitors or community members.
“Our family is only really interested in the memorial service. We obviously cannot bring my elderly mother with us as there is no guarantee of a space yet alone a seat.“The whole dispute hangs on the fact that families such as ourselves who had bought memorial bricks over a year ago had never been contacted again about details regarding the memorial service.”
Jack Humphreys, chairman of the Aber Valley Heritage Group, said: “There are a lot of people who have helped us along the way – people who have given serious money to help us.
“We can’t guarantee anyone a place.”
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