lived in Ceredigion at 'Majoda', New Quay in 1944 -
45 and 'Plas Gelli' near Talsarn between 1941 and
1943. In May 2007 a film about Dylan Thomas based on the
period he lived in New Quay was being made in the town. Click here for a page of photos of
Dylan Thomas' roots lie
deep in south west Wales - Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire - now
known as Ceredigion. These are counties to which he was
irresistibly drawn throughout his life. He lived in many places in his
short life including London, Kent and Sussex, but returned to
West Wales to produce his most compelling and memorable works - most
notably Ceredigion where his various stays in New Quay and Talsarn were
among the most productive of his writing career.
is remembered by most for his final play 'Under Milk Wood'. Started in
New Quay and partially written at Southleigh near Oxford, then finally
completed in New York minutes before its first public performance,
'Under Milk Wood' has stimulated a long-running debate as to which town
is the model for 'Llareggub'. Local Author David Thomas notes
that many of the characters (from New Quay) were written in long before
Dylan Thomas ever visited Laugharne. He has clearly established a
strong case for New Quay being the model for 'Llareggub' while the name
'Under Milk Wood' is probably taken from the farm called
'Wernllaeth' where Dylan was taken by his good friend, the Aberaeron
vet Tommy Herbert. Dylan and Caitlin's daughter Aeronwy was
named after the river Aeron which flows through the Aeron valley to
Aberaeron , and about which Dylan said was: 'the most precious place in
Grandfather was a guard 'Thomas the Guard' on the Great Western
Railways and lived in Johnstown, on the edge of Carmarthen. His Father,
David John Thomas, was educated at Aberystwyth University where he
gained a first in English after winning a scholarship in1895. He later
became a senior English Master at Swansea Grammar School where he is
remembered as being strict and blessed with a deep and sonorous
speaking voice. D. J. Thomas wanted to be a poet, and felt that
teaching was very much a waste of his talents. In her book 'Caitlin',
Dylan's wife describes him as : '..the most unhappy man I have ever met
and it showed in his face. He was unhappy with his life. It was exactly
the kind of life that he had hoped not to have, and by the end he could
feel himself sinking back into the very existence he had sought to
escape'. Dylan's Mother was Florence
Hannah Williams - born on the
Llanstephan peninsula just across the water from Laugharne where her
son and his wife were to live later.
Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914,
in the upstairs front bedroom of his parents newly built house at 5
Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea. Behind the house ran an alley and
across the road was Cwmdonkin Park.
name Dylan is taken from the "Mabinogion", a collection of
mediaeval Welsh stories. His middle name Marlais is the name
of a stream near the birthplace of his great uncle, the Preacher and
Bard Gwylim Marles Thomas. The Rev Thomas
ministered to the Unitarian Chapel at Llwyn Rhydowen near
Llandyssul from 1860.
Dylan is said to have been inspired by the leafy
glades and shady paths of Cwmdonkin park. In his radio broadcast
‘Reminiscences of Childhood’ he speaks about the importance of the park
and its significance in his early life. He describes it as:....…"A world within the world of
the sea town… full of terrors and treasures…a country just born and
always changing….and that park grew up with me….In that small,
iron-railed universe of rockery, gravel-path, playbank, bowling-green,
bandstand reservoir, chrysanthemum garden, …..in the grass one must
keep off, I endured, with pleasure, the first agonies of unrequited
love, the first slow boiling in the belly of a bad poem, the strutting
and raven-locked self-dramatization of what, at that time seemed
He also wrote, 'The Hunchback in the Park' about a
character observed there in his youth. Two of the seven verses are
The Hunchback in the
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark
Eating bread from a
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
The fountain is still there in
the park (left). But the chained tin drinking cup is now long gone.
Thomas' summer holidays as a
child were at the Carmarthenshire dairy farm of his
mother's sister, Ann Jones, and her husband, Jim at Llangain. The Farm
'Fern Hill' - see photo on right - was the subject
of the poem of the same name. Without doubt these were
pleasant times, for as he writes:
I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
Dylan attended a private
school at 22 Mirador Crescent, in the Uplands area of Swansea where he
was taught by a Mrs. Hole. He describes the experience as "the
lonely schoolroom where only the sometimes tearful wicked sat over
undone sums or to repent a little crime". At the Swansea
Grammar school, which he attended from 1925-1931,
Thomas studied little other than English. He left the school at the age
of sixteen and found a job on the staff of the South Wales Daily Post
where he was a proof reader for more than a year before becoming a
Unfortunately, he found the many pubs of
Swansea much more to his liking than work and here, in the Uplands
Tavern and other pubs, he developed his love of alcohol that was
ultimately to prematurely end his life. Of beer, he wrote: ……"I
liked the taste of beer, its live white lather, its brass-bright
depths, the sudden world through the wet brown walls of the glass, the
tilted rush to the lips and the slow swallowing down to the lapping
belly, the salt on the tongue, the foam at the corners."
His work as a reporter in Swansea was short lived.
In December 1932, he left the paper and joined an amateur dramatic
group, Swansea's Little Theatre. He also
joined a local writers' circle and began to write poetry
seriously. He had a number of poems published between 1932 and 1933 in
the 'Poets Corner' of the London Sunday Referee. His
first poem to be published outside Wales however, was "And
death shall have no Dominion" in the New English
In 1933, Thomas went to London for the first
time and stayed with his sister Nancy. He published "That
Sanity be kept" in theSunday Referee.
This was read by Pamela Hansford Johnson, another budding
poet who contacted Thomas, so beginning their platonic
relationship. In February 1934, on his second visit to the capital, he
stayed with her. In December of that same year, his first book '18
Poems' was published. Throughout his stay in London, Thomas continued
his drinking. He wrote in 1936 "When I do come to town, bang
go my plans in a horrid alcoholic explosion that scatters all my good
intentions like bits of limbs and clothes over the doorsteps and into
the saloon bars of the tawdriest pubs in London". In
July,1936 he also published the collection '25 Poems'.
For a while he lived in a basement flat at 54 Delancey Street in London. There was a caravan
at the end of the garden there and it was here that he went to seek
creativity. Thomas liked to get away from others to write. The London
caravan was Thomas' precursor to the 'Apple House' at Llanina Mansion
near New Quay, the caravan at
Southleigh, Oxfordshire and finally the writing shed near the
'Boathouse' at Laugharne.
It was in London, at the 'Wheatsheaf' pub in
Charlotte Street in April 1936, where Thomas met his wife to be, the
dancer Caitlin Macnamara. For both Dylan and Caitlin, their meeting in
the 'Wheatsheaf' was love at first sight. Later that day, they booked
into the Eiffel Tower Hotel where Caitlin rather cheekily charged the
room to the painter Augustus John for whom she was both model and
occasional lover - after he had forced himself upon her following a
modeling session. Dylan and Caitlin continued drinking by day
and returning to the Hotel for five or six nights - apparently without
During their first year, Dylan and Caitlin were
sometimes together and sometimes apart. It was while visiting friends
in Cornwall that they decided to get married. They stayed in Wyn
Henderson's cottage at Polgigga and in Mousehole. They married on 11th,
July 1937 at Penzance Registry Office having postponed the wedding
twice as they had drunk the money put aside for that purpose.
Thomas wrote that they were: `with no money, no
prospect of money, no attendant friends or relatives, and in complete
happiness. After a honeymoon at the 'Lobster Pot', Wyn
Henderson's restaurant in Mousehole, they rented a studio from the
painter Max Chapman at Newlyn. The
Ship Inn (left) at Mousehole in Cornwall was a favourite watering hole
for Dylan Thomas when he stayed there in 1937. There is still a corner
of the bar called 'Dylan's Corner'.
In September 1937, Thomas and Caitlin stayed with
Dylan's parents in Bishopston, Swansea - they had moved from Cwmdonkin
Drive after his Father's retirement from teaching at Swansea Grammar
School to a smaller house. This was Caitlin's first meeting with his
family. Later, in the winter of 1937 - 38, they lived with Caitlin's
Mother at the family home 'Blashford' near Ringwood in Hampshire. They
are shown here at 'Blashford'.
In April 1938, Dylan and Caitlin visited the writer
Richard Hughes who lived at Castle House in Laugharne and who was
enjoying success with his book, 'High wind in Jamaica'. Here Hughes
allowed Dylan to write in the gazebo topping the ramparts of Laugharne
Castle next to his house (photo on left). Soon afterwards , they found
a place of their own nearby.
'Eros' was a small two bedroom
fisherman's cottage with no bathroom and an outside toilet on Gosport
Street (photo on right). Dylan and Caitlin disliked the cottage
intensely. 'Eros' was not only small but primitive, so they
soon moved to a larger house, 'Sea View' just behind the castle at
Laugharne where they lived from 1938 to 1941, and where Thomas wrote
'The Map of Love' and 'A Saint about to fall'.
When Dylan and Caitlin lived there, 'Sea View' was
whitewashed and very much standing alone. When this photo was taken
(June 2007) it was in dire need of renovation and was up for sale by
auction. On January 30th, 1939, their son Llewellyn Edouard Thomas was
born. At Sea View, where they paid seven shillings and sixpence a week
in rent, their landlord was Tudor Williams, brother of the landlord of
Brown's Hotel, where Dylan spent much of his time.
Dylan and Caitlin enjoyed happy
times at 'Sea View' and as war approached Thomas demonstrated his
concern at the possibility of losing his home in a letter to his
Father: ‘These are awful days and we are very worried. It is
terrible to have built, out of nothing, a complete happiness – from no
money, no possessions, no material hopes, a way of living and then see
it ruined through no fault of one's own.’ In August ,1939,
'The Map of Love' was published by J. M. Dent.
Right: Brown's Hotel in Laugharne was
Thomas' favourite pub in the town. It has recently been purchased by
'Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrisey'.
Eventually, pressure from various creditors caused
Thomas and Caitlin to leave Laugharne and to stay in Caitlin's family
home at Blashford. They returned to Sea View for a short time in 1940
when Thomas gained exemption from active service at Llandeilo, the Army
doctors diagnosing him as an acute asthmatic - this after
Thomas had consumed a large quantity of beer and spirits the previous
evening in Brown's hotel!
In the summer of 1940, the family stayed at 'The
Maltings' at Marshfield in Gloucestershire, with John Davenport.
In 1941, Thomas and Caitlin moved
to Plas Gelli at Talsarn in Cardiganshire, along with Vera
Phillips (later Killick), her Sister and her Mother, Margaret Phillips.
At this time he also kept a studio flat in Manresa Road, London as he
was intermittently working on wartime propaganda films. The couple left
their son Llewelyn with Caitlin's Mother at Blashford where he stayed
until 1949. Their second child, a daughter named Aeronwy (Aeron) Bryn
Thomas was born in March 1942. During his time in London, Thomas took
some part in more than a hundred BBC radio programmes. While at Plas
Gelli, Dylan Thomas would stay from time to time at the Castle Hotel at
Lampeter where he knew the landlord Edward Evans.
Dylan Thomas moved to New Quay in September 1944,
eager to escape from both the war and from London. After staying for a
while in Bosham in Sussex and then at Beaconsfield with his friend
Donald Taylor, he moved to the little bungalow called 'Majoda' just
along the coast road which branches off the B4342 opposite
the Cambrian Hotel.
In May 2007 'Majoda' was re-created in its original
form as a film set in the field beside the existing house - see photo
on left ( courtesy of Roger Bryan of Plas Llanina ).
He rented 'Majoda' for just one pound a week,
describing it as 'this wood and asbestos pagoda', and 'a
shack at the edge of the cliff, where my children hop like fleas in a
box.' The house was draughty and cold, but had a
wonderful view across New Quay Bay (view at top of page) to
the town 'cliff-perched' across the water.
At Majoda he found creative
inspiration after a dry period. In New Quay
too he found characters who would later be immortalised in 'Under Milk
He brought with him to New Quay his wife Caitlin,
his newly born daughter, Aeronwy and his
son, Llewelyn, who had previously been living with Caitlin's mother in
Ringwood in Hampshire. From Majoda, Thomas could walk along
Brongwyn Lane (now partly lost to the sea) into New
Quay where his favourite pub was the Black
Lion run by his friend 'Jack Pat' and where Dylan Thomas memorabilia
can still be seen in 'Dylan's Restaurant'.
He also wrote the radio
scripts 'Quite early one morning' and 'Memories of Christmas' here -
the former apparently after an early morning walk through the town and
along the cliff path where he would have seen this view of New
Quay. Other works completed
during his time in New Quay were the poems, 'Vision and
Prayer', 'Holy Spring', 'Poem in October', 'Fern Hill', and 'a Refusal
to Mourn the Death by Fire of A Child in London'.
The Thomas' nearest neighbours at the time were
William and Vera Killick who lived at a house called 'Ffynnon Feddyg' a
hundred yards from 'Majoda'. Vera was formerly Vera Williams, a close
neighbour of Thomas when he was at school in Swansea and with whom
Dylan and Caitlin had previously stayed at Talsarn. This year,
a film about Thomas' life called 'The best times of our lives' will be
filmed in several places in West Wales - including New Quay where the
incident with Killick will be featured - click
here for photos of the shooting of the
In March, 1945, in the Black Lion at New
Quay, Killick was rude to a Russian Secretary who had been sent by
Donald Taylor at Gryphon Films to help Dylan. A scuffle ensued and
Dylan and other men present threw Killick out of the pub.
Killick continued drinking at another pub and later that night after
returning home, took a machine gun and a hand grenade and
repeatedly fired at 'Majoda' while the Thomases were still
inside. At the Lampeter Assizes in June, the commando Captain
Killick was cleared of attempted murder and returned to
duties. This story was featured in the Sunday
scandal sheets and soon thereafter Dylan and Caitlin Thomas and their
children left New Quay.
to Majoda, Thomas was familiar with the New Quay area and had visited a
number of times earlier. During the 1930s Dylan would visit his Aunt
and Cousin in New Quay. His great Uncle Gwilym Marles was a local
minister and a well known poet.
Locally he stayed temporarily between New Quay and
Cei Bach at Plas Llanina - also known as the Llanina Mansion,
then owned by Lord Howard de Walden, a patron of the arts.
is more information about Plas Llanina on the Llanarth History page HERE.
De Walden gave Thomas fifty pounds and allowed him
to write in the 'Apple House' at the bottom of the garden.
De Walden had been introduced to Thomas by Caitlin's former
lover, the painter Augustus John.
The Apple House (left) at Llanina is now
roofless although the walls remain virtually intact. Its cool basement
would have been used to store the apples from the orchard in the walled
garden at Plas Llanina.
The Author David Thomas, in his
recently published book 'Dylan Thomas, A Farm, Two Mansions and a
Bungalow', has put together a convincing case that New Quay is the
inspiration of Thomas's Llareggub (read it backwards!). Details of the 'Dylan Thomas Trail'
- take the visitor to a number of locations identified as
models for locales in the fictional Llareggub. In 1947 the
family lived at South Leigh in Oxfordshire at 'The Manor House' -
bought for them by Margaret Taylor as well as keeping a small flat at
Wentworth Studios, Manresa Road in London. Thomas went abroad
for the first time to Italy where he started to write a major ( never
completed) work . The first part, entitled `In Country Sleep´
was completed in Italy. Two more parts were eventually completed, but
the fourth was never started.
Laugharne though, remained Thomas' spiritual home
and it was to here he returned once again in May 1948, where he and his
family moved to the Boathouse at Laugharne , Thomas' final home. The
Boathouse was purchased for Thomas by Mrs. Margaret Taylor for £2,500
in April 1949 when she arranged for Mains electricity to be
installed. He immediately rented a house 'The
Pelican' - now known as 'Pelican House' opposite 'Brown's Hotel' for
his parents, where they lived from 1949 to 1953. It was in this house
that his father died and where the funeral was held.
Just as in the caravan in London, and in the 'Apple
House' at Plas Llanina, New Quay, Dylan Thomas preferred to be away on
his own to write. At the Boathouse, the garage - elevated on props on
the steep hillside above the sea, became his 'writing shed'.
photo on the left shows the inside of the writing shed as left by Dylan
The Boat House is perched on
the edge of the hill above the estuary of the river Taf. From the
house, there is a panoramic view across the 'Heron priested
shore' that undoubtedly was a great inspiration as he writes
in 'Poem in October':
....Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall....
Thomas had for some time wanted to emigrate to the
United States and in 1949 was offered a lecture tour by John Malcolm
Brinnin. This was to be the beginning of the end for Thomas. He
described Manhattan as: "this Titanic dream world, soaring
Babylon, everything monstrously rich and strange," and
promptly found solace in its bars.
Thomas' second trip to the United States
began on 20th January, 1952 when he boarded the 'Queen Mary'
with Caitlin. However, they argued loudly and publicly, returning with
little to show for their time abroad.
At the end of 1952, Thomas' Father died - prompting
the poem 'Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night'. Soon
afterwards, Thomas' sister Nancy also died. Various audio
recordings of Thomas reading his own work have survived including 'Do
not go gentle'. These confirm the reports of his 'deep and
sonorous' voice. However, it is clear that his lengthy association with
broadcasters of the day and his early drama experiences, influenced his
tone, accent and delivery. There is no trace of a local accent - or of
any regional accent in these recordings.
Thomas arrived in New York for his third tour on
the 21st April, 1953 when he was completing 'Under Milk Wood'.
The World Premiere of which was on May 3rd, 1953, in the Fogg Museum at
Thomas' debts were increasing and the Bailiffs were
threatening him. His health was also deteriorating at this time. He was
suffering blackouts regularly and was advised by his Doctor to stop
drinking. The only way out of debt seemed to be another American
Thomas' final tour of America
began on the 19th October 1953. Thomas was to direct the rehearsals of 'Under
Milk Wood' with a full cast. Although he was not in good
health, he was to take the part of narrator again as he had
on May 13th in New York. On November 3rd he attended a party, but
returned early to his hotel. Unable to sleep, he left his room for a
drink - in his own words eighteen straight whiskeys. The next
morning he was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital where he lapsed into a
coma for five days, dying on November 9th 1953. Caitlin notes in her
book: "Dylan had this rather odd view that all the best poets died
young and that he himself would never make forty, and there were times
when he almost seemed to live his life by that"
Dylan's death however, was probably not only a
result of the over-consumption of alcohol. He is thought to
have had problems with blood sugar balance, he is known to have not
eaten properly for several days prior to this death and the Doctor who
treated him injected him on two occasions with both cortisone and
morphine. A tragic combination of events brought a premature end to the
life of one of Wales' most celebrated writers and poets.
He was returned to Wales and was buried in