A COMMUNITY has come together to unveil a fitting tribute in memory of 176 men and boys who died in one of Abersychan's worst mining disasters.

The last of the summer sun shone as young and old gathered at the site of the Llanerch colliery explosion on Friday, to unveil a memorial marking one of the darkest days in the area's history.

Pupils from Garnteg and Abersychan Schools joined relatives of those who died in the disaster, alongside politicians including Torfaen's MP, Nick Thomas-Symonds and Torfaen council leader, Cllr Anthony Hunt.

The idea for the memorial came about in 2015, following a service to remember the 125th anniversary of the event on February 6, 1890.

Since then, the Friends of the Llanerch Memorial Fund raised £13,000 for the monument, with the support of a community which wanted to pay tribute to those killed.

"It is so difficult to imagine what it must have been like on February 6, 1890," Mr Thomas-Symonds told the service.

"176 people gone so quickly - there would not have been a family locally that was unaffected by this terrible tragedy."

Just before 9am, the explosion was so violent it was heard for miles around, blasted through the workings deep underground.

The sombre days and weeks which followed were filled with funerals, memorials and the inquest into the disaster.

Councillor Hunt described it as "one of the darkest days in local history."

"History is about the stories of people like this who did a very dangerous job and 176 of whom paid for it with their lives," he said.

"That is something we should never forget."

Councillor Hunt said it was particularly important that school children were among those paying tribute at the service, laying flowers at the memorial and reading poems in tribute.

Among the relatives present was Allun Davies, whose great, great grandfather was among those killed in the explosion.

The 51-year-old from Pontypool said it felt important to represent his family at the service.

"It was one of the biggest mining disasters in the south Wales valleys, but there was no monument as such, so when I heard they were going to have a memorial it felt right and fitting," Mr Davies said.

"It affected everyone's family."

Of 176 killed in the explosion, 44 were aged under 16, and 223 children were left without parents.

As well as the names of those killed at Llanerch, the memorial also pays tribute to the five who lost their lives at the nearby Glyn Pits explosion 10 days earlier.

Carol Watkins, of the Friends of the Llanerch Memorial Fund, said the group is now planning the second phase of the tribute, which includes life-size wooden sculptures, including one of a man carrying a young boy away from the pit.

The group plans to unveil the tribute to coincide with the 130th anniversary of the disaster in February.