The Crown star Jason Watkins likens Aberfan tragedy to the death of his daughter Maude

The Crown star Jason Watkins has likened the Aberfan tragedy to losing his own daughter after re-enacting the natural disaster for the forthcoming third season of the royal drama. 

An entire generation was almost wiped out when 150,000 tonnes of coal waste slid down the hillside before engulfing Pantglas Junior School on October 21 1966. The disaster killed 116 children and 28 adults. 

And Watkins, who plays former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, admits the loss of so many young lives draws a parallel with his daughter Maude, who lost her battle with Sepsis aged two in 2011. 

Moved: The Crown star Jason Watkins has likened the Aberfan tragedy to losing his own daughter after re-enacting the natural disaster for the forthcoming third season of the royal drama

Moved: The Crown star Jason Watkins has likened the Aberfan tragedy to losing his own daughter after re-enacting the natural disaster for the forthcoming third season of the royal drama

Appearing on Wednesday’s edition of Lorraine, he said: ‘That is the third episode of the series it is an incredible moving film, each episode is a film in itself. 

‘Everyone knows I lost a child in 2011, to go to shoot an episode about the loss of a child, it was very difficult. I above everyone else wanted to take it in the right way, to help us remember what happened.’ 

Maude, the actor’s second child with wife Clara Francis, was just two-and a half when a persistent cough and consequent respiratory problems prompted two consecutive visits to a hospital A&E, where she was initially diagnosed with croup.

Re-enactment: Watkins plays former Prime Minster Harold Wilson in the new series

Re-enactment: Watkins plays former Prime Minster Harold Wilson in the new series  

Devastating: He admits the loss of so many young lives at Aberfan in 1966 draws a parallel with his daughter Maude, who lost her battle with Sepsis aged two in 2011

Devastating: He admits the loss of so many young lives at Aberfan in 1966 draws a parallel with his daughter Maude, who lost her battle with Sepsis aged two in 2011

But within two weeks of developing her first symptoms she was dead, passing away on New Year’s Day 2011 after falling victim to sepsis, an insidious illness in which the immune system reacts violently to infection, attacks its own tissue and eventually leads to organ failure. 

While his scenes as Wilson during the aftermath of the Welsh disaster prompted him to think of Maude, the actor admits the entire cast had a responsibility to accurately portray it for the sake of those who are unaware that it even happened.   

He explained: ‘The generations who have followed are not aware of that tragedy, its such a big show, the whole world focuses on that particular tragedy.  I wanted to do it right, however difficult it was.’ 

Drive: Maude was the actor's child with second wife Clara Francis

Drive: Maude was the actor’s child with second wife Clara Francis 

Emotional: Watkins was pictured filming scenes as former Prime Minister Harold Wilson following the Aberfan tragedy in October 2018

Uncanny: The star was the spitting image of the iconiPM (pictured)

 Emotional: Watkins was pictured filming scenes that followed the Aberfan tragedy in October 2018

Heartbreaking: A child's coffin was seen in a funeral hearse while the episode was filmed in October 2018

Heartbreaking: A child’s coffin was seen in a funeral hearse while the episode was filmed in October 2018

Children in Pantglas Junior School were about to start their lessons at around 12pm when 1.5 million cubic feet of liquefied slurry crashed onto the school and a number of nearby houses.

The slurry demolished and engulfed the building, filling classrooms with thick mud and rubble. About half the children from the junior school were killed in the tragedy, which happened on the last day before half term.

Witnesses said the noise of the impending avalanche sounded like a low-flying jet or thunder. 

Desperate parents rushed to the scene and clawed at the mud with their bare hands, clinging to the hope that the sons and daughters they waved off just hours earlier might have survived.

Reflecting on The Crown’s unique ability to accurately mix harrowing real life events into the narrative, Watkins added:  ‘There’s a lot of fact that’s part of it, it’s a drama and this fantastic mix – one of the appeals is it is the private and the public side. 

‘The Queen, dealing with large events, with Harold as a leader and she a leader. They meet and how they explore the nature of government.’ 

 

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