A Postcard from New Quay

This is an updated version of a paper that was first published in Dylan Thomas: A Centenary Celebration (2014) ed. by Hannah Ellis (Bloomsbury). You’ll find a good deal more on New Quay and Under Milk Wood in chapter 7 of A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow (2000).

Majoda, New Quay

There’s a lot more to write home about in 2014 than just the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth. Amongst other things, it’s the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of Under Milk Wood, as well as the seventieth anniversary of Dylan’s move to New Quay, Cardiganshire, on the west coast of Wales. The two events are linked: without New Quay, there would have been no Milk Wood but that, of course, is a matter of judgement not fact.

Moving to Cardiganshire wasn’t much of a leap into the Welsh-speaking dark. Dylan was already familiar with the county, not least through his friendship with London Cardis, and the short stories of Caradoc Evans. He had also stayed on the coast as a teenager on holiday. Later, in his twenties, he came to visit Evans, who lived just outside Aberystwyth, where Dylan’s father had been to university, and where one of Dylan’s Swansea friends was a teacher in the School of Art. It’s a town that pops up in his writing, and Aberystwyth is the hymn that Cherry Owen likes to sing when he’s drunk, tenor and bass.[1]

I always sing Aberystwyth.

Dylan’s first known visits to New Quay itself were in the mid-1930s. He came to see his aunt and cousin, who had moved there from Swansea, and to call on Howard de Walden, a major patron of the arts in Wales. Dylan returned during the early 1940s, when he was staying a few miles away in Plas Gelli, Talsarn. By now, the town had already caught his imagination. He wrote a New Quay pub poem, Sooner than you can water milk, cream-rich with material that anticipates Under Milk Wood. [2]

Then, in September 1944, Dylan came back for an extended stay, renting a wood and asbestos bungalow called Majoda on the edge of the cliffs. His nine months there, said FitzGibbon, his first biographer, were ‘a second flowering, a period of fertility that recalls the earliest days…[with a] great outpouring of poems’, as well as a good deal of other material. His second biographer, Paul Ferris, concurred: “On the grounds of output, the bungalow deserves a plaque of its own.” In reviewing George Tremlett’s biography, the author Richard Jones has described Dylan’s time in New Quay as “one of the most creative periods in Thomas’s life.” [2a]

It’s in a wonderful bit of the bay, with a beach of its own. Terrific.

Dylan was so inspired by New Quay that, within months of arriving, he wrote a radio script about the town, Quite Early One Morning, described by Walford Davies as ‘a veritable storehouse of phrases, rhythms and details’ later used in Under Milk Wood. It was undoubtedly the most important precursor of the play, but there were also colourful letter-poems about the town (with No-goods and fornicating parchs to the fore) that take us further along the road to Llareggub. Considered together, Sooner than, Quite Early and the letter-poems indicate how firmly Milk Wood was being established in the people and places of wartime New Quay.[3]

Sinister dark over Cardigan Bay. No-good is abroad.

Dylan certainly kept the post office busy, as scripts and letters went back and forth to London. Such was his enthusiasm for the town that invitations were soon on the way to his friends to come and visit. Ebie and Ivy Williams came from Laugharne to stay in the Black Lion. Caradoc Evans came down from Aberystwyth and went for a pint with Dylan to the Wellington, though he refused to order, it’s said, until he’d inspected the gents’ lavatory. The Burtons came, father and adopted son. Richard came to drink, whilst his father, Philip, a BBC producer, used New Quay as the basis of a radio programme about a Welsh village by the sea. Broadcast while Dylan was living there, it was probably another influence that secured New Quay as a significant template for Milk Wood.[4]

Even after Dylan had left New Quay, he was still waxing lyrical. In the summer of 1946, one of his friends, Margaret Taylor, brought her family for a holiday. Dylan had been lauding up the town, as he put it, to encourage her to visit, and he wanted to know if she’d enjoyed herself.

Did you meet Jack Pat and his horse, he asks? And Dai Fred who bottled ships? And Evan Joshua of the Blue Bell? Jack the Post? Taffy Jones the stuttering air ace? Norman the no- good fighter?

And Alastair Graham, the thin-vowelled laird, as Dylan called him in the letter? [5]

Descended from the baronetcy of Netherby, Graham was a nephew of both the Duchess of Montrose and the Countess of Verulam. His love of cooking fish and eating pickled herring and any form of mackerel, was as remarkable as his obsessive time-keeping. Not to mention the pamphlet he published, Twenty Different Ways of Cooking New Quay Mackerel, all reminding us of:

Lord Cut-Glass…that lordly fish-head nibbler…in his fish-slimy kitchen…scampers from clock to clock, a bunch of keys in one hand, a fish-head in the other…

But Alastair Graham wasn’t the only one in New Quay who took the time seriously. There had been resident clock and watch makers in the town since at least the 1850s, including Thomas Webb whose ingenious longcase clocks depicted the occupations of those who had commissioned them.

New Quay's sailors also brought back clocks from their voyages abroad. Captain Griffith Roberts and his wife, Margaret, for example, had a fine collection in their home on Church Street, and were as devoted to them as Lord Cut-Glass was to his:

Clocks were their particular interest; they would religiously attend to their collection each evening before retiring and were pleased to find them all ticking away each morning. [5a] includes link to a Webb clock

With this Cardi background, it’s hardly surprising that some of the names in Under Milk Wood are to be found in New Quay - for example, Maesgwyn farm and the Sailor’s Home Arms (later re-named as the Commercial and then the Seahorse) which sits at the top of the town. Llareggub's Welshness is also New Quay’s, and certainly not Laugharne’s, which has long been an English-cultured and English-speaking enclave, too close to anglicised Pembrokeshire for its own Welsh good.

Llareggub’s harbour, sea-going history, terraced streets, hill of windows and quarry are also New Quay’s. Douglas Cleverdon, the producer of the radio version of the play, has pointed out that the topography of Llarregub

'is based not so much on Laugharne, which lies on the mouth of an estuary, but rather New Quay, a seaside town...with a steep street running down to the harbour.'

Cleverdon’s description of a steep-streeted town helps us appreciate that the various references in the play to the top of the town, and to its ‘top and sea-end’, refer to toppling, cliff-perched New Quay, not to Laugharne, which has little top and no sea-end at all. Dylan is even true to the small topographical details of New Quay: Llareggub’s lazy fisherman, for example, walk uphill from the harbour to the Sailors’ Arms.

'the windy town is hill of windows' - First Voice

The Rough Guide came to a similar conclusion, declaring that New Quay ‘has the little tumbling streets, prim Victorian terraces, cobblestone harbour, pubs and dreamy isolation that Thomas so successfully invoked in his play.’

New Quay, of course, is a fine example of a terraced, hill-side settlement. We can see from Dylan’s own sketch of Llareggub that, like New Quay, it is also terraced. Laugharne, on the other hand, is not. In the 1940s and beyond, Laugharne was essentially a piece of coastal ribbon development.

The Rough Guide could also have mentioned that, in Dylan’s time and long before, New Quay also had the Downs, an area of steep grass land that stretches up from the lifeboat station to the Black Lion. The town’s donkeys grazed here, including Maisie, the Black Lion donkey, who was affectionately known as Queen of the Uplands. Llareggub, of course, had Donkey Down, as well as Donkey Street and Donkey Lane, where many of the town’s inhabitants lived.

To the right of the Downs (which are marked on the map of New Quay in Passmore’s history of the town) and running across to the pier, are Coronation Gardens, a likely inspiration for Llareggub’s Coronation Street. ( Coronation Street was in the script of Under Milk Wood given to the BBC in 1950, so it cannot be an allusion to the 1953 coronation. )

New Quay also provided the name of Eli Jenkins’ river Dewi, in the form of Ffynnon Ddewi (Dewi’s Well), which helped to supply the town’s water, as well as the river Dewi itself which flows into the sea nearby. [6]

Buttermilk and whippets?

The Fourth Drowned’s question is one example of some of the words and phrases that root Under Milk Wood in the particularity of New Quay. Jack Patrick of the Black Lion bred whippets and kept cows, and made buttermilk in his dairy next to the hotel. The eternally stopped clock in the Black Lion bar, which Dylan mentions in his 1946 letter, re-appears in Under Milk Wood as the clock in the Sailors’ Arms, which has stayed at half past eleven for fifty years. [7]

Do you see me, Captain? the white bone talking? I’m Tom-Fred the donkeyman…

Several of the characters in the play also derive from New Quay. Besides bottling ships, Dai Fred Davies carved dildos from wood and scrimshaw. He was also the donkeyman on the fishing vessel, the Alpha, in charge of the donkey engine, an auxiliary engine used for work such as lifting and pumping.

Local man Dan Cherry Jones inspired the name Cherry Owen. Indeed, Dylan inadvertently uses the name Cherry Jones in one of his drafts of the play. He also appears as Cherry Jones in Dylan’s sketch of Llareggub, living in Cockle Street. In an early list of Milk Wood characters, Dylan describes Cherry Owen as a plumber and carpenter - Cherry Jones was a general builder in New Quay.[8]

That’s Willy Nilly knocking at Bay View…Who’s sent a letter to Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard?

Jack Lloyd the postman, also mentioned in Dylan’s 1946 letter to Margaret Taylor, was the Town Crier. He provided the character of Willy Nilly, whose practice of opening letters, and spreading the news, reflects Lloyd's role as Crier, as Dylan himself noted in one of his worksheets for Under Milk Wood: ‘Nobody minds him opening the letters and acting as [a] kind of town-crier. How else could they know the news?’ It is this note, together with our knowledge that Dylan knew Jack Lloyd, that provide the sure link between Willy Nilly and Lloyd.[9]

In his letter to Margaret Taylor about New Quay, Dylan writes at length about Lloyd’s matrimonial difficulties:

'Jack the Post is an old friend: he once married a pretty widow in London & everything was fine, he said, except that wherever they went they were followed by men in bowler hats. After the honeymoon, Mrs Jack was arrested for double bigamy. And all the husbands appeared in the court and gave evidence as to her good character.'

When you read this, you know at once that, in New Quay, you are at the heart of the Llareggub project and that you should, at any moment, expect to see Mr Dai Bread and his two wives walking down the street, followed closely behind by Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard and her two husbands. Dylan would have known well enough that, in New Quay, two of its bank managers enjoyed living à trois, whilst a clutch of chapel deacons and organists, butchers, sea captains and hotel keepers had other interesting marital arrangements: “Nothing was holy in New Quay in that everybody knew everybody else’s business, and dalliances were accepted, up to a point.” [10]

To begin at the beginning

It is a spring, moonless evening, starless but not yet bible-black. In the back-to-front sorting room of the post office, Will and Lil Dolau sniff like mice along the seams of a letter from Calcutta. An owl flies out past Bethel chapel, hovers over Brooklands, where Cherry Jones is snoozing, and then settles on the chimney of Mr John the Cake,

that winking bit, that hymning gooseberry, that Bethel-worm

In Manchester House (Estab. 1804), May Thomas tidies up the tussore, smoothes the gentlemen’s socks and then gently dusts her sister Cissie’s painting of Paris in the rain. Next door in Sheffield House, Mr James (Implement Agent and Hot Water Engineer) lets off steam. Across the road in Goytre, the Rev. W.O. Jenkins inches open the blackout curtains so that you, and only you, can see

me, Jack Lloyd, letters sorted, in full regalia now, feathered hat and brassy bell....

Voice of a Town Crier

Stand on this spot. This is New Road, old as the hills, high, wet and green, and from this small turning circle next to Mr Shirley Snap, you can see the town below, limping not yet invisible down to the sloeblue, slow and blue belled sea. But hush! Night is falling still. Shadows steal. Milk bottles step out. Dogs bark to earn their keep, farmyards away. New Quay ripples. Mr Jones the Bank slips across the street, as he has done every other night of his married life, to have his hair cut.

Come now, past Cnwc-y-Lili and Parc-y-pant, past the ripening wizard and his widow’s hollow larch, past outside privy and dripping tap, to find

me, Dylan Thomas,

fast bowler, asleep in wood-and-asbestos Majoda, dreaming of

33, Coronation Street, Llareggub,

and never such praise as any that swamped the decks of his writing shed, sucking him down into the stone grinding dark where the friends of his long drawn out night nuzzle up to him…

First Writer

Remember me, Dylan?

Fitz! You were the first to see...

…that many of the characters derive from New Quay.

Second Writer

Do you see me, Dylan? the BBC talking? I’m Tom-Doug the producer man…We shared the same studio once…

Dougie! You did it on the radio!

You wrote the first half in New Quay, then you ran out of ideas when you left.

Woman’s Voice

Ivy Williams, Brown’s Hotel. Come up and see me, boys, I’m dead.

Dear Ivy! You always knew the truth.

It wasn’t really written in Laugharne at all.

Third Writer

Remember me, Dyl? Richard Hughes, novelist, lived in Laugharne.

Dickie bach! King of the blooming castle!

You didn’t use actual Laugharne characters.

Oh, my dead dears!

Come away quietly, to trig-and-trim Belle Vue at the top of the town. Listen. It is dark now, and if you gently lift the latch, you will see

me, Mrs Warfield-Darling,

widow of a General, wife of a doctor, friends with the Rockefellers, dreams of a dead poet: ‘He liked to talk to ordinary people, and he’d sort them out…and that, I think, was one of his greatest successes in life…there were some very wonderful characters there then in New Quay.’

Come closer still. See, there, above the bay in her hanger of desire,

me, Olive Jones Telegwyn,

wife of the stuttering air ace, snores like a German albatross and recites from little slips of paper she found one day by the typewriter and never gave back: ‘He was one of us - one of everybody…that’s where he got his material from - a student of humanity.’

Come further now, past dark and brooding Handcuff House, where PC Islwyn Williams snuggles deep under his boot-brush eyebrows, and dreams of jailing

me, Norman London House

for being a no good boyo, rumbles PC Williams who, notebook now in hand, stamps huffing and puffing down Brongwyn Lane to arrest

me, Sarah Evans the Sailor’s for having five children at Maesgwyn

me, Mary Ann Evans Maesgwyn, for having ten children

me, Hannah Evans Maesgwyn, for having eight children

me, Sarah Evans Maesgwyn for having six children

and me, Phoebe Evans Maesgwyn, for having nine children

It is night over this evangelical snuggery of babies. Look. Only you can see

me, Phoebe, scrubbing the steps of the Memorial Hall.

Listen. Only you can hear

us, Phoebe’s children: ‘Mam was proud of being Polly Garter. She said Dylan always had his little notebook…She was quite chuffed to have known Dylan…She was adamant she was Polly Garter…Phoebe was great friends with Caitlin…She used to babysit for them.’

Come quicker now, past Mrs Evans bottled pop, past cobbler, chemist, baker, barber, past Tydur’s taxi and his mother’s geese, past princely brothel, Bethel and the Sailor’s Arms, past Captain Pat Rosehill talking fish with auntie Cat Blue Bell, to…

Gomer House, paying guests only, where Captain Tom Polly stands watch, with his watch, waiting for the moment to…Codi’r latch! The town watches, too, and smacks its lips as Tom swiftly crosses the street to lift the latch of the Black Lion, pausing only to scowl at Walter Cherry, magistrate and churchwarden, taking bets in Coronation Gardens.

Look, it is opening time, though time doesn’t pass here. Look closer still at

me, Jack Pat,

riding master to the gentry, lover of books, whippets, donkeys and poetry, standing beneath a clock that has never ticked nor tocked, drawing the town’s first pint. He sighs deeply, thinking of peaches and plimsolls, and of a poet a lot more gorse than gorsedd and all the better for it, too, thank you very much: ‘He just mixed with us all…it was just a matter of being with us, understanding us…he was so interesting that he had one little corner of my house where we used to gather…it seemed to develop into a little Welsh village…’[11]

Jack Patrick Evans outside the Black Lion. His dairy was next door.

If Dylan's time in the town provided material which he used in Under Milk Wood, then his data collection was hardly unobtrusive, as Jack Pat noted:

'He seemed to do his best writing among us local people - he was always with a pad on his knee during convivial hours. Always busy, making notes of any local characters who came in…He was interested in…the people themselves…listening to them and busy with his notes at all times…'[12]

Dylan fitted comfortably into the quiet routines of the Black Lion, betting on the horses, and playing cards, darts and shove ha’penny with the locals. It was his vegetabledom, as he once described the town. Caitlin agreed, and recognised that it was the kind of place where he could work hard at his writing:

'...it was only with our kind of purely vegetable background, which entailed months on end of isolated, stodgy dullness and drudgery for me, that he was flattened out enough to be able to concentrate…'[13]

But Dylan’s vegetabledom is only part of the Milk Wood story, because the stodgy menu of his daily life was spiced with cultural richness, interesting company and eccentric characters. It was a town of the well-travelled and the well-read, with a lending library and a bookshop on the sea-front, as well as a well-stocked library in the Black Lion.

It was, too, a town of musicians, writers and painters, and of unassuming intellectuals, cunningly disguised as drapers, publicans and fishermen. Lord of them all was cobbler Glanmor Rees, son of a sea captain, who presided over the town’s tobacco parliament in the back of his shop. If science was the topic of the hour, he could call upon his brother-in-law, Evan Jenkin Evans, the distinguished professor of physics at Swansea, sitting out the War in New Quay.[14]

there are peas in my ears & my smile is gravy…I am quite happy and am looking forward to a gross, obscene and extremely painful middle-age

Dylan’s ten months in Majoda were far more creative than his four years, 1949-1953, at the Boat House in Laugharne. He was happy in New Quay; it was, said Caitlin, exactly his kind of place, with the bonus of having some of his childhood friends living in the town. Indeed, there were many people from Swansea in New Quay, who had come after the 1941 blitz; others had left many years before, such as Evan Joshua James, whose son had come close to marrying Dylan’s New Quay cousin. Here, perhaps, lies a clue as to why Dylan seemed so settled and so productive: it was home-from-home, the terraces of his childhood Uplands in salty miniature. And New Quay people, of course, knew all about Swansea; it’s where they went to welcome home their docking menfolk from the sea.[15]

New Quay was a pretty and beguiling seaside town; one visitor writing in The Lady in 1959 thought ‘it was like looking down on another Milk Wood.’ The puppeteer Walter Wilkinson, visiting in 1947, warned about being trapped by its ‘beautiful completeness’. New Quay, he wrote, was a cunning contrivance for inveigling travellers into ceasing their travels:

'You are tipped into it from the hills, as a fly is tipped into a jar of syrup; you come to an edge, and over you go, down the slippery slope, through the three or four terraces of cottages on the hillside, by those narrow, steep streets…down to the hotel in the old sailmaker's works, down to the jetty and the two or three boats jigging on the green water…The farm fields still come down to the town, and as you walk from the baker to the draper you can talk to a donkey and a horse, poking their heads over a fence into the street.' [16]

This small community of just under a thousand people, was often portrayed as one of life's backwaters. One popular guide said that ‘visitors will find the natives agreeable, courteous and obliging’, but at the same time ‘refined, brave, industrious, and hardy.’ [17]

Yet New Quay was a relatively sophisticated seaside town. It had always been something of a place to which the well-heeled retired. During the War, the town also attracted those seeking to escape the cities, smart evacuees, as Wilkinson called them, with new ideas and war earnings. Along the cliff from Majoda was Morfa Gwyn, the home of Major George Reid, part-owner of a company making aviation instruments, as well as the Reid camera, based on captured Leica patents. The major lived a comfortable life in wartime New Quay, with a stream of house guests. One resident remembers the Princess of Sarawak walking, in a sari, around the town; in truth, she was minor English aristocracy, related to Sir Charles Vyner de Windt Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak. New Quay had all sorts.[18]

Howard de Walden’s house parties also brought a range of interesting people to the town, as did those of the thin-vowelled laird, Alastair Graham. His visitors included royalty, writers, artists, spies and diplomats. If Graham's embroidery or decorative knots palled, there was always fish and fishing, about which he was passionate, and a discussion about which sort of fish-heads made the best soup. When the weather was bad, Graham's library was at hand, as were the mansion’s bedrooms, where he hosted dinner-with-sex parties.[19]

How’s the tenors in Dowlais?

New Quay was accustomed to accommodating other kinds of visitors. There were times, in the summer, when the town was 'in the throes of a charabanc visitation' resulting in 'the steep narrow streets' being 'thronged' with people. Miners, tin-platers and other workers from south Wales arrived for their annual holiday, and on most fine evenings they held impromptu concerts, usually on the pier.

There was a special connection with Dowlais, an iron and steel making town in the South Wales valleys. There had been several marriages with New Quay girls, and the town’s men had gone to Dowlais for work. Evan Joshua had been an overseer there, and had encouraged the summer outings to New Quay. A south Wales writer visiting the New Quay eisteddfod in 1891 noted that "Thousands of visitors thronged the quiet thoroughfares, the bulk hailing from Dowlais..." Such was the relationship between the two towns that when the church in Dowlais was demolished, its bell was given to New Quay's parish church. No wonder Dylan had the tenors of Dowlais in Llareggub.[20]

Carrying on with that Mrs Beattie Morris up in the quarry

Evan Joshua, who had become close to Dylan’s relatives in Swansea, had returned to New Quay to manage one of the town’s quarries. The stone quarry had provided much of the material for the town’s buildings but now it was mainly used for picnics, impromptu concerts and love-making, as the New Quay Chronicle reported: ‘Should Cupid pierce the tender hearts of the lovely maidens and brave young men, the quarry and the lonely cliffs form an unapproachable fortress to guard their faltering confessions.’[21]

New Quay's sailors (and often their wives with them) had sailed across the world. Daniel Parry-Jones noted in 1948 that New Quay was unmistakably Welsh with its own Welsh dialect, but also cosmopolitan:

'A blasé, sophisticated visitor from one of our bigger cities might strut down its narrow streets with a contemptuous superior air, but here were dozens of lads who knew intimately the life and ways of all the great maritime cities of the world.'[22]

Llareggub's sailors had also travelled the world. Captain Cat had been to San Francisco. His drowned companions had visited Nantucket. It’s hardly surprising that Billy Williams of Laugharne, whose little fishing boats seldom went further than Bristol, thought that the inspiration for Captain Cat was a New Quay sailor. The town abounded with sea captains, noted Wilkinson: ‘address any gentleman, not an obvious visitor, as captain, and you will be safe.’ In Dylan's day, there were over thirty-five retired, ocean-going captains living there, a wonderful gallery of Captain Cats to inspire a writer's imagination. Indeed, one in five of New Quay's men aged twenty and over were master mariners, either retired or serving.[23]

And who brings cocoanuts and shawls and parrots to my Gwen now?

Like those of Llareggub, the sea captains of New Quay returned with clothes and costumes from other countries, in which the town's children dressed up on special occasions. There were also spices and teas, banjos and ukeleles, kimonos and erotica, scent from Algiers, and crates of dates and Dresden china. New Quay homes were:

'well-laden with curios, paintings, rugs, teak and mahogany furniture, including items with inlaid ivory…the occasional wild animal pelt, saw-fish 'bills', spears and shields. Canaries and parrots were popular. The few primates brought home rarely survived. New Quay gardens had palm trees and monkey puzzle trees...almost every New Quay home had paintings of ships in their hallways, made by Italian artists at ports of call like Naples...'

New Quay's gently swilling, maudlin and miscellaneous retired sea captains, as Dylan variously referred to them, had their own daily meeting place, Cnwc Y Glap, at the bottom of the town near the quay, where they gathered to reminisce, just like the drowned sailors who open Milk Wood. Tom Polly Davies, who drank with Dylan in the Black Lion, was one of the captains who met here. He had worked as a censor for part of the war, and had been a Government Observer during the Spanish Civil War. Both these roles could have helped to form Dylan's image of Captain Cat as ‘The Witness’, as he described him in a list of the characters of the play, someone who lifted the latch on Llareggub, revealing the everyday lives and secrets of its inhabitants. And Tom Polly knew all that was going on in New Quay, sitting for hours on a bench outside his house, looking down the main street of the town: ‘He didn’t miss a thing.’

And whilst Captain Cat lived in Schooner House, Tom Polly lived in Schooner Town - ninety-nine schooners were built or owned in New Quay between 1848 and 1870. Dylan himself provided a significant clue to New Quay's influence on the play when, in an early draft of Milk Wood, he described Llareggub as a ‘schooner-and-harbour-town’. Laugharne, of course, had neither schooners nor a harbour, which had been lost by the silting up of the estuary since the 17th century. [24]

Oh, Mrs Ogmore! Oh, Mrs Pritchard!

It was also a town of tailors and drapers, seven in all in 1945. Mrs Ogmore Davies was the wife of a draper whose shop, Bon Marché, stood at the top of the town in Church Street. A few doors down lived Mrs Pritchard Jones, the wife of the Barclays bank manager. They were both considered rather snobbish and prim. Mrs Pritchard Jones in particular was obsessively clean, ‘a real matron-type, very strait-laced, house-proud, ran the house like a hospital ward,’ said one of her neighbours.

In her book on New Quay, Mrs Pritchard Jones’ daughter has confirmed that her mother had indeed been a Queen's Nurse before her marriage and afterwards "devoted much of her time to cleaning and dusting our home...sliding a small mat under our feet so we would not bring in any dirt from the road." (C. Edwards-Jones, 2013)

To be fair, there were many Mrs Ogmore-Pritchards in New Quay. The town prided itself on its wholesome air and clean streets. An early guide noted that

'The place has the reputation of being amongst the cleanest in the Principality. The Houses, inside and out, the Streets and Terraces and everything without exception, are kept in a state of spotless cleanliness and high polish.' [25]

Wilkinson enjoyed being in New Quay, because ‘it would seem that the last hundred years have hardly touched the place.’ But what had touched the town and its residents, he noted, was the sea; it had claimed the lives of many of its seafarers, and had nibbled at the land: ‘where, as a child, you might have walked across the fields, and among the cows, you would now walk on wet sand.’ A few hundred yards to the north of Majoda stood the church of Llanina. Dylan scholar, John Ackerman, has rightly pointed out that the story of the drowned village and graveyard of Llanina, ‘is the literal truth that inspired the imaginative and poetic truth’ of Under Milk Wood.

Who milks the cows in Maesgwyn?

To the south, between Majoda and New Quay, stood Maesgwyn farm and the little community of Pentre Siswrn but they, two roads and about sixty acres of farmland were lost to the sea in the 1940s. It is these drowned houses and fields that inspired the ‘imaginative and poetic truth’ of the play, as much as those of Llanina. Not to mention the 150 sailors in local graveyards who died at sea or in foreign ports.[26]

If the sea was at the centre of New Quay life, then so was creative endeavour.This was reflected in the lives of its men and women, but it was also a divide within many families:

'One side of the family were seafarers, captains of the fine old windjammers who rounded the Horn. Strong men with powerful personalities and a talent for strong drink and music… on the other side, are poets, spartan and intellectual.' [27]

One of the centres of cultural life in the town was the Memorial Hall. It had seating for eight hundred, as well as rooms for meetings, billiards and reading. It was the venue for concerts and plays, the props for which were borrowed from neighbouring houses. Rogues and Vagabonds, the touring company of Countess Barcynska (Caradoc Evans' wife) put on weekly plays in the Hall during the summer. With the cheapest seats a shilling, the Countess brought London's West End to New Quay.

Praise the Lord! We are a musical nation.

Under Milk Wood is a play full of music and song, and Dylan’s text makes it very clear that Llareggub itself is a town of music making. So was New Quay, and there was more than enough to wake any Jack Black from the sixpenny hops of their nightmares. The town had a pop group called the Nautical Boys, and a dance band, as well as the New Quay Orchestra, and the Dorian Trio. Part-singing was the norm, taught in the chapels and schools. Throughout the war, New Quay had a Ladies Choir, an Operatic Society, and a Juvenile Operatic Party, which surely inspired Dylan to write about Llareggub's ‘babies singing opera.’

Madam Clara Tawe Jenkins, the old contralto of Quite Early One Morning, had her real life counterparts in New Quay. Amongst the best was Mrs Harries Davies Awelon, a fine contralto who had sung with the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir. ‘New Quay,’ said the Welsh Gazette, ‘has the reputation of being the home of good vocalists…’ The town may have prided itself on its master mariners, but, as far as its women were concerned, it was as importantly a town of talented singers, instrumentalists, music teachers and concert organisers.

the Reverend Eli Jenkins, poet, preacher, turns in his deep towards-dawn sleep and dreams of…Eisteddfodau. He intricately rhymes, to the music of crwth and pibgorn

Just like Llareggub, New Quay was also a town of eisteddfodau, competitive festivals of literature, music and drama. The three chapels were at the forefront of cultural activities. There was barely a week without an operetta, concert, play or visiting choir. New Quay's music making was also nurtured in the church, which had a choir, and in the Women's Institute. The Spitfire Fund concerts would bring them all together in common cause.

The music of the spheres is heard distinctly over Milk Wood.

Towyn, Bethel, Tabernacle and the Memorial Hall are clustered snugly together at the top of the town, close to the Black Lion. As Dylan walked in the black-out from pub to pub, the sounds of rehearsals and performances would have filled the night air, as they did in Llareggub. One visitor had this experience in ‘story-book’ New Quay in 1953. As she climbed the hill out of the town, Tabernacle's music was all around her, amplified in the double catch of the bay and the town’s hills:

'I heard singing…the full-throated sympathetic singing of Welsh hymns…hundreds of Welsh people were singing with warmth and fervour, sending the harmony of voices and the music of old familiar words challenging across the tide.'

The sound of music over the town was especially pronounced on Sundays because the three chapels and the church started their evening and morning services at the same time, singing from different hymn sheets yet together.[28]

But in New Quay the pen flourished as much as the baton. Foremost amongst the town's writers was Elizabeth Mary Jones (Moelona), She published widely, including books for children, translations of Alphonse Daudet's stories, and novels which demonstrated her commitment to feminism and Welsh nationhood. Her husband, John Twyi Jones, was one of the town’s poet-preachers. Dewi Emrys was another, winner of both the Chair (four times) and Crown at the National Eisteddfod. Like Dylan, he was part of the drinking and reading circle round Alastair Graham.[29]

Portraits of famous bards and preachers…hang over him heavy as sheep

In seeking inspiration for Eli Jenkins, Dylan may have drawn on the Rev. Orchwy Bowen of Towyn chapel. Formerly a collier, he came to New Quay in 1923. He was ‘a saintly character, unworldly,’ recalled one of his congregation, ‘a Nationalist before it was fashionable to be one, and a pacifist.’ Bowen was a familiar figure around New Quay, with ‘a shock of long white hair, like Lloyd George's, with intense blue eyes, and the blue scars of a miner.’

Like Eli Jenkins, Orchwy Bowen wrote in strict metre; he had published a collection of poetry, and won several Chairs in Cardiganshire eisteddfodau. His sons, one of whom was also a minister, went one better, winning the Chair and Crown in three National Eisteddfods between 1946 and 1950. This was truly a family of bards and preachers in a town of bards and preachers, which celebrated in style in 1948 when Euros Bowen won the National Eisteddfod Crown and Dewi Emrys the Chair.[30]

Orchwy Bowen was a bardd gwlad, a country poet, one of many in the county, the most renowned being the Jones family, known as the Cilie poets, the name of their farm a few miles outside New Quay, not far from the river Dewi. The family played an important part in the cultural and social life of New Quay, as both poets and singers. The Western Mail, Wales’ national paper, went further, describing them as a centre of Welsh culture, after one of the family won the National Chair in 1936.

Walter Wilkinson was clear that New Quay was no ‘quaint back number’, yet its distinction was that ‘History has stood still, or even gone backwards...it has no railway station, and does not exhibit pictures of itself on hoardings...It has the merit of not being up-to-date...’ The town guide did not demur, but added that its ‘comparative remoteness does not seem to deter the discriminating holiday maker.’

In Voice of a Guide Book, Dylan said much the same of Llareggub, where visitors would find ‘some of that picturesque sense of the past so frequently lacking in towns and villages which have kept more abreast of the times.’ It was a quality that Dylan appreciated. He liked New Quay because it did not attract ‘man-dressed women with shooting-sticks and sketch-books and voices like macaws’ who came from outside to paint a town's natives.[31]

But painters did come to stay, drawn by the sharp light and clear air. Jack Patrick, both well-read and interested in art, made the Black Lion into a hotel to which artists came to stay and exhibit. Grant Murray and Kenneth Hancock, both Principals in their time of the Swansea School of Art, hung their paintings there, as did Augustus John.[32] The Black Lion also made room for local artists. It became an informal gallery for the arlunwyr gwlad, such as Emlyn Sayce, Ieuan Jones Adpar and Dylan's friend, Captain John Davies, sharing wall space with

faint lady watercolours of pale green Milk Wood like a lettuce salad dying.

New Quay's women stood out as talented painters in this town of ‘done-by-hand water-colours’, as Dylan put it, a phrase he would also use to describe Llareggub. Cissie Phillips exhibited successfully in the fourth exhibition of arts and sciences in Brussels in 1938. When war broke out, she helped people escape from France, and returned to live in New Quay. Margaret 'Peggy' Rhydderch, born just a few years before Dylan, lived and painted in the town all her life.[33]

There were many women in New Quay in the 1930s and 1940s who were accomplished painters, musicians and writers. They often had the money and, more importantly, the time to develop their talents. Many were married to (or were widows of) master mariners who were at sea for long periods. Some had their children away at boarding school. They were able to pursue their interests, and make a substantial contribution to the cultural life of the town.

If New Quay was cultured and worldly-wise, it was also colourful and bizarre, a town that was surreal as well as sophisticated. Eccentricity and anarchy, which some see as a defining characteristic of Under Milk Wood, were found in full measure here. It was a town full of Welsh characters, as Walter Wilkinson noted:

'…the people of New Quay are evidently alive, and not turned out all the same, like so many sausages…remember that she has a Crowned Bard of the National Eisteddfod; Welsh nationalists sufficiently ardent, expressive, and distinguished enough to merit imprisonment; preachers, artists, visiting poets who shoot up the town occasionally, and the late Lord Howard de Walden sat at the feet of the town's philosophic cobbler.'

Wilkinson could also have mentioned the sailors in the Blue Bell, who played a version of shove ha'penny with their penises to win a Christmas turkey. Then there was Jack Patrick who rode his horse into the bar of the Black Lion and whose donkey, Maisie, regularly got drunk in the Blue Bell; Baps the barmaid who ran away with a vicar; Daniel the Electric who climbed his own lamp-posts to watch women undressing; Johns the aquatic stunt man; Rees the drag artist; Hell Fire Jones the butcher, who with cleaver in hand, chased children, not corgis, down New Quay's toppling streets.

Not forgetting, of course, Norman London House, the town’s least successful fighter, as Dylan called him. In fact, Norman was an accomplished, all-round no-gooder – he was also a hopeless shopkeeper, and a lazy fisherman as well. His boat was called the Idle Hour, and he liked nothing better than dawdling “away the rodless day”, as Dylan described Nogood Boyo in an early draft of Milk Wood. He was often to be found hanging around the harbour doing odd jobs on the boats, although “you never actually saw Norman working”, remembered one resident.

Wilkinson spent his last day walking along the Dewi and then drinking stout in the town, gloomily contemplating his trudge northwards to Aberaeron. He was, he concluded, ‘completely demoralised’ by New Quay, ‘in which I was lazy enough to want to stay for ever among the Lotus-eaters.’

Destination Llaregubb via Elba, South Leigh and New York

It was written in New Quay, most of it.Ivy Williams, Brown’s Hotel, Laugharne

Whatever Dylan felt about New Quay, he could not stay at Majoda; his landlord wanted it back for the holiday season. The Thomases left in July 1945, and a few weeks later Dylan gave the first known public airing of the play that was to become Under Milk Wood. It comprised

‘some rather bawdy songs and verses he had lately been writing, a sort of vers de société, except that the society was Welsh and humble…the verses…were rich in affection, humour, compassion, and vivifying detail…’[34]

Finding somewhere to live continued to be a problem, but Dylan reassured Caitlin that he ‘would live in Majoda again.’ He came back to New Quay at least twice in 1946, the first time in March, a visit he records in The Crumbs of One Man’s Year. Then, in early summmer, he was spotted in the Commercial with pianist, Dill Jones. A few months later, Quite Early One Morning was published.[35]

In April 1947, Dylan and family went to Italy. He ended his holiday on Elba, staying in Rio Marina, a town, like New Quay, of steep streets, quarries and harbour. And, just like summer in New Quay, it was packed with miners taking their annual holiday. According to a Florence writer staying in the same hotel, Rio had a

'very kind and human atmosphere…Dylan loved this atmosphere…I think he saw in the landscape, the naked landscape, a souvenir of the Galles, of Wales.'

He seems to have been happier here than anywhere else on his Italian tour. His letters from Rio mention the ‘fishers and miners’ and ‘webfooted waterboys’ who we find as the fishers and webfoot cocklewomen of the first page of Milk Wood.[36]

On their return in August, the Thomases moved to South Leigh outside Oxford. It was here that Dylan continued work on the play. Philip Burton has recalled a meeting that year, when they discussed some of the characters:

'… the organist in the choir in the church played with only the dog to listen to him…A man and a woman were in love with each other but they never met.…they wrote to each other every day…And he had the idea that the narrator should be like the listener, blind.…' [37]

Building on the work that had been done at New Quay, the time at South Leigh was a key period in the writing of Milk Wood. Dylan began knocking some shape into the play, as Andrew Lycett put it, becoming the first biographer since FitzGibbon to recognise that there was a good deal more to the writing of Milk Wood than Laugharne. Distractions at South Leigh were few; there were no poems on the go, and the new round of film scripts had only just begun. In one of these South Leigh films, we find the familiar Llareggub names of Daddy Waldo and Polly Probert.[38]

In March 1949, Dylan travelled to Prague to a conference. His interpreter recalls that he ‘narrated the first version of his radio play Under Milk Wood.’ She describes how he portrayed an eccentric organist who played for sheep and goats, and the baker with two wives. Another present at the gathering recalled the Voices in the play.[39]

This testimony from Prague, when taken with that of Burton, indicates that many of the characters of the play were already in place by March 1949, before Dylan moved to Laugharne: the organist, the two lovers who never met but wrote to each other, the baker with two wives, the blind narrator and the Voices. Not to mention Waldo, Polly and Probert. A 28-page script that dates from around this time, includes the two Voices, more than three-quarters of the cast list, and nearly all of the place, street and house names of the play.[40]

It appears from this evidence that most of the first half of Milk Wood was first written in New Quay and South Leigh, with revisions and additions done in America in 1953. The work at South Leigh was completed within three years of Dylan leaving New Quay, presumably with Cardiganshire notebooks to hand, and memories still fresh.

Dylan hadn’t lived in Laugharne for almost eight years, but now, in May 1949, he returned to live in the Boat House. In July that year, he broadcast Living in Wales, in which he recalled New Quay and the Aeron valley. He also recycled his description of Alastair Graham to describe England as ‘that narrow-vowelled jungle’. Mrs Mary Evans the Pop, of the Emporium in New Quay, also gets a mention.

Dylan was soon back in New Quay; the date seems to be early summer 1951. He was in Jack Patrick’s Sunday club, “sitting on his own, getting pissed out of his mind, on beer, not shorts…” Fairground owner Clifford Reohorn was there with a couple of friends but left early because Dylan had been sick over a table.[41]

By late summer 1952, the BBC still had only the first part of the play, despite having chased Dylan for some two years for the rest of it. That autumn, he was back in Cardiganshire, travelling through the Aeron valley (‘the most precious place in the world’) to give a poetry reading in Aberystwyth. [42]

In the spring of the following year, he went to New York to give the first cast performance of Milk Wood. On his arrival, John Brinnin, his agent, realised that the play ‘was still far from finished.’ One of the actors has recalled that ‘we got about half of the script to begin with…’[43]

With the performance only ninety minutes away, Brinnin is clear that even at this late stage ‘the final third of the play was still unorganised and but partially written.’ Threats to cancel the performance made Dylan buckle down, and he ‘finished up one scene after another.’

Dylan then added some forty new lines to the second half for the next American reading. The play was now almost complete, and we can safely conclude that most of it had by this point been written in New Quay, South Leigh and New York.

Back in Laugharne, he prepared for his third and final trip to America but Cardiganshire was still on his mind. He wrote himself a note about writing to Skipper Rymer, who had run the Dolau pub in New Quay. He also accepted an invitation to give a poetry reading in Lampeter in March the following year. He asked for his expenses and a five guineas fee, adding ‘…what a long time ahead you do plan! I hope we’re not all dead by then.’[44]

Oh, angels be careful there with your knives and forks

Dylan was worked to death in New York; Milk Wood, he said, had taken the life out of him. He found some respite in the company of the sailors and longshoremen who drank in the White Horse. But at the end, he died alone, just like the mariners of New Quay and Llareggub, a stranger in a foreign port, far from home. With their patient in a coma and on a drip, his angels, the Sisters of Charity, had no need of cutlery.[45]



I am especially grateful for the extensive help provided by Griff Jenkins and Phyllis Cosmo-Jones, and for that of the following family members of many of those mentioned in the text: Anne Brodie, Barbara Cassini, Bunny Evans, Wendy Flenard, Nell Highet, Wynford Harries, Jon Meirion Jones, George Legg, Eleanor Lister, Sue Passmore, Gina Potter, Samantha Wynne Rhydderch, John Sayce, Owen and Maura Thomas, Megan Uncles, Ieuan Williams and John and Wendy Williams. Thanks, too, to Roger Bryan, Bruce Cardwell, Jennifer Davies, Keith Davies, Peter Davies, Kay Pascoe and Michael Williams for information and photographs and much else besides, as well as Cynthia Roberts of Dowlais Library, and, as ever, the marvellous staff of the National Library of Wales.

I am, as always, indebted to the late Colin Edwards, and his archive of interviews at the National Library, and to Walford Davies and Paul Ferris.

Images: David Evans (Majoda), Bruce Cardwell (hill of windows), Anne Brodie (Jack Patrick) and Judith Read (Webb clock)


CE/NLW = interviews in the Colin Edwards archive at the National Library of Wales. They have been edited by David N. Thomas in two volumes as Dylan Remembered 1914-1934 and 1935-1953, published by Seren in 2003 and 2004.

[1] London Cardis: such as the preacher-poet, Dewi Emrys and Griff Jenkins Senior. He knew Griff so well that he “used to visit” him in Talgarth, where he was being treated for TB, 1944-45. On this, see a letter from the hospital secretary to FitzGibbon April 13 1964 in the FitzGibbon archive in Texas.

visits to Cardiganshire: in 1930 for a fortnight’s holiday on Hendre farm, St Dogmaels – see Thomas (2002) p93. In 1934 and 1937 to Aberystwyth to visit Caradoc Evans (1878 – 1945), a Cardiganshire-born story writer, novelist and playwright. Dylan’s Swansea friend, Kenneth Hancock, was a lecturer in the Aberystwyth school of art from 1936.

[2] Visits to New Quay: for more on Dylan’s visits to the town before 1944-45, see Thomas (2000) pp79-80.

aunt and cousin: Elizabeth Ann Williams and her daughter, Theodosia, came from Swansea in the late 1920s. Elizabeth had married Florence’s brother, John. See Thomas (2000) p105 and especially Thomas 2002 pp73-75 and pp105-115.

Howard de Walden: see Thomas (2000) pp45-51.

Aeron valley: on Plas Gelli, Talsarn, see Thomas (2000) pp51-77.

Sooner than you can water milk: written about September 1943. You can read it on page 187 of D.N. Thomas (2000) and also in the Collected Letters, Dylan’s letter to Tommy Earp of May 28 1945.

[2a] first biographer: Constantine FitzGibbon (1965) p266. second biographer: Paul Ferris (1999) p4. Richard Jones (1992) p26.

[3] Quite Early: commissioned by Aneirin Talfan Davies as Portrait of a Seaside Town, and broadcast on December 14 1944.

Veritable storehouse: Walford Davies in the introduction to his and Ralph Maud’s 1995 definitive edition of Under Milk Wood.

letter-poems: in particular, that to Tommy Earp September 21 1944 where No-good is mentioned twice.

[4] Invitations to visit: for example, Ebie and Ivy Williams of Brown’s Hotel, Laugharne: see their interview in CE/NLW.

Caradoc Evans in the Wellington pub, New Quay: In his diaries, published in 2012, Richard Burton recounts a story told to him by Dylan about drinking in a New Quay pub with Augustus John, Louis MacNeice and Caradoc Evans. The pub is not named, but the landlord is described as an “authentic cor blimey cockney” and as the “sound of bow-bells”. In a letter dated July 27 1999, Griff Jenkins wrote: “The Wellington was a hole in the wall pub in those days, no pumps, beer drawn from the barrel into enamel jugs. Licensee was Mrs Roswell whose husband was a coast guard. He spoke like Jack Warner, the actor, and called her ‘me old china’.” He was Herbert Roswell and she was Elizabeth; they lived in the Watch House in New Quay (1945 register of electors).

Burton programme: broadcast on March 1 1945. The reminiscing sailors of Milk Wood are anticipated at the start of Burton's script (e.g. "I was in Wellington…the night of Pearl Harbour."/ "I'll never forget that dinner in Hong Kong.") And whilst the drowned sailors of Llareggub open Milk Wood, Burton's programme ends with the drowned sailors of New Quay, in "cemeteries of empty graves" because "the whole world is the grave-yard of this little village.

[5] Letter to Margaret Taylor: of August 29 1946. There is a good deal more on these people in Thomas (2000)

Graham and New Quay: see Thomas (2000) pp222-223. On Graham’s life and career, see Fallowell (1990, 2011) and his Wiki entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alastair_Hugh_Graham

Thin-vowelled: Fallowell wrote of Graham: “The voice, issuing from slightly pursed lips, was fastidious and well-bred but not at all affected.”

[5a] Clock and watch makers: see Passmore (2012) p53. Amongst Webb’s clocks were one for a blacksmith where a blacksmith on the clock struck the hours on an anvil. Another for Captain David Davies and his wife Mary had a rocking ship ticking away the time. This clock is still with the family in New Quay (2021) You can see the clock at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1b8SFg5bMoSIWedA2AhAryF92YvPrxuDq/view?usp=sharing

Captain Griffith and Margaret Roberts' clock collection: see C. Edwards-Jones (2013) p14 who lived a few doors away. Griffth was a retired master mariner. They lived in Gwynedd, Church Street, New Quay, just up the road from the Dolau, which was Graham’s (and Caitlin’s) favourite pub in the town. Griffith and Margaret are both shown living in Gwynedd on the 1939 War Register and the 1945 Electoral Register.

[6] Topography: Cleverdon (1969, p4).

New Quay's donkeys: donkeys were used to draw carts through the town, and were often found roaming the streets. For more on New Quay’s donkeys, see Thomas (2000) p212, Passmore (2012) p114, and on Maisie see Passmore (2015) p378 and Wilkinson (1948) p131. For photos of New Quay’s donkeys, see Bryan (2012).

braying of donkeys near Majoda: Dylan’s letter, May 21 1945.

Coronation Park/Gardens: created to mark the coronation of George V.

Dewi: for more on Ffynnon Ddewi/ Dewi’s Well, see Lewis (1988) p35. On the river Dewi, see Thomas (2002) pp85-90.

[7] Jack Pat’s whippets and buttermilk: from interviews with New Quay residents c1998, including Eleanor Lister, and with Jack Pat's niece, Anne Brodie.

stopped clock Black Lion: “Time has stopped, says the Black Lion clock, and Eternity has begun.” August 29 1946, Dylan's letter to Margaret Taylor.

stopped clock in UMW: First Voice:

Up the street, in the Sailors Arms, Sinbad Sailors, grandson of Mary Ann Sailors, draws a pint in the sunlit bar. The

ship's clock in the bar says half past eleven. Half past eleven is opening time. The hands of the clock have stayed

still at half past eleven for fifty years. It is always opening time in the Sailors Arms.

[8] Characters derive from New Quay: for more on Dai-Fred, Cherry Jones etc., see Thomas (2000 and 2002). In 1933, Daniel Johnson Jones married Phyllis Cherry, the daughter of Walter and Edith Cherry of Brooklands (today Eastcliffe), Margaret Street, New Quay, and they lived for a while with the Cherrys in Brooklands. Following the marriage, Dan became known as Dan Cherry Jones. For more on Dan Cherry and Cherry Owen, see Thomas (2000) p218.

inadvertently uses Cherry Jones: the work sheets for UMW are at the Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas at Austin.

sketch of Llaregubb: online at the National Library of Wales:


[9] Information on Jack Lloyd as the Town Crier: Griff Jenkins, letters. Jack Lloyd was John Lloyd Evans and he lived at Noddfa (now Trenova) at the upper end of Church Street. See Passmore (2015) p199 and the Register of Electors 1945, and as a postman in the 1939 War Register.

Sue Passmore: 'I remember him [Jack Lloyd] very well, and stopping at the crossroads by Lewis Terrace and Water Street to make an announcement. He had a wall eye which was a little disconcerting to us small children.' (email June 2021).

In her book on New Quay, former resident, Catrin Edwards-Jones, gives examples of the local news that Jack Lloyd would cry out e.g. forthcoming local events such as a singing concert or a meeting in the Memorial Hall (2013 pp28-29).

Dylan’s work sheet re Willy Nilly: quoted in Davies and Maud (1999), pxxxvi.

[10] Goings-on in New Quay: for more on this, see Thomas (2000) chapter 7.

[11] Notes for To begin at the beginning:

Postal workers: Will Evans and Lil Evans, known as Lil Dolau. Did Will and Lil lead Dylan to Willy Nilly?

Sources of quotes from FitzGibbon, Cleverdon, Hughes and Ivy Williams: see Thomas (2004) pp286-293.

Interviews with Mrs Warfield-Darling, Olive Jones and Jack Patrick Evans: see Thomas (2004) and at CE/NLW.

For more on Maesgwyn and Phoebe Evans: see Conceiving Polly Garter on this site, as well as Thomas (2004) chapter 3, both of which also contain an analysis of the writing of the part of Polly Garter. For more on PC Islwyn Williams, see Thomas (2002).

Mrs Evans the Pop, Captain Pat, auntie Cat etc: see Thomas (2000).

Walter Cherry: see Note 8 above.

[12] Dylan writing in the Black Lion: Jack Patrick CE/NLW and in Thomas (2004).

[13] vegetable life etc: Caitlin Thomas.

[14] Bookshop: Llysawel. On the library in the Black Lion, and Jack Patrick’s voracious reading, see Thomas (2000) pp82-83.

Glanmor Rees: he also sold vegetables and hired shrimping nets in the shop. Customers often had to serve themselves because Rees was reluctant to leave the tobacco parliament over which he presided. His sister was Myra Evans, a local historian and artist, who had also written a children's operetta. Her husband, Evan Jenkin Evans (1882-1944), had been professor of physics at Swansea since 1920. He died in New Quay in July.

[15] His kind of place: Caitlin Thomas (1986) p92.

Childhood friends in the town: Vera and Evelyn Phillips from Swansea, as well as other members of their family.

Evan Joshua James: it was thought that his son, Ieuan, would marry Dylan’s first cousin, Theodosia Williams, but it all fell through. See Thomas (2002) with more at Passmore (2015) p177.

[16] Baker and draper etc: Mr Jones the Cake etc was in Dylan’s letter-poem about New Quay to Tommy Earp, September 21 1944.

[17] The Welsh Press' A Short Description of New Quay as a Watering Place, 1895.

[18] George Reid: the company was Reid and Sigrist. It also produced the Reid camera based on the Leica patents and drawings which had been seized by the Allies. The camera, the first British 35mm still camera, went on general sale in 1951, but it had been produced for the British Industries Fair in 1947. The company produced cameras until 1964.

Princess of Sarawak: walking in a sari in 1947. The second Earl of Inchcape married Dayang Leonora Margaret Brooke, daughter of Sir Charles Vyner de Windt Brooke, who succeeded to the title of HH The Rajah of Sarawak in 1917, and ruled as the Rajah until 1946. On the princess, see the Drummondville Spokeman, June 6 1933 and the Singapore Free Press, January 25 1940.

[19] Graham and de Walden: for more on de Walden, see Thomas (2000)pp45-51. For more on Graham, see Thomas (2000) pp222-223, Fallowell (1990, 2011) and Bjorasen (2019).

[20] Charabanc visitation: RW Thompson, late 1930’s, quoted in Benbough-Jackson (2003)

Evan Joshua James etc: He had also worked in Swansea until 1917; he lived in the St Thomas district, and came to know Dylan's maternal relatives there. The links between St Thomas and New Quay are described in Thomas, 2002, as well as more information on Evan and his friendship with Dylan. See also Note 14 on the anticpated marriage between the two families. See also Dylan’s reference to Evan in his letter of Margaret Taylor of August 29 1946. The special relationship with Dowlais is also reflected in the work of some of the Cilie poets who refer to the town e.g. Isfoel and Sioronwy.

Hailing from Dowlais: Anon. (1891), September 4 1891.

Demolished: St. Mair's Church, in 1963.

[21] Close to Dylan’s relatives: for more on Evan Joshua, see Thomas (2002) p105.

Lovers’ path and quarry: New Quay Chronicle, August 1902.

[22] Welsh speaking: almost eighty percent of the town's population spoke both Welsh and English (1931 census).

[23] New Quay’s sea captains: Information on the master mariner's of New Quay was provided by Griff Jenkins, Keith Davies, Sue Passmore and Kelly's Trade Directories. Of the master mariners listed in Kelly’s trade directories for south Wales, almost 60% came from the coastal towns of Cardiganshire, and the majority of these were from New Quay.

[24] Schooner and harbour town: quoted in Davies and Maud, (1999), p100.

Loss of Laugharne's harbour: see S. Read and T. van Veelen (2021):The silting up of the estuary since the 17th century and "the incremental growth of the saltmarsh deprived the town of both beach and harbour and landlocked its castle.”

[25] Richard Pritchard-Jones and Eluned Pritchard-Jones, Bank House, Church Street

Annie Davies and Thomas Ogmore Davies, Bon Marché, Church Street (Register of Electors, 1945)

Hospital ward: information from one of her neighbours: Phyllis Cosmo-Jones.

Queen's Nurse: C. Edwards-Jones (2013) pp45, 60-61

Clean town: Welsh Press’ Guide, (1895). See also Anon. (1891): "The houses all present a neat and cleanly appearance, in fact, anyone hailing from the heart of the Rhondda Valley would, if he were suddenly transported hither, imagine that he had at last reached some new Atlantas where cleanliness was the reigning God."

[26] Nibbled away: see also Closer, S.W. Rhydderch's poem about the gnawing New Quay tide. In Rockclimbing in Silk, Seren (2001).

literal truth: Ackerman (1998) p127.

[27] Divide within families: New Quay resident Barbara Cassini.

[28] Sound of singing: Gwen Bonner Roberts (1953). See also Edwards-Jones on the singing of Welsh hymns on the pier by the holidaying coal miners: "Their wonderful tenor and baritone voices rose into the night air - a heavenly sound echoed far across the still waters of the bay." (2013, p10)

[29] Moelona: on Moelona and her husband, see the Dictionary of Welsh Biography online at NLW.

Dewi Emrys (1881-1952): born in New Quay. Went to a Presbyterian college. First met up with Dylan in London as drinking companions. Lived in Talgarreg outside New Quay from 1940-41. Drank in New Quay and preached in the town and neighbouring countryside. Won the Crown in 1926, and the Chair in 1929, 1930, 1943 and 1948.

[30] Thomas Orchwy Bowen (1883-1948): his brothers, Ben and David, were also preacher-poets (see the Dictionary of Welsh Biography online). Euros Bowen (1904-1988), Orchwy’s son, won the Crown in 1948 and 1950. His brother, Geraint Bowen (1915-2011), won the Chair in 1946.

[31] Man-dressed women: Quite Early One Morning.

[32]Murray and Hancock: Hancock became Principal of the Swansea School of Art in 1946, and had known Dylan from an early age.

[33] Local painters: examples of Ieuan Adpar's drawings can be seen in The Dragon during the 1920s eg March 26 1926.

Four of John Davies' watercolours of New Quay are reproduced in the December 1947 issue of Wales: https://journals.library.wales/view/1214989/1216865/55#?xywh=-1899%2C-221%2C6161%2C4005

Dylan’s friendship with Capt. John Davies: noted in a letter from Gwen Davies in the Thomas Herbert papers, National Library of Wales.

done-by-hand water-colours: in Quite Early One Morning, and also used in Milk Wood in the opening First Voice passage.

[34] Written in New Quay: Ivy Williams: interview CE/NLW. For a fuller account of the writing of the play, see Thomas (2004) chapter 2.

first known public airing: Dan Davin (1985) p126. Davin, a writer and academic, writes that after the party he returned to his home in Notting Hill Gate. Davin dates the party as happening before the autumn of 1945. This means before September 30, the day on which he and his family moved from Notting Hill Gate. Dylan's letters tell us he made visits to London from Blaencwm in August and September.

[35] would live in Majoda again: letter to Caitlin, September 6 1945.

return visits and Dill Jones: for more on this see Thomas (2000) p110 or Thomas (2002) p102.

[36] Rio’s atmosphere: Florence intellectual, Augusto Livi, staying in the same hotel as Dylan. For more on Rio etc, see Thomas (2004) ch 2.

[37] Meeting with Burton: see Burton (1953) and a recorded talk in the Jeff Towns collection.

[38] Lycett and South Leigh: see Lycett (2004).

Daddy Waldo etc: Three Weird Sisters.

[39] Dylan in Prague: his interpreter was Jirina Haukova. See Thomas (2004) p163 for a translation of her memoir. The others present, who had been educated at the English school in Prague, were Ian Grossman and Josef Nesvadba, interviews CE/NLW. Nesvadba also in letters to David Thomas.

[40] Progress on Milk Wood: for a fuller account of the writing of the play, see Thomas (2004) chapter 2.

[41] Clifford Reohorn: interview by the author with Clifford’s son, George, July 16 2002.

[42] Still only the first half in 1952: see internal BBC memos, in particular Head of Copyright's memo of September 2 1952 to A/CTP about the "half-written programme" and Cleverdon's memo of August 26 1952 to Mrs Gray in Copyright about having only the first half of the script: "nothing more emerged, other than the first half which he had given me earlier." ( BBC Archives, Caversham.)

Cleverdon on progress: Cleverdon (1954b).

Back in Cardiganshire: the reading was in Aberystwyth on November 12 1952.

Most precious place: an essay by Thomas Herbert the Aberaeron vet, in the Jacqui Lyne papers. In an interview, Herbert said: “Dylan had lived for a period in Talsarn, and he always wanted me to take him up through the Aeron valley, one of his favourite areas.” For more on Herbert and Dylan, see Thomas (2000). The interview was in Y Cymro, November 7 1978.

[43] Actors: Sadie Thompson, interviews CE/NLW. Another of the actors, Nancy Wickwire, said much the same.

[44] The Texas archive has a list of people from June 1953 that Dylan intended to write to, including Rhymer. A note to Mr Rowlands of Lampeter is also in the archive.

[45] Taken the life out of me: the poet and critic, Reinhard Paul Becker, who had just published a German translation of Deaths and Entrances, was in the audience for the third New York production. Afterwards, he went backstage, and found Dylan close to collapse, standing in his dressing room with his hands clinging to the back of a chair. Almost stammering, Dylan said: “I suppose I should be saying how glad I am to see you, but this circus out there has taken the life out of me for now.” FitzGibbon archive, University of Texas.

Sisters of Charity: an order who comprised the nursing staff at St Vincent’s hospital, New York, where Dylan died in November 1953.


J. Ackerman (1998) Welsh Dylan, Seren

Anon. (1891) Holiday Jaunt – Seaside and Country in The Pontypridd Chronicle and Workman’s News, August 28 and September 4.

M. Benbough-Jackson (2003) Ceredigion and the Changing Visitor Gaze c. 1760-2000, in Ceredigion: Journal of the Ceredigion Historical Society, vol 14, no 3.

A. A. Bjorasen (2019) The Winged Host: Memory, Trauma and Loss in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. (Ph.D), La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia.

O. Bowen (1915) Cwpanau'r Gwlith: Caniadau a Thelynegion, J. Davies

J.M. Brinnin (1955) Dylan Thomas in America, Avon

R. Bryan (2013) New Quay: A History in Pictures, Llanina Books

P. Burton (1953) no title, Adam International Review, no. 238

P. Burton (1959) A Cardiganshire Camp, in The Lady, April

D. Cleverdon (1954) The Town ‘that has fallen over bells in love’, Radio Times, January 22

(1954b) A Talk on Under Milk Wood, in the Journal of Design and Fine Art, no.13

(1969) The Growth of Milk Wood, Dent

E. B. Davies (1933) The Story of New Quay, Llysawel Bookshop, New Quay

C. Edwards-Jones (2013) New Quay Wales Remembered, Book Guild Publishing

J. J. Glanmor Davies (1934) Rhai o Eiriau Llafar Ceinewydd a'r Cylch, Bulletin of Celtic Studies, November, and further articles on New Quay's dialect in the 1935 and 1936 issues

G. Davies (c1936) New Quay: The Official Guide

M. Evans (1961) Atgofion Ceinewydd, Cymdeithas Llyfrau Ceredigion

D. Fallowell (2011) Who was Alastair Graham? in Fallowell, How to Disappear, Ditto Books

(1990) Flyte of Fancy, Sunday Telegragh, June 17.

(1990) Bohemia Revisited, Sunday Telegraph, June 24.

P. Ferris (1977,1999) Dylan Thomas: The Biography, Dent

C. FitzGibbon (1965) The Life of Dylan Thomas, Little, Brown

A. Graham Twenty Different Ways of Cooking New Quay Mackerel

G. Griffths (1987) Goodbye, Johnny Onions, Dyllansow Truran

D. Jenkins (1987) Cardiff Tramps, Cardi Crews: Cardiganshire Shipowners and Seamen in Cardiff c1870-1950 in Ceredigion, 10

T. James Jones (2001) Llareggub's Cyfarwydd in New Welsh Review, Autumn

J. M. Jones, (1999) Teulu'r Cilie, Cyhoeddiadau Barddas

R. Jones (1992) Delinquent Free Spirit or Astute Operator? in New Welsh Review, no. 4, Spring.

W.J. Lewis (1988) New Quay and Llanarth

A. Lycett (2004) Thomas Untutored in Oxford Today, Hilary

D. Parry-Jones (1948) Welsh Country Upbringing, Batsford

S. Read and T. van Veelen (2021) The geomorphology of the River Taf Estuary as a context for the evolution of the community of Laugharne, online at https://www.simonread.info/within-the-living-memory-of-the-dead/

G. B. Roberts (1953) A Changeless Spirit in the story-book town of New Quay, Western Mail, May 7th

S. C. Passmore (1986) New Quay at the time of the 1851 Census, Ceredigion, 3,5.

(2012) Farmers and Figureheads: the Port of New Quay and its Hinterland, Grosvenor.

(2015) The Streets of New Quay, Lulu Press

C. Thomas (1957) Leftover Life to Kill, Putnam

(1986) Caitlin: Life with Dylan Thomas, Secker and Warburg

D. M. Thomas (1946) Quite Early One Morning, in Wales, Autumn

(1997) Collected Poems, ed. W. Davies and R. Maud, Everyman

(2000) The Collected Letters, ed. P. Ferris, Dent

D. N. Thomas (2000) Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren

(2002) The Dylan Thomas Trail, Y Lolfa

(2004), ‘The Birth of Under Milk Wood’, in Dylan Remembered 1935-1953 vol 2, Seren

(2004), ‘Conceiving Polly Garter’, in Dylan Remembered 1935-1953 vol 2, Seren

W. Wilkinson (1948) Puppets in Wales, Bles

N. Wourm (2001) Illuminations of the Mind: an interview with S. W Rhydderch, in New Welsh Review, Autumn

A Guide to New Quay. Being a Short Description of New Quay as a Watering Place, 1895, The Welsh Press

The Rough Guide, 1998

I have also made use of the following collections:

The Sue Passmore New Quay Collection, The Ceredigion Archive, Aberystwyth

The Colin Edwards Archive, National Library of Wales

New Quay Women's Institute Minutes 1938-46

Dylan Thomas Archive, Texas

Welsh Gazette, Cambrian News and Cardigan and Tivyside Advertiser, 1935-45. The Welsh Gazette usually carried a weekly report on New Quay. From the 1930s, it also published articles on the town.