Last Thursday Mr Payne led worship and told the children the story about his trip, during the Easter holiday, to the Welsh village of Aberfan, where the tragic landslide accident in 1966 claimed the lives of 116 young learners and 28 adults from Pantglas Junior school and Aberfan. He shared the story to explain how he had made a selfish mistake that nearly stopped him from meeting and spending time with an extraordinary man called Albert, who subsequently spent about two hours with Mr Payne’s family explaining about the accident, how he himself was affected (he was on site within an hour of the accident to try to help and his niece was one of those who died), life as a Welsh Miner and the impact of losing so many people from the village. After being in the memorial garden, Albert then walked to the cemetery with Mr Payne and they spent time talking about many of the children and adults who Albert remembered well and shared information about.
The chance meeting with such a witness to history had a big impact on Mr Payne, who invited Albert to come to St. James’ to talk with the children the next time he took a holiday to Bournemouth, and as the day of the worship coincidentally happened also to be the day of Albert’s 81st birthday, there was no alternative but to record a short message followed by the whole school singing ‘Happy Birthday’ as a nice surprise that Mr Payne emailed to Albert straight afterwards. And guess what? The next day, a very happy Albert sent an email in return…:
‘Dear Jeremy, just received your email and to say I was overwhelmed would be an under statement. Thanks so very much, thank you, your staff and all your pupils for making an old man feel young again, it’s made me more determined than ever to come to Bournemouth and meet up with the staff and children of your academy and thank you again from the bottom of my heart, ‘Uncle Alb’.
We look forward to welcoming Albert into our community at some point in the future.