Dylan Thomas in Laugharne
In July 1936 Dylan Thomas and Caitlin Macnamara met again (the first time after their week at the Eiffel) at Castle House, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, the home of novelist Richard Hughes (author of A High Wind in Jamaica). This was not by chance. Dylan had persuaded Fred Janes to drive him to Laugharne, knowing that Caitlin was there with Augustus John. After this meeting Dylan wrote:
“ I love you Caitlin. I love you more than anyone in the world …. Write to me very soon, and tell me you really meant the things you said about loving me too; if you don’t I shall cut my throat or go to the pictures.”
In May 1938 Dylan and Caitlin, now married, returned to Castle House, and Hughes allowed Dylan to write in the gazebo on the ramparts of the ruined Laugharne Castle, which he was also renting.
The couple rented Eros, a small fisherman’s cottage in Gosport Street, but in August moved to Sea View, behind the Castle in July. It was here that Dylan wrote most of the prose and poems of The Map of Love (1939) and the largely autobiographical short stories in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940). Caitlin recalled the five months they stayed here as "happiest period of our lives together".
The family returned to Laugharne in April 1949 to The Boat House, bought for them by Margaret Taylor who, to the chagrin of her then husband the historian AJP Taylor, had appointed herself Dylan Thomas’ patron (see Oxford, below).
For Dylan's parents they rented 'The Pelican' a large house opposite Brown's Hotel, built at the turn of the 19th century and originally a public house.
His father's health began to decline in 1951, and the sight of his father ill at the Pelican informs one of Dylan's greatest poems, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:’
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
The poem is often read at funeral services, and was read by Seamus Heaney at Ted Hughes’ funeral in 1997.
The Boat House remained the family home for the rest of Dylan’s life. After his death in 1953, Margaret Taylor put the house in trust for Caitlin and the children. In 1973 Caitlin sold the house, and in 1975 it was opened as a memorial.
After their son Colm was born in July 1949 a garage hut, elevated on props on the steep hillside above the sea, became Dylan’s writing shed. It was here that he wrote such poems, as ‘Over Sir John’s Hill’, ‘In Country Sleep’ and ‘Lie still, sleep becalmed’:
Under the mile off moon we trembled listening
Dylan also continued to work on Under Milk Wood, which at that time was called ‘The Town That Was Mad’.
Dylan Thomas died on 9 November 1953 in New York. His body was returned to Wales and he was buried on 24 November at St. Martin’s Churchyard, Laugharne. Caitlin, who died in 1994, is buried beside him.
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