Dylan Thomas, author of ‘Under Milk Wood’, lived in New Quay for a brief but very productive period during the 1940s. Characters and locations in the famous ‘play for voices’ were inspired by stories, people and places in and around New Quay and Ceredigion - an area he was familiar with since childhood, and referred to as ‘the most precious place in the world’.
(Image courtesy of Jeff Towns)
Dylan Thomas in Ceredigion
Dylan Thomas had deep roots in the West Wales countryside, and escaped to its tranquil coast from the hubbub of London. As a child, he came to stay for holidays with relatives at Hendre farm near Cardigan, he later stayed with childhood friend Vera Phillips and her family, who rented a house at Talsarn. He visited London contemporary, Dewi Emrys, at his cottage in Talgarreg. He relished the peace to write at the apple house at Llanina mansion, while the artist Augustus John lived in another ruined building on the other side of the mansion's walled garden. He also enjoyed visiting Aberaeron and the dairy farms of the Aeron Valley with his friend, Tommy Herbert the vet, and spent time swapping banter and tales with mariners and farmers at inns and taverns across the county.
Most notably, he lived and found inspiration at New Quay, the 'cliff perched, toppling town' maritime village perched on the side of a wooded hill. He would spend time in the company of local characters -many of them retired mariners or country poets - in village pubs from New Quay to Lampeter and along the Aeron Valley, listening to their tales and making notes.
Dylan was particularly productive at New Quay - about 15 of the poems in the collection ‘Deaths and Entrances’ were written whilst he was in Ceredigion.
Poems he composed at New Quay include 'The Conversation of Prayers' and the poem he wrote to his son, Llewelyn 'This Side of the Truth'.
New Quay was undoubtedly a welcome refuge from war torn London and Swansea, but not a complete escape, as this is also where he wrote 'A Refusal to Mourn the Death of a Child.' The film 'The Edge of Love', filmed on location in New Quay and Lampeter, depicts an episode of Dylan's life when he lived at 'Majoda' a bungalow overlooking the bay.
Under Milk Wood
The prose poem ‘Quite Early One Morning’ describes a walk along the coastal cliffs as the village awakes. It
is considered to be the template for his most famous work, ‘Under Milk Wood’.
Many of the characters and places described in the play’s fictional
village of Llareggub bear close resemblance to New Quay people and locations –
just take a boat trip out to the bay and look back at the tumbling terraced
streets, imagine Captain Cat dreaming about drowned sailors and mermaids, and
recall the Reverend Eli Jenkins’ prayer.
Take a walk along the Ceredigion Coast Path south from New Quay to Cwmtydu and you'll come to the river Dewi - also mentioned by Reverend Eli Jenkins in Under Milk Wood.
Read about Dylan’s Ceredigion connections in
David Thomas’ 'Dylan Thomas Trail ' or ‘A farm, two mansions and a
bungalow’available at Ceredigion Tourist Information Centres.
Discover places Dylan Thomas knew and loved in
and around New Quay on the Dylan Thomas Trail, and find out more about his life and works on discoverdylanthomas.com