People of Aberfan pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II who 'brought the community together'

The Queen went on to revisit Aberfan several times over the decades.

The people of Aberfan have paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II ahead of Her Majesty's state funeral.

Upon hearing the news that the Queen had died on Thursday 8 September, Jeff Edwards said he was "overcome by emotion and cried".

Just eight-years-old at the time, the now 64-year-old was one of 240 schoolchildren at Pantglas Junior School when a coal waste tip came crashing down the mountainside.

A total of 144 people were killed, including 116 children, as the school and 19 homes were engulfed.

Jeff was one of 240 schoolchildren at Pantglas Junior School when the disaster happened.

Following the disaster, the Queen waited eight days to visit and meet with people who had been affected - a decision she was always said to have regretted.

The delay attracted criticism with the Queen's former private secretary, the late Lord Charteris, saying he felt he gave her poor advice.

But many in the village felt her presence helped them during a difficult time, creating a special bond.

Her Majesty went on to revisit several times over the decades including to open a community centre in the 1970s and Ynysowen Community Primary School in 2012.

Jeff first met the Queen during the opening of the community centre, where he said she made him feel comfortable despite his nerves. Overall, he met her around a dozen times.

Jeff explained: "She was so easy to speak to. Even though I was nervous to meet a member of the Royal Family, she made conversation flow.

"The last time I saw her was at the opening of the school in 2012.

"She was delighted that a new school was being built for a new generation of young people to give them the opportunity that many children in my generation didn't have because they died.

Over the years, Jeff met the Queen many times.

"She commented on the greenery of the area because all the industrialisation had gone since she last visited and the village had regenerated itself.

"She said how beautiful it was with the mountainside and the playground.

"Each time she visited, she brought the community together. And even though she didn't come to the 50th anniversary, she commanded the then Prince Charles to come.

"He read out a letter about the amazing spirit of a community that had suffered such adversity."

Tanya Devonshire, 51, currently works at the community centre. She said the majority of people in Aberfan were saddened by the news.

She said: "It was really sad when I found out she had gone. Aberfan had a connection with her, definitely.

"She came here after the disaster, not straightaway, and I don't think everyone understands why she didn't come straightaway, but personally I do.

"When she came I think she shed a tear as well. She opened the school here and the community centre as well.

"All around it's sad. I think the majority of people in Aberfan love her even if there area a few who don't like the royals."

Queen Elizabeth II had a special connection with Aberfan and its community.

During King Charles' first visit to Wales as monarch on Friday (16 September), he and the Queen Consort met with members of The Aberfan Young Wives Club at Cardiff Castle - a club which was set up shortly after the disaster as a group of solidarity for the women who had lost children and partners in the avalanche.

Leah Farrell lives in Merthyr Tydfil but works at Ynysowen Community Primary School. She said 8 September was a particularly sad day for staff at the school as many live in Aberfan and have met the Queen.

The 33-year-old said: "I work as a teaching assistant at the school and the Queen was here 10 years ago opening the school.

"Everyone is a bit hung up as there's a massive connection to her here because of the disaster. Aberfan became very personal to her so her death hit the school really hard.

"The teachers were on edge and listening out for the news all day. They feel very connected to her especially as some of them live in Aberfan and have met her."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...