Charles visits Six Bells mine disaster memorial

South Wales Argus: VALLEYS VISIT: Prince Charles with  former mine worker and local councillor Jim Watkins VALLEYS VISIT: Prince Charles with former mine worker and local councillor Jim Watkins

THE Prince of Wales brought smiles to faces in a small village in the Welsh Valleys today as he opened a new community facility and paid his respects to victims of a mining disaster.

Despite the wet and cold weather, residents of all ages from Abertillery and Six Bells, Blaenau Gwent, turned out in force to welcome their royal guest.

The first stop on Charles's tour of South Wales this morning was the Guardian memorial.

The 65ft (20m) statue - dubbed Wales's Angel of the North - depicts a miner with his arms outstretched.

It was unveiled last year to mark 50 years since 45 men lost their lives in a mining disaster at the Six Bells Colliery.

This morning, the Prince met the artist, Sebastien Boyesen, and project team as well as members of the community involved in the venture.

Charles found himself seeing double within moments of his arrival when he spoke to Brynmawr twins Niall and Nadargh Boyd.

The 18-year-olds were among members of the Nantyglo and Blaenau Air Cadets who greeted the Prince as he made his way up to the Guardian.

He chatted with Nadargh first before seeing a familiar face further along the line.

Glamorgan university student Niall said: "I think the Prince had a bit of a surprise when he spoke to me as he'd spoken with my twin brother moments before.

"He took an interest in my studies and asked if I was doing the same subject as my brother.

"Having someone of Prince Charles's stature come here means a great deal, we don't get many famous people come here.

"It was an honour in speaking to him, I just wish I could have chatted to him for longer."

Another person who chatted with the royal visitor was former mine worker and local councillor Jim Watkins.

The 80-year-old grandfather-of-two escaped the Six Bells disaster because a last-minute shift change saw him deployed to another part of the site.

He said: "The Prince was very humble and said he understood the memorial meant a great deal to me, which it does.

"I was due to be working as an electrician at the part of the mine where the disaster occurred that fateful day, but my line manager decided to send me another part as the night shift had made good progress.

"An image that stays with me to this day was that I saw one of the boys, Dennis, go off in a cart - and he waved goodbye to me as he went off to work.

"Little did we know that I would be going to safety and he off to his death.

"So the memorial, as well as the Prince's visit, means a tremendous amount to me.

"The Prince being here has really brought a buzz to the place.’’

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