1914-1953 - Dylan Thomas
The Swansea-born writer led an unsettled existence before coming to rest in the relative calm and quiet of Laugharne. This small fishing village on the Taf estuary in Dyfed is the original of 'Llaregub' in Under Milk Wood, his 'Play for Voices', first broadcast in 1954 though never quite completed in the author's lifetime. Thomas took other descriptive elements from New Quay in Cardiganshire. He and his wife Caitlin lived on and off in Laugharne but in 1949 settled in The Boathouse, a whitewashed, slate-roofed house at the foot of the cliffs. It commands a spectacular view of the estuary. The house was bought for them by an admirer - Thomas's affairs were far too chaotic for him ever to have bought a home of his own - and in the blue-painted garden shed he completed his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog as well as much of the work for his famous radio play. It seems almost impossible to believe that such a powerfully imaginative piece of work could have been created in so mundane and comfortless a setting, for the shed has been preserved exactly as it was when Thomas used it. The desk - an old table - is chaotic, the hard wooden chair pushed roughly back as though the writer has given up the unequal struggle and gone to seek solace elsewhere. Friends and heroes stare down disapprovingly from curling photographs tacked on to bare-boarded walls that have been distempered a grubby white. On the floor is a fading rug on which are scattered crumpled sheets of paper, rejected drafts of his great 'Play for Voices'. What does Under Milk Wood reveal about the character of a p face like Laugharne?
The author of Under Milk Wood was indefatigably Welsh - though he could not speak a word of the language - and was inordinately fond of small Welsh towns by the sea. Laugharne suited him very well indeed. Of his first visit in 1934 he wrote 'I am spending Whitsun in the strangest town in Wales. Laugharne, with a population of four hundred, has a town hall, a castle, and a portreeve (mayor). The people speak with a broad English accent, although on all sides they are surrounded by hundreds of miles of Welsh country...! can never do justice to the miles and miles and miles of mud and grey sand, to the un-nerving silence, to the near breaking of the heart as the sun comes out for a minute from its cloud and lights up the ragged sails of a fisherman's boat. These things look ordinary enough on paper. One sees them as shapeless, literary things, and the sea is a sea of words...' Through the kindness of a fellow author and Laugharne resident, Richard Hughes, Thomas and his Irish/French wife Caitlin -whom he had married in 1937 - were able to move in 1938 to a two-roomed fisherman's cottage in Gosport Street. Later they moved to Sea View, 'a tall and dignified house at the posh end of this small town'. During the war they left for London, where Thomas wrote screenplays for Government-backed documentary films, and did not return to Laugharne until 1949 - this time to The Boathouse. Here his best known work, Under Milk Wood, was developed. It was commissioned by the BBC, as a 'play for voices', and captures brilliantly the rhythms and cadences of small-town life, 'the clip clop of horses on the sunhoneyed cobbles.. .the ragged gabble of the beargarden school as the women scratch and babble in Mrs Organ Morgan's general shop where everything is sold: custard, buckets, henna, rat-traps, shrimp-nets, sugar, stamps, confetti, paraffin, hatchets, whistles.' His 'sea of words' creates, uniquely, a place that is heard rather than seen.
|1892-1982 - Victoria Sackville-West|