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How the Queen kept her promise to the families of the Aberfan tragedy

Aberfan may be the scene of the Queen’s greatest regret, but those who lived through the disaster in this small Welsh village say it is also the scene of the finest example of her constancy and care.

Video report by Penny Marshall, ITV News Social Affairs Editor

The Queen has always felt she left it too long after the disaster to visit the Welsh mining village and offer comfort to the bereaved.

Her first visit came eight days after the slag heap collapsed on the village school leaving 116 children and 28 adults dead.

She was a young mother then too and the disaster touched her deeply. Those there remember her visit in October 1966.

The Queen herself was a young mother when she visited Aberfan, where 116 children were killed when a slag heap collapsed on a local school Credit: PA

They remember she was moved to tears at the scene.

But they also say the Queen didn't come late.

"We were still in shock, I remember the Queen walking through the mud," one of the mothers told me. "It felt like she was with us from the beginning."

Sylvia Richards, who died, aged nine, in the Aberfan disaster

Elaine Richards lost her nine year old daughter Sylvia in the tragedy and when the Queen visited that October day, she promised she would return to open the new school when one was built.

Now 95, Mrs Richards told me how that had given the village hope; and how much it had meant to her that the Queen kept her promise and did return to open the new school in 2012.

"She kept her promise, she is a very gracious lady," she told me. "Now we have children playing in the village again."

Marjorie Collins’ son Anthony Wayne died in the tragedy too, aged just eight.

Anthony Wayne, who died, aged eight, in the Aberfan disaster

She last saw him waving as he disappeared in the early morning mist on his way to school.

She said the Queen’s visits had done more than anything to help heal the community.

"They were above the politics and the din and they proved to us that the world was with us, and that the world cared," she said.

The Queen returned to Aberfan for the opening of a new school there in 2012 Credit: Reuters

The Queen has now been to visit this small village four times, proving her constancy says Marjorie.

The women who lost their children are now in their 80s and 90s, the same generation as the Queen.

Since the Aberfan disaster in 1966, the Welsh village has held a special significance for the Queen Credit: Reuters

They have watched the Queen grow old as they have grown old; they remember her engagement, her coronation, the birth and marriages of her children.

They feel they have been with her throughout her long reign and that, more importantly, she has always been with them.

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