Professor Iain McLean to be keynote speaker at book launch about the Aberfan disaster

On 13 July, Iain McLean will be a keynote speaker at the launch of Aberfan - A Story of Survival, Love and Community in One of Britain's Worst Disasters by Gaynor Madgwick, which is being published in the 50th anniversary year of the disaster.

On October 21, 1966, a colliery waste tip slid down into the village of Aberfan in south Wales. It engulfed a school and several houses, killing 144 people including 109 children at school and five of their teachers. Gaynor, then aged 8, survived the disaster but her brother and sister were killed.

Iain has been involved with the disaster since it happened. In 1966, as an Oxford undergraduate, he organised a collection among students for the Disaster Fund. He was (and has remained) outraged when, in 1968, the UK government illegally forced the charitable Disaster Fund to pay the costs of removing the remaining Aberfan tips. In 1996, with the Aberfan records being about to be released under the ’30-year rule’ by the UK National Archives, he resumed his work, resulting in his book with Martin Johnes, Aberfan: government and disasters (Welsh Academic Press 2000), he has maintained a website on their findings with links to the archives, at

One of the proudest moments of Iain’s academic career was the 1997 decision of Ron Davies, Secretary of State for Wales, to return a chunk of the Disaster Fund’s money, acknowledging that it had been improperly taken. He cited Iain as one of those whose work had led to the decision. Full restitution to the fund was made by the Welsh Government in 2008.

Iain has known Gaynor (and other survivors of the disaster) for many years and is delighted to be supporting her at this launch.

You can read more about Iain's involvement with Aberfan by clicking here:

Professor Iain McLean is Professor of Politics, Official Fellow, Nuffield College