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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #6 - Dylan Thomas

Thirteen Things about Dylan Thomas

I live just a short walk from the birthplace of famous Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. So I thought I'd make this week's Thursday Thirteen all about him.

1…. Dylan Marlais Thomas was born at around 11pm on 27 October 1914, at 5, Cwmdonkin Drive, in the Uplands area of Swansea.

2.... He attended the old Swansea Grammar school, which now houses student accommodation and an administrative centre at my old college.

3.... The young Dylan wasn't above a spot of plagiarism. In the January of 1927 he sold a poem called His Requiem, to the Western Mail newspaper in Cardiff. The poem has since been identified as the work of another writer.

4.... He met his fiery wife, Caitlin, early in 1936. Their relationship was tempestuous, their infamous brawls often fuelled by alcohol and money worries.

5.... Dylan and Caitlin first moved to Laugharne, a Carmarthenshire village with which Dylan will eternally be associated, in 1936. They lived at a large, draughty old house called Sea View, close to Laugharne Castle. Their first child, Llewelyn, was born in January 1939.

Sea View and Laugharne Castle

6.... The Thomases left Sea View, and Laugharne, within months of the baby's birth, but returned a few years later. In early 1949, the now world-famous boathouse at Laugharne, came on the market. The Thomases, as ever, were penniless. But Margaret Taylor, wife of the renowned English historian, AJP Taylor, a long-standing patron of Dylan, purchased the home for them, at the then handsome price of £3,000.

The Dylan Thomas Boathouse at Laugharne

7.... Dylan embarked on a lengthy tour of the United States in 1950, further boosting his already large fan base.

8.... Dylan was relieved when he was deemed too fragile to fight during WWII.

9.... One of his most celebrated poems, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, was written in a little wooden shed, above the boathouse at Laugharne. Apologies for the quality of the image - it was shot through glass, as the shed itself isn't open to the public.

Dylan's writing shed

10.... Despite his reputation for alcoholism, many who knew him said he often drank in moderation, something which an alcoholic would have difficulty doing. His daughter, Aeronwy, has also stated that she rarely saw him drunk, and that he would often be happy with a single beer.

11.... Dylan 's drinking escalated during his famous American tours. Although he was paid handsomely, he managed to squander most of the money, enraging Caitlin, as they had numerous bills to pay. She resented his American tours, as they seemed to drive him further and further into excess, putting their already troubled marriage under horrific strain. There were rumours of infidelity by both parties.

12.... Nevertheless, Dylan returned to America for his third and final visit, arriving in New York on October 19th, 1953. By early November, Dylan's already failing health became critical. Suffering agonising gastritis and gout, as well as breathing difficulties caused by long term asthma, the heavy smoker and drinker sought medical assistance on November 4th. He was given a number of shots, including steroids and morphine, which left him delirious. He lapsed into a coma shortly after the last shot. Five days later, at midday on November 9th, Dylan died, aged just 39. His body was returned to Wales for his funeral at St. Martin's church in Laugharne. He was buried in the church's graveyard.

The post mortem listed pneumonia as the primary cause of death, with alcohol-induced pressure on the brain and a fatty liver cited as contributory factors. But in recent years, evidence has emerged to suggest that Dylan Thomas died as a result of medical negligence, rather than alcohol consumption. He was given an abnormally large dose of morphine, which suppresses respiration. An asthmatic and a heavy smoker, he was already suffering from breathing difficulties when injected with the morphine. Given the circumstances, it is questionable as to whether he should have been given morphine at all. Dylan is also believed to have been an undiagnosed diabetic.

13. I have a very tenuous link to Dylan Thomas. If you look at images of him, you will notice he had a somewhat squashed-looking nose. He got that injury as a small child, when he fell off a stair banister during a childhood game, The accident happened at the home of the famous Welsh language poet, Crwys Williams. Young Dylan was playing with the poet's son at the time. Crwys Williams was a relative of mine. I forget the exact relationship - he was either my grandfather's uncle, or his cousin.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Sandy Carlson said...

This has made my morning. I love Dylan Thomas and collect his recorded works. "Fern Hill" is a favorite! I didn't know about 12 and 13.

The view of his studio is great. He rewrite an entire poem every time he made a change. That kind of work would make a room look like this!

Happy TT!

jenn said...

Interesting list.
Happy TT!

Jeremy said...

Yes, interesting list.
I never thought I would end up living just down the road from Thomas`s birthplace when I was reading `Under Milk Wood` at school in Hampshire.
You`ve definitely inherited the `literacy gene`!

colleen said...

It looks like the left his writing room just as it was. I was thinking as I was reading that the hospital killed him. I don't trust those places.

TX Poppet said...

When my son was born, Spouse and I were still trying to decide what to name him. Finally the final push came, I threw my copy of Dylan Thomas poems at Spouse's head, he shouted "That's it!" and another little boy named Dylan was born.

Anonymous said...

I always preferred Vernon Watkins myself though he is lot less accessible... but he used to cash my pay cheques for me in the bank opposite Swansea General.
My cousin Alan was in the same class at Bishop Gore.
VW died in America also, after playing tennis.

Nicholas said...

That was excellent! I hardly knew any of that. re #13, that practically makes you cousins!

Siani said...

Thanks for the kind comments, everyone. Aileni - the branch of Lloyds Bank on St. Helen's Rd was closed several years ago. It's now a branch William Hill, the bookmaker.

Anonymous said...

first I want to thank you for the comment you left for me so thank you. I really enjoy your blog. hope you are well. have a good weekend.