Welsh Family History Archive
Images of Wales
Dylan Thomas's Life in Wales
(Swansea and Laugharne)
Except where otherwise indicated, photography by
Marita Ulrich of Oregon, USA
during a visit to Wales in August 1999
Dylan Thomas is one of Wales's most famous poets and writers. He was born in Swansea on 27 October 1914, and educated at Swansea Grammar School, where his father taught English. His earliest poems were published in the school magazine. He left school in 1931 and worked as a reporter with the South Wales Daily Post. In 1934 he moved to London, where he shared a room in Kensington with artists Mervyn Levy and Alfred Janes. Following his marriage in 1937, Dylan returned to Wales, settling in Laugharne where he wrote many of his best works.Below: As a boy, Dylan played in the nearby Cwmdonkin
The photographs below show many of the places associated with Dylan Thomas's life in Wales.
Left: Dylan Marlais Thomas was born in 1914 at this house in Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, where a wall plaque commemorates the event.
Park, whose entrance is in Cwmdonkin Terrace.
Right: The drinking fountain in Cwmdonkin Park
to which Dylan Thomas referred in his
poem The Hunchback in the Park:
The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark.
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
The "fountain basin" remains, but sadly,
the "chained cup" is there no longer!
Above: On this rock in Cwmdonkin Park are inscribed the final three lines of
Fern Hill, one of Thomas's most memorable poems. The inscription reads:
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Above: The cobbled and precipitous Constitution Hill, looking down over
Thomas's "ugly, lovely town" of Swansea, and out to Swansea Bay and the
Bristol Channel. Dylan Thomas lived just a few hundred yards from here.
Below: Shoreline at Swansea, looking towards Oystermouth.
It was to this beach that Thomas referred in Holiday Memory,
one of his radio broadcasts for the BBC Welsh Region. In the
extracts quoted below, Thomas recalls family outings to the shore:
....There was cricket on the sand, and sand in the sponge cake, sand-flies in the watercress, and foolish, mulish, religious donkeys on the unwilling trot. Girls undressed in slipping tents of propriety; under invisible umbrellas, stout ladies dressed for the male and immoral sea. Little naked navvies dug canals; children with spades and no ambition built fleeting castles; wispy young men, outside the bathing huts, whistled at substantial young women and dogs who desired thrown stones more than the bones of elephants. Recalcitrant uncles huddled over luke ale in the tiger-striped marquees. Mothers in black, like wobbling mountains, gasped under the discarded dresses of daughters who shrilly braved the goblin waves. And fathers, in the once-a-year sun, took fifty winks. Oh, think of all the fifty winks along the paper-bagged sand....
...I remember the patient, laborious, and enamouring hobby, or profession, of burying relatives in sand.
I remember the princely pastime of pouring sand, from cupped hands or buckets, down collars and tops of dresses; the shriek, the shake, the slap....
...And the noise of pummelling Punch, and Judy falling, and a clock tolling or telling no time in the tenantless town; now and again a bell from a lost tower or a train on the lines behind us clearing its throat, and always the hopeless, ravenous swearing and pleading of the gulls, donkey-bray and hawker-cry, harmonicas and toy trumpets, shouting and laughing and singing, hooting of tugs and tramps, the clip of the chair-attendant's puncher, the motor-boat coughing in the bay, and the same hymn and washing of the sea that was heard in the Bible...
Right: The statue of Captain Cat in Swansea's maritime quarter. Captain Cat appears briefly in Thomas's poem Quite Early One Morning, and has an important role in Thomas's "play for voices" called Under Milk Wood:
Captain Cat, the retired blind seacaptain, asleep in his bunk in the seashelled, ship-in-bottled, shipshape, best cabin of Schooner House dreams of...
never such seas as any that swamped the decks of his S.S. Kidwelly bellying over the bedclothes and jellyfish-slippery sucking him down salt deep into the Davy dark where the fish come biting out and nibble him down to his wishbone and the long drowned nuzzle up to him....
Above: Dylan Thomas Square in Swansea's maritime quarter.
To the right is a statue of Thomas, and behind is the
Dylan Thomas Theatre.
(Photography by John Ball)
Above: The Dylan Thomas Centre, Somerset Place, Swansea.
The centre was opened in 1995 as a focus for literary and cultural events in Swansea.
See here for further details of the Dylan Thomas Centre.
(Photography by John Ball)