Dylan Thomas is one of the most famous British poets and writers of the 20th century. He was born in Swansea in 1914 and frequently visited the Gower Peninsula. His visits with friends inspired many of his poems and stories.
As a youngster, Dylan Thomas excelled at English – the only subject in which he gained any qualifications at Swansea Grammar School. After leaving school in 1931 he worked for a short while at the South Wales Daily Post, but found the work dull and left after 18 months. He continued to work as a freelance journalist whilst enjoying his passion for writing poetry, composing half of the 90 poems he ever published between 1930 and 1934. Dylan also wrote short stories, scripts for the BBC and public information films for the Government.
Much of Dylan’s life was marred by his reputation as a drunk and philanderer. It is said that this part of his character put a strain on his marriage with Caitlin Macnamara. However, many people close to Dylan believe he was often acting a part, trying to fit into the bohemian lifestyle. It is suggested he would act drunk even if he had not had much to drink! There is also debate as to whether his death in 1953 was drink related. Many now accept that his death was due to pneumonia, with swelling on the brain and a fatty liver contributing to his demise.
Although Dylan spent time living in London and often toured America, it was his time in Wales that sparked much of his creativity. The landscape of Gower and Dylan’s experiences here inspired many of his writings, including the short stories Extraordinary Little Cough, Who Do You Wish Was With Us? and Under Milk Wood.
In Extraordinary Little Cough, Dylan tells the story of four friends on a camping trip to Rhossili Bay – exploring the issues around boys slowly becoming adults, their inexperience with girls and learning they are not as invincible as they may believe!
Who Do You Wish Was With Us? is also set at Rhossili Bay and Worm’s Head. It tells the story of when Dylan himself fell asleep on Worm’s Head and missed the low tide, leaving him stranded on the rocky outcrop until the tide when out later that day.
Under Milk Wood is largely inspired by the village of Mumbles. Dylan attended the Swansea Little Theatre at a church hall in Mumbles, but was often distracted by the pubs. His favourites were The Mermaid (which has since gone) as well as The Antelope and The Marine (the latter is now known as The Village Inn). You might like to visit these pubs when visiting Mumbles and soak up some of the atmosphere that Dylan Thomas was so fond of!