Prince Charles tribute at Senghenydd mining memorial

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Media captionThe prince laid a wreath at the national mining memorial

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have paid tribute to Wales' coal miners on the fourth day of their tour of Wales.

The prince laid a wreath at the foot of the Welsh National Mining Memorial during a visit to Senghenydd, near Caerphilly.

The couple also opened the Aber Valley Heritage Centre which tells the history of the south Wales valleys.

They then attended separate engagements in Monmouthshire.

An explosion killed 439 miners and a rescuer at the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd on 14 October 1913 and the national memorial was unveiled last year to mark the centenary.

Image caption Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Senghenydd on Thursday morning
Image caption The memorial was unveiled last year on the centenary of the Universal Colliery disaster

As he toured the village's Heritage Museum, the prince paid tribute to the courage of the miners, and to those who paid the ultimate price digging the vital coal that helped drive Britain's industry.

He said: "My wife and I have so enjoyed this opportunity to meet you all and if I may say so to have a chance to pay our respects at the memorial.

"We just wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who've been involved in ensuring such a marvellous memorial is there in memory of all those many people who died so tragically, not only in 1913, but in 1901.

"And in the fact you are commemorating so many other mining disasters which have afflicted so many other communities in this remarkable part of south Wales.

'Debt of gratitude'

"I think we owe such an enormous debt of gratitude, respect and appreciation to those people - so many from the same families - who went underground and were courageous and determined enough to do so.

"Both of us are enormously proud to have this opportunity to be here."

Image caption More than 400 miners and a rescuer were killed at the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd on 14 October 1913

The couple met mother well-wisher Helen Manship, and shared a playful moment with her one-year-old daughter Evie-Rae, who seemed thoroughly bemused by the royal attention.

Mrs Manship said the heir to the throne seemed in good spirits.

"I told him I was a mum of three, and he said 'you've got your hands full then' and then joked 'have they got permission to be off school?"' she said.

Hilary Barbrook, 74, lost two grandfathers in the 1913 disaster.

She said: "They brought my one grandfather Hopkins James up, and he's buried in the nearby cemetery.

"My other grandfather Charles Brown, they couldn't find his body.

'Very emotional'

"Then 15 months after the explosion, they opened up that part of the mine and they found him and he was only recognisable from a ring he had on."

Ms Barbrook, who now lives in Caerphilly, said it was still "very emotional".

She welcomed the royal visit and said: "I think it's very important for the recognition of what we've tried to do for all of Wales."

The duchess also visited Usk as part of a tour of a number of locations taking part in the Britain in Bloom competition.

She met school children, business owners and members of the community.

The prince was visiting Crickhowell and also Llwyn Celyn at Crucorney Fawr, a Grade I listed 15th Century farmstead, recently acquired by the Landmark Trust.

Image caption A male voice choir entertained the royal couple at Senghenydd

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