Born on 27th October, 1914, in Swansea, South Wales, Dylan Thomas was to become the most celebrated Welsh poet of the twentieth century.
Dylan began writing poems in his notebooks at the age of 15, while attending Swansea Grammar School. At the age of 16, Thomas took a position as a junior reporter at the South Wales Daily Post. He left the post after only a few months so he could concentrate on his poetry however, working as a freelance journalist to earn money when he needed to. Two thirds of Dylan’s poetic works were written while he was a teenager.
Dylan began to frequent the pubs and café scene in Swansea with his artistic contemporaries. As a group, they became known as the The Kardomah Gang, in honour of one of their favourite local haunts, the Kardomah Café. He was only 18 when his first set of poems to be published outside of Wales, And Death Shall have No Dominion, came out in the New England Weekly. Shortly afterwards, Dylan moved to London in the hope of increasing his literary success. By 1934, this success began to take shape, with the publication of 18 Poems. This volume was so successful that Dylan attracted attention from T.S. Eliot and other established writers.
During the development of his career, Dylan met Caitlin Macnamara. They married in July 1937, in Cornwall, against the wishes of his parents. They travelled throughout their marriage, living in London, Italy, Oxford, Ireland, and finally the small Welsh coastal town of Laugharne in Carmarthenshire (the interior of his famous “Writing Shed” there is pictured above), where they settled with their three children.
Famed for being able to capture the voice of Wales, Dylan’s poetry and plays did not focus on the bleak images of the country’s industrial depression, but more on its industry in relation to its natural beauty.
Having suffered from bronchitis and asthma since childhood, Dylan wasn’t called up to fight during the Second World War. Instead he moved into script-writing films for the Ministry of Information. The scripts he produced for film and radio were often performed by Dylan himself. His Welsh voice soon became as famous as his poetry and plays.
In the winter of 1953, Dylan made a fateful trip to New York to promote his most famous work, Under Milk Wood. Whilst there, he was given morphine injections physician by mistake, which caused him to struggle with his breathing. He was subsequently diagnosed with bronchitis and pneumonia, and on 9th November, 1953, Dylan died, leaving a vast Welsh literary legacy behind him.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.