Dylan Marlais Thomas was born in 1914 and is our most famous Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “And death shall have no dominion“, the “play for voices”, Under Milk Wood, and stories and radio broadcasts such as A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. He is being remembered this centenary year with a number of events in nearby Laugharne which is about 10 minutes from Old Oak Barn which is offering self catering accommodation to visitors keen to celebrate too. Dylan Thomas was popular in his lifetime and remained so after his premature death in New York. In his later life he acquired a reputation, which he is said to have encouraged, as a “roistering, drunken and doomed poet”
Thomas was born in Swansea, and left school at 16, initially becoming a journalist for a short time. Although many of his works appeared in print while he was still a teenager, it was the publication of “Light breaks where no sun shines”, in 1934, that drew praise and caught the attention of the literary world. While living in London, Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara, whom he married in 1937. Their stormy relationship was marred by alcoholism and was mutually destructive. In the early part of his marriage, Thomas and his family lived hand-to-mouth, settling in the Welsh fishing village of Laugharne where he wrote avidly and visitors can still see the little writing shed which overlooks the estuary on the way to the boathouse. This shed is going on tour later in the year and is somewhere nearly all our visitors go because it is such a beautiful wander along the Taf estuary.
Why it’s special
Dylan Thomas described Laugharne as “The strangest town in Wales” on his first visit. But he kept coming back and the town is of huge significance to his work. The town of Llareggub (“bugger all” spelt backwards) in his radio play Under Milk Wood was based on Laugharne, and it was in his shed-cum-study above the Boathouse (“My seashaken house / On a breakneck of rocks”) that he wrote it and many of his other works.
Across the road from Browns hotel where Dylan drank most days is the Pelican, the tall Georgian terraced house where Thomas would visit his father to do the crossword and chat. It was the sight of his father becoming sick that moved Thomas to write his poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. It was also in the Pelican that Thomas’s body was laid out when he died in 1953.