Last year my wife and I had a very enjoyable holiday in the Welsh town most famous for its association with the great poet Dylan Thomas: Laugharne. I was reminded of this when I came across two items related to Thomas.
Firstly, I was reminded by this short article that Stan Tracey’s quartet are playing Stan’s latest Thomas inspired piece – A Child’s Christmas Jazz Suite – at the Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea tomorrow. I’ve already written about the suite elsewhere on this blog; it’s great to hear that it will now feature in a festival dedicated to Dylan Thomas.
Secondly, I came across a more direct link to Laugharne in the form of this nice piece by Chris Moss, an interesting personal portrait of the town. It’s well worth a read in full.
It includes the following:-
Anyone with a passing interest in poetry knows about Dylan Thomas’s association with Laugharne, the township he called a ‘legendary lazy little black magical bedlam by the sea’. They know about his writing shed with its view over the ‘heron priested’ shores of the Taf Estuary. And about his drinking, his dark moods, his death in America.
He’s buried at the main church here beneath a simple white cross. His ghost lingers and his admirers come to smell the musty living room in the Boathouse, where he lived, and to look for characters from his masterpiece, Under Milk Wood.
But as literary birthplaces go, Laugharne is no Stratford-on-Avon, Haworth or Chawton. It remains an enigma. This small, steep-sided, village-sized town has retained the curious character — and, perhaps, some of the characters — that beguiled the Swansea-born bard six decades ago.
A path follows the foot of the red sandstone cliffs to two steep staircases leading up to a narrow road. Here is Dylan Thomas’s writing shed — once a garage built to house Laugharne’s first car (a green Wolseley)… A few steps along is the Boathouse — the third and final property the Thomas’ occupied in Laugharne. It has some of the loveliest views of the estuary and beyond and is the most photographed spot in Laugharne.
Out on the terrace, away from the memorabilia and the booming voice of Dylan reading his verse, spare a thought for Caitlin. She left Laugharne for Italy in 1957, describing it as a ‘permanently festering wound’. This might not fit neatly with the fantasy version of Dylan and Wales, but it remains the truth; the words came through drink and darkness and despair, and Laugharne and the Boathouse are part of that reality.