Dylan Thomas and The Edge of Love: the Real Story

 
©                                                                                      David N Thomas
 

If any of the family trees in this paper seem scrambled on your screen, please click on the blue link at the bottom of this page to read the paper as a Word document. 

                                                                  

 

 

                                           For Dai Jenkins

 

The railway never came to New Quay; not, that is, until 2008 when the scriptwriter of The Edge of Love blessed it with its very own station. This was one of the many deceits of a film that trivialised the friendship between Dylan Thomas and his Swansea friend, Vera Phillips, by depicting them as lovers, and broadly hinting at a love affair between Vera and Caitlin. The casting of Matthew Rhys gave some plausibilty to the idea of a ménage à trois but Vera herself was more realistic: Dylan, she once said, “looked like a giant frog.”

The film makes much of the two women frolicking sexily in summer dresses on New Quay’s cliffs, another deceit to groom us into seeing them as something more than just soul mates. In truth, they were there during a very cold winter, so cold that many rivers froze over, but mufflers and woolly hats would not have produced the same frisson. Some of the film’s hanky-panky takes place in and around the Thomases’ bath but Majoda, their cliff-top shack, had no such luxuries. Water had to be carried from a tap on the road; the nearest they ever got to a bath was a bucket and sponge.
[i]

Much of the film’s fiction was pointless: Vera was given a Swansea accent (she’d had elocution lessons as a young girl) as well as a baby boy (all her children were girls), whilst baby Aeronwy was written out of the story altogether.[ii] The film also tells us that Vera’s husband, William Killick, was jealous of Dylan (he wasn’t), that Vera was present on the night he fired a machine gun into Majoda (she wasn’t) and that Dylan gave hostile evidence at Killick’s trial (he didn’t). In the film, the jury acquits Killick in defiance of the judge but in the actual trial the judge instructed the jury to acquit.

They claimed in the credits that the film was based on one of my books but the scriptwriter, Sharman Macdonald, had the grace to come clean. She allowed herself to “take liberties” with Dylan, she said, because she did not see him as an iconic figure. The film “is not true, it's surmise on my part, it's a fiction… I made it up.”[iii]   

Yet the truth about Dylan and Vera is altogether more interesting than Macdonald’s inert fiction, as one reviewer described it. The early passages of their story are not to be found in New Quay or even Swansea, but in deepest, muddiest Carmarthenshire amongst the marriages made by the Williamses, Dylan’s maternal ancestors: Vera was family. And her side of the family included some very interesting characters indeed, including the “old shrew” of Llanybri who accused the poet, Lynette Roberts, of being a spy. Curiously, one of Vera’s cousins had married a Whitehall mandarin who knew all about spies and spycatching, whilst another was arguably the finest fly-half that ever played for Wales.[iv]

 

Vera and Dylan’s lives had always gone closely side by side. Born within fifteen months of each other in neighbouring streets, they were pushed in their prams together through Cwmdonkin Park.[v] They went to the same dame school and elocution teacher, and played together in the Park when they were older. As teenagers, they mooched around Swansea art school, hung out in the Kardomah cafe, and joined the Little Theatre. Vera’s mother hosted parties for Dylan and his friends, both at her home and at the Phillips’ beach hut at Langland. One of the group said of Vera and her sister, Evelyn, that their

 

“home and family meant so much to us all, for we spent a great deal of time there...Dylan, too, came often to Vera Phillips’ house. They were beautiful and talented girls...they anticipated by twenty years many of the things being done today [1960s] in self-expression, in liveliness, behaviour and in their friendship with most people in Swansea who were trying to do anything in that period.”[vi]

 

Vera and Dylan went up to London at the same time, where she studied interior design, and they lived a few streets away from each other. She was no singer, as the film would have us believe, but a talented dancer and actor, who joined a professional touring group, where she played alongside Desmond Llewelyn, later ‘Q’ in the James Bond films.[vii] 

 

After the bombing of Swansea in 1941, Vera’s mother took her family to Talsarn in Cardiganshire, where Caitlin and Dylan soon joined them. He was best man at Vera’s wedding in 1943. A year later, they were living in adjoining bungalows on the cliff-top at New Quay. Vera helped the Thomases with food and money, and shared child care duties with them; when one of the women was baby-sitting, Dylan would take the other to the pub, an arrangement that set the Bethel tongues a-wagging.

                                                                                                                        

Dylan and Vera had a good deal in common, both coming from Welsh-speaking families with the same kind of farming background.[viii] Geographically, this was the Llansteffan peninsula (Penrhyn Deuddwr) that lies between the Tâf and Tywi estuaries in Carmarthenshire, a rich mix of Williams and Phillips relatives with a shared family history. This was where both Vera and Dylan’s grandparents had been born and brought up, and where her family had farmed over six hundred acres.[ix]  

 

But the bond between them was more than a common farming history. Dylan and Vera were affinal cousins, related not through blood, but by a sequence of seven interlocking marriages made in the nineteenth century that bound the families together for generations. As one Phillips descendent put it: "if you stepped on a particular family's toes, many families would get hurt."[x] Relationships were strengthened by common membership of Capel Newydd, Llanybri, and by a proximity on the ground that allowed the Williams and Phillips farms to help each other in the fields.[xi] In this kind of situation, an affinal cousin living nearby could be closer emotionally, and would be of more practical help, than a blood cousin living at a distance: better a distant, but near-by, cousin than a far brother. So, too, with Vera and Dylan; partly because of their shared history, but largely through their growing up together, Dylan and Vera would have been closer to each other than to some of their own blood cousins.

 

Cwmllyfri farm, Stanley Lewis, c1950

In the late 1930s, Vera decided to find out more about her father’s family. She came from Swansea by car to tour the peninsula. [xii] She probably started at Cwmllyfri farm, just outside Llanybri, where her grandfather, William Phillips, had been born and brought up. He was the same age as Dylan’s grandmother, Hannah, who lived a mile or so away at Waunfwlchan farm with her parents, Thomas Williams and his wife Anne, the eldest daughter of the Harries family of Plas Isaf, Llanybri. So Hannah and William would have known each other, as children and teenagers, meeting up in the round of farm work, at chapel services and festivals and at those rural events that brought young people together, such as fairs and markets.[xiii]  

 

But the Williams and Phillips families not only lived close together, they married each other as well. William and Hannah would have had much to celebrate, and even more to speculate about. Her father’s sister, and then the sister’s daughter, married two of her mother’s brothers. Two of William’s siblings also married into the Harries side of Hannah’s family, whilst William himself was twice related to the Williamses by marriage. What these arrangements lacked in genetic diversity, they made up for in solidarity. By the 1870s, the Williams, Phillips and Harries families were knitted and knotted together as both relations and neighbours – a segment of the family tree is given below, with more details in this footnote.[xiv] Signs of the closeness between the Phillips and Williams families also appear in various documents; we find, for example, a Williams being an executor for a Phillips’ Will in 1872. [xv]

 

Vera might then have taken the track across to Tirbach farm. Her grandfather had moved there after his marriage; it was a step-up in the world, with some sixty acres and three servants to help, but it quickly fell apart. William’s mother had died when he was only three, and now his wife, daughter and father all died within the space of three years. William struggled on but in 1873 he left the farm, married again, had more children, including Vera’s father, and then died soon after in his early forties, still a young man.[xvi]  

But out of Phillips tragedy came Williams success. Getting on in the countryside can depend on who you’re related to. Not surprisingly then, Vera’s grandfather was followed in as the tenant farmer by one of Hannah’s brothers. The Williamses were at Tirbach for almost thirty years, from where they built up their extensive acreage on the peninsula through hard work and good marriages.[xvii] 

Vera also visited Llanybri, passing by Capel Newydd, where the Williams and Phillips graves lie right next to each other, reflecting their closeness in life.[xviii] She might well have called on Amelia Phillips, her cousin-in-law.  Amelia was about to get a new neighbour, Lynette Roberts, and they didn’t take to each other at all. Amelia was soon gossiping that Roberts was a German spy. By 1942, most of the village had turned against her, including the children, who threw stones as she walked by. Roberts saw Amelia as the instigator and her poem, Raw Salt on Eye, captures her torment and misery.[xix]

 

Vera would not have lingered long with Amelia. There was still Plas Isaf to visit in the centre of the village, a farm that was important in both her own and Dylan’s family history. It was now being farmed by one of Dylan’s uncles, but his (Dylan’s) great-great-grandparents, Evan and Anne Harries, had lived here from the 1830s. They were followed in by their daughter, Theodocia, who, in 1865, married one of Vera’s great-uncles. They lived here for almost forty years.[xx] Their daughter, Ann Phillips, was a first cousin once removed both to Vera and to Dylan’s mother, Florence.[xxi] The family tree below makes clear that the Phillipses of Plas Isaf and Mwche and the Williamses of Waunfwlchan had a shared ancestry, beginning with Anne and Evan Harries of Plas Isaf.                            

                        
 
  ....//... = half-sisters    <> = first cousins      ©¯ = lovechild            ..........® = related by marriage   

(Sarah and William married each other, and farmed Pen-y-coed. John Harries and Jane Daniel married each other and farmed Llwynbrain, Banc-y-felin. Jane was the lovechild of Sarah Williams of Pen-y-coed and Theophilus Daniel (1800-1855) of Wernoleu farm, Llangynog. Jane’s first cousin, once removed, was Jane Lloyd of Glogue, the farm next door to Fernhill. In 1863, she married William Phillips, and they farmed Tirbach. See Note 14 for more on this.)                        

                                                          

Of course, Ann Phillips was also a first cousin once removed to Florence’s siblings, including her half-sister, Anne Gwyn. The two Annes were the same age, born in 1866, and had grown up together. Anne had married into local gentry, and she and Ann Phillips then found themselves living cheek by jowl in Llanybri, one at Plas Isaf and the other right next door at Plas Uchaf. As a close neighbour and cousin, Ann was on hand to offer support when Anne Gwyn’s husband died not long after their marriage. When Anne re-married in 1895, Ann Phillips was one of the witnesses at the ceremony.[xxii]

 

The two cousins continued to be neighbours. Anne settled with her new husband, Robert Williams, in Llansteffan. Some years later, Ann Phillips (seen, left, by the horse) moved into nearby Mwche, a grand country house with orchards, lawns and almost two hundred acres that included, claimed the estate agent, “a nice trout stream…and good Partridge and Wild Fowl Shooting.” [xxiii]

  

But the first years for the two Annes were taken up as much with tragedy as pleasure. Anne Williams lost her mother and two sons, all within the space of fifteen months. The first to go was her eldest son, Thomas Gwyn, “a very well read man and a wonderful preacher.” Ordained at St Paul’s, he worked as a curate amongst the poor of Bethnal Green, where he caught TB. Most of the Williamses were at the funeral, as well as the Phillips of Mwche. And when Anne herself came to draw up her Will, she made Robert Phillips of Mwche one of her executors.[xxiv] 

 

Ann Phillips was still living at Mwche when Vera did her tour. So were some of Vera’s cousins, including Gwladys Phillips who was also Dylan’s cousin. [xxv] Gwladys, the little girl in front of the horse, knew all the family history and “would often talk about Dylan.”  He would have been a familiar figure to her: he and his parents had taken their holidays in Llansteffan with Anne Williams and they would undoubtedly have visited their relatives at Mwche. Later, the farm was on the footpath that took him from the Laugharne ferry to the Farmers’ Arms in Llanybri, where he liked to gossip with the local lads (“he was a real farmer in his way”, recalled the landlady).[xxvi] The Williamses and the Phillipses were always on good terms, and remained so even after they moved out of Mwche in the 1980s.[xxvii] 

 

The Evans family in Pentowyn, next door to Mwche, were also Dylan and Vera’s relations - her father’s cousin had married the eldest son of the farm, who was a first cousin to Hannah Williams of Waunfwlchan, Dylan's maternal grandmother. Pentowyn had almost as many acres as Mwche and had long been a mixed holding of Williamses and Phillipses. It was at its most Williams in the early 1900s, when Jim and Annie Jones had farmed here before moving to Fernhill.[xxviii] The combined acreage of the two farms stretched from the very tip of the peninsula at Black Scar Point almost to Glyn Jones’ Cwm-celyn. It was this expanse of Williams and Phillips fields that filled Dylan’s view as he looked across from Laugharne, from his writing shed in which Caitlin had installed windows so that he could look out over the estuary at the family farms: “These were the woods the river and sea/Where a boy/In the listening/ Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy/To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.” Beyond the ridge, rolling down to Llansteffan and the rip and tear of the Twyi, were the fields of Down and Laques-newydd, farmed by the Francis family, related both to Dylan and Vera.[xxix]  

 

 

 

 
 
 
On the far left, Cwm-celyn, and then along the salt marsh edge, Mwche and Pentowyn.
 
 
 
 
  
  
 
As Vera drove away, she would have caught sight of Ffynnonau, another Phillips farm that sat on the hill above Mwche.[xxx] Then it was just a few miles to Llansteffan, where she went looking for the house in which her father had been born. Afterwards, she drove north, giving her the chance to pass other Phillips farms: Heol-Down, Gilfachwen, Coomb Lodge and Coomb Farm.[xxxi]  

 

Vera was now on her way to Laugharne to visit Dylan and Caitlin. Did they know they were part of the same extended family? Had they heard the family histories that bound them together? Vera’s sister, Evelyn, certainly knew something about her farming relations. Florence would also have been an excellent source. She was, said a friend, “full of the lore of Carmarthenshire. She had all sorts of information.” Two visiting American friends were equally impressed with her grasp of local history on a tour of the peninsula in 1953, when she and Dylan swapped family stories: “And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s/Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother/ Through the parables/Of sun light/And the legends of the green chapels…”[xxxii] 

 

 

 

Sun light in the lane from Llansteffan to the Pentowyn ferry, once used by pilgrims on their way to St David's. 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Dylan and Vera continued to meet, both in Swansea and London, before finally coming together in Cardiganshire to last out the war. This was no romantic entanglement, just one family member helping out another with food, money and friendship, just as their farming forebears had done. It might not have made much of a story for a best-selling movie but, then again, Sharman Macdonald’s fiction didn’t bust box office records either, nor win much critical acclaim. 

 

Exploring Vera's family history has helped expose the depth of Dylan's roots in the families and farms at the sea-end of the Llansteffan peninsula. His maternal great-grandparents farmed Pencelli Isaf and Waunfwlchan; one pair of his grt-grt-grandparents, and their children, farmed Pen-y-coed, whilst the other pair and then their children farmed Plas Isaf in Llanybri; and one set of his grt-grt-grt-grandparents farmed Maesgwyn which, along with Llwyngwyn, is still being farmed today by the Williamses. When, in 2014, we celebrate the centenary of Dylan's birth, we shall also be celebrating the fact that his mother's side of the family has been farming on the peninsula for over two hundred years. 

 

And the fly-half and the mandarin? Sir Archibald Rowlands was a Penarth boy, out of Llangadog, who took a First in languages at Aberystwyth. He had a brilliant career in the War Office, and in India and Pakistan. He was, too, an old friend of the writer and Plaid founder, D.J. Williams. In 1920, Rowlands married the daughter of Philip Phillips, a grandson of Cwmllyfri and a cousin to Vera, as well as being her neighbour both in Swansea and New Quay. Rowlands was keen on rugby and had captained the university team. Could he have been in the crowd at St Helen’s on that wonderful day in 1935 when Vera’s Cwmllyfri cousin, Willie Davies, ran rings around the All-Blacks, with a little family help from Haydn Tanner?[xxxiii]  

 

 

 

Acknowledgements: I am especially grateful to Alun Davies (son of Ffynnonau, gt-gt-gt-grandson of Cwmllyfri, nephew of Mwche), Susan Deacon (gt-gt-gt-granddaughter of Pen-y-coed) and Elizabeth Richards (gt-gt-granddaughter of Cwmllyfri), without whose help I would have made little progress. Thanks, too, to Felicity Cleaves (gt-gt-granddaughter of Pentowyn), Elizabeth Morgan (granddaughter of Mwche and gt-granddaughter of Plas Isaf ) and Heulwen Morris (daughter of Llwyngwyn and Pen-y-coed, gt-granddaughter of Waunfwlchan, gt-gt granddaughter of Plas Isaf and gt-gt-gt granddaughter of Maesgwyn).

 

Eiluned Rees and Haydn Williams were, as ever, generous with their help, contacts and advice.

 

Thanks, too, to Ellis Davies, Mick Felton, Jane Gibson, Deric John, Stevie Krayer, Helen Osborn, Rachel Willans and Ivor Lewis and Ian Rogerson of  the Swansea Docks retired staff website. Nicola Harvey and her colleagues at the Carmarthen Registry office, Terry Wells at Carmarthen Archives, Rosemary Hughes at Carmarthen Library and staff at the National Library of Wales all helped me to gather information.

 

Images: I am grateful to Jennifer Heywood for permission to reproduce her father's painting of Cwmllyfri farm, which hangs in Carmarthen Museum. Stanley and Min Lewis lived in Llansteffan and knew Dylan and Cailtin. Stanley was Principal of Carmarthen School of Art from 1946. Min published Laugharne and Dylan Thomas in 1967. For more on Stanley Lewis' life and work, see http://www.lissfineart.com/download/Stanley_Lewis.pdf  and his own site at

StanleycLewis.wordpress.com

 

Thanks, too, to Gethin Evans for his images of Cwmllyfri and of the view across the Tâf, and to Humphrey Bolton (Pentowyn lane), Elizabeth Morgan (Mwche), Penclawdd RFC (Willie Davies), Ynysforgan Jack (Boat House).  

 

Notes

 

CE/NLW = Colin Edwards archive of interviews, National Library of Wales.

Florence = Dylan’s mother, nee Williams.



[i] Dylan and Caitlin were in New Quay from September 1944 to July 1945. The shooting incident took place on March 6 1945. The film shows Vera and Caitlin in summer clothes in the period before the shooting.  Vera lived in New Quay for longer, as did her sister, Evelyn. Their parents lived a few miles away at Plas Gelli, Talsarn from 1941. Vera’s uncle, Philip Walter Phillips, lived at 5, Church Street, New Quay, together with his wife, Margaret, and daughter, Doris.

 

Very cold winter: the local newspaper, The Cambrian News, called it “the coldest spell within memory.” (February 2 1945)

 

[ii] Vera’s elocution lessons: with Gwen James, as did her sister, Evelyn, and Dylan, too. Evelyn later taught elocution privately and then took over Gwen James’ school in Llanelli. (CE/NLW, interview with Evelyn Milton nee Phillips).

 

Vera’s first child was a girl, named Rachel. It was Aeronwy, aged 2, who was at Majoda and present on the night of the shooting, not her six-year old brother, Llewelyn. I have provided an account of the shooting in Thomas 2000, with further information in Thomas 2002.

[iii] One of my books: Thomas, 2000.  Macdonald quote: http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/insight/sharman_macdonald2.shtml She decided that Dylan was not an iconic figure soley because her son had never heard of him.

[iv] Inert and flawed: Mark Kermode, YouTube, June 20 2008, BBC 5 Live.

 

“old shrew”: Amelia Phillips, see Note 19 below. The description comes from Roberts’ poem, Raw Salt on Eye.

 

Mandarin and fly-half: see Note 33 below.

 

[v] Vera lived at 12, Bryn-y- Mor Crescent, Swansea. See chapter 1 in Thomas 2000 for more on the Phillips family.

 

[vi] One of the group: Charles Fisher, CE/NLW.

 

[vii] Vera was no singer: Vera’s daughter, Rachel Willans, March 2012; Evelyn, Vera’s sister, said that Vera “couldn’t sing in tune.” CE/NLW. Her singing would not have been helped by having a perforated eardrum for part of the war, "through which she would make a whistle like the sound of a falling bomb." (Letter to Charlotte Killick from Robin Sheldon May 30 1999.) 

 

[viii] Common background:  The Llansteffan peninsula was the land of Dylan’s aunties, a rich concentration of relatives, family history and memories rooted not just in Llangain and Llansteffan but also in the parishes of Llanybri and Llangynog. His father's family had settled in Johnstown at the top end of the peninsula. Down in its heartland, in the fields between Maesgwyn and Fernhill, Dylan had spent his childhood holidays, as had his mother in her younger days. This was where his maternal grandmother had been born and brought up, and her parents and grandparents before her. Four of his mother's siblings had been born here. Three others had retired here in the 1930s, whilst Dylan's parents lived here for the best part of the 1940s. It was his bolt-hole when, as a teenager, he was "expelled" from home, his refuge when, in married life, he was homeless and his choice for walking and picnicking when he lived in Laugharne. It was, too, the last resting place for Florence's parents, and for most of her brothers and sisters as well. For more on Dylan’s family on the Llansteffan peninsula, see https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomasandhisaunties/home  For more on the peninsula and Dylan’s visits from Laugharne, see chapter 6 of Thomas 2003.

 

[ix] Vera and Dylan’s grandparents born and brought up: both Dylan’s grandparents, and Vera’s grandfather. The following tree shows the core Phillips farms (there is a much fuller tree at Family trees on this site):

 

*Note, too, that Pentowyn was closely linked to the Phillips family. Thomas Phillips’ sister-in-law, Eliza Harries, farmed there from 1869 onwards, and she was followed by her daughter, Anna, from 1910 to the late 1950s. There was yet another link: Rachel Phillips’ husband, William, was the nephew of John Davies, who had farmed Pentowyn from at least 1841 to his death in 1869.

 

It might be helpful to indicate the dates when the Phillipses and the Williamses occupied their various farms, as shown on the map.

 

The Phillips farms: Cwmllyfri, 76 acres: from at least 1841 to 1872. Coomb Farm, 90 acres: 1850-1904. Coomb Lodge 72 acres: early 1900s to 1927. Ffynnonau, 128 acres: 1910-1970s. Gilfachwen, 21 acres : Heol-Down, 24 acres: from at least 1911. Mwche, 131 acres: c1910-1980s. Parcglas, 31 acres: at least 1861 to 1866. Parc-y-cnwc, 11 acres: from at least 1881 to at least 1891. Plas Isaf, Llanybri, 84 acres: 1865-1906. Tirbach, 56 acres: 1863-1873. Tre-huddion, 19 acres: 1845 to at least 1851.

 

Over 600 acres in total, though not all farmed at the same time by the Phillips family. For more detail from the census on most of these Phillips farms, go to Returns of the census on this site.

 

The Williams farms: Blaencwm, a pair of cottages owned by the Williamses of Waunfwlchan, and occupied by Florence’s siblings, Bob, Polly and Theodosia, from 1927 onwards, and by Florence and her husband DJ Thomas for most of the 1940s. Fernhill, c1910-1929. Llwyngwyn: 1841 to at least 1851, 1886 to the present. Maesgwyn: 1890 to the present. Mount Pleasant: a cottage owned by Jim, Annie and Idris Jones, 1929-1950. Pencelli-Isaf: 1836-1850. Pencelli-Uchaf: 1910-1951. Penlan-fach: 1851 to at least 1861*. Pentowyn: from at least 1871 to at least 1959. Plas Isaf, Llanybri: 1891-1895 and 1929 to the present.* Pentrewyman: 1893-c1929 and then to 1953*. Pen-y-coed: 1820s-1918, 1929-2011*. Tirbach: 1873 to at least 1897. Waunffort: from at least 1871 to at least 1891*. Waunfwlchan: 1841 to at least 1891.

 

* I have given the details of occupation, including the names of the occupiers, for these Williams farms at https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomasandhisaunties/returns-of-the-census-for-the-family-farms

* Pentrewyman became part of the Williams network in 1893, when Jim Jones married Annie Williams. Jim’s sister, Rachel, began farming here sometime after 1911, following on from her parents to c1929, when she was followed in by cousins of the Williams until 1953.     

* Pen-y-coed went out of the Williams family in 1918, but then became part of the Williams network in 1929 when Thomas Williams of Llwyngwyn married Mary Ann Davies, daughter of Pen-y-coed.

* Anne Gwyn nee Williams lived here 1891-1895. Plas Isaf then became part of the Williams network again through the marriage in 1929 of Thomas Williams and Mary Ann Davies.

* Penlan-fach and Waunffort are linked to the Williams relatives who settled in Pontardulais - see

https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomaspontardulais/home/dylan-and-the-bont

 

[x] Vera and Dylan affinal cousins: for an explanation, please see  Note 14 below.

 

sequence of  seven marriages: see Note 14 below.

 

[xi] Common membership of Capel Newydd: an 1863 list of the names and farms of the 23 members with monthly duties at the chapel includes: Joshua (sic) Phillips Cwmllyfri, his son William Phillips Tirbach and William’s sister, Rachel Davies, Coomb farm. On the Williams and Harries side, there is Thomas Williams Waunfwlchan (Dylan’s great-grandfather and father of Hannah), William Thomas/Harry of Pen-y-coed and his sister, Theodocia Harries of Plas Isaf, Llanybri. In the register of over 300 members from 1863 to1882, we also find, in addition to the above, Sarah Thomas nee Williams of Pen-y-coed and her daughters, Jane Daniel and Anne; Benjamin and Eliza Davies nee Harries of Pentowyn, and their daughters Ann, Theodosia and Margaret; Amy, Mary, Theodosia, John, William and Evan Williams, children of Thomas and Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan; Jane Phillips, wife of William, of Tirbach and her parents, William and Margaret Lloyd of Glogue; and Thomas and Theodocia Phillips nee Harries of Plas Isaf, Llanybri, together with Thomas’ step-mother, Frances, of Cwmllyfri. (A transcript of a register of members of Capel Newydd 1863-82, Ref No CNC/122, Carmarthen Archives.) Josiah Phillips and Thomas Williams were also both involved in the administration of the Poor Law. Josiah was an overseer of the poor in 1827, 1845 and 1854; Thomas was an overseer in 1842. (from the Llanstephan Vestry Book, Louise Davies notes. Louise Davies (1921-) of Llansteffan, formerly of Ffynnonau, was a dedicated local historian long before the advent of internet resouces. Over many years, she collected data on farms and families in the sea-end of the Llansteffan peninsula between Llangain and Llansteffan. Some of this material is in the Carmarthen archive office, but most with her son, Alun, who continues her work today.)     

 

[xii] Vera’s tour: the tour is described by her sister, Evelyn Milton, in her interview with Colin Edwards (CE/NLW). She specifically mentions Llanybri and Llansteffan as being visited, as well as the visit to see Dylan in Laugharne. Vera went with her mother, Maria, but it is not clear from Evelyn’s description whether or not her father, Thomas Phillips, also went. Evelyn dates it to just before or possibly just after the start of WW2.

 

[xiii] grandparents: William Phillips and Hannah Williams were both born in 1840. Hannah moved to Swansea in the mid-1860s and William to Llanelli c1873, after leaving Tirbach (see below). Hannah’s brothers, Evan b.1838 and Thomas b.1842, were also close in age to William Phillips. The Phillips family were at Cwmllyfri from at least 1841 until the death of William’s father, Josiah, in 1872. There were Williamses at Pen-y-coed continuously from the 1820s to c1918. Hannah’s paternal uncle, Daniel Williams and his wife Harriet, were at Penlan-fach (1851, 1861). Hannah, like so many of the Williamses, is buried in Capel Newydd, Llanybri, as are William’s first wife, Jane, and their daughter, Mary, not far from the Williams’ graves. And see Note 11 above on their membership of Capel Newydd, Llanybri.

[xiv] Knitted and knotted: The family trees below show how seven marriages, four of them into the Harries family of Plas Isaf, Llanybri, linked Vera’s grandfather, William Phillips of Cwmllyfri farm with Dylan’s grandmother, Hannah Williams of Waunfwlchan farm.

 

The first marriage was in 1835 between Thomas Williams, the son of John and Hannah Williams of Pen-y-coed,  and Anne Thomas, the daughter of Evan and Anne Harry of Plas Isaf, Llanybri. Thomas and Anne Williams were Dylan’s great-grandparents, and they farmed Waunfwlchan. Both Evan Harry and some of his children, including Anne, changed their surnames back and forth between Harry and Thomas, and between Harry and Harris or Harries. Anne changed her surname to Thomas sometime before her marriage. For more on these name changes see the Harries section on Family trees on this site.

 

The second marriage came in 1850 when William’s sister, Rachel Phillips, married William Davies, the son of William and Margaret Davies of Lanmartin farm. William Jnr was a first cousin to Theodocia Davies of Llwyngwyn and Maesgwyn, who in turn was a first cousin to Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan, Dylan’s great-grandmother. Rachel and William Jnr lived at Coomb Farm (she was there until 1904).  For more on this link between the Phillips and Williams families, please see Llwyngwyn and Maesgwyn on this site. For more on Rachel and William Jnr, go to Family trees on this site.

 

             

…… = siblings                      <> = first cousins      Anne Davies and David Harries married each other

This link between the Phillips and Williams families that was created by the marriage of Rachel Phillips and William Davies Jnr was strengthened in 1854 when David Harries, the brother of Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan, married William Jnr’s sister, Anne. See the Harries section in Family trees on this site for more on David and Anne. 


The third marriage, in 1851, was between William Thomas (the brother of Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan) and Sarah Williams of Pen-y-coed, sister of Anne’s husband, Thomas. William’s surname had previously been Harries; he was the son of Evan and Anne Harry of Plas Isaf, Llanybri – for more on William and his name change, see Family trees on this site. Sarah and William lived at Pen-y-coed, and took over the farm when her mother died in 1860. They were there until about 1886.

 

The fourth marriage, in 1863, was between Jane Lloyd of Glogue farm, and William Phillips of Cwmllyfri, who was Vera’s grandfather. This marriage created  three links between the Williams and Phillips families because, first,  Jane’s father, William, was a first cousin to Thomas Williams of Waunfwlchan (see the Lloyd family tree at https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomaspeninsularity/home). Second, Jane Lloyd's mother, Margaret, was a first cousin to Jane Daniel b.1842, the daughter of the above Sarah Williams of Pen-y-coed. Third, Jane Lloyd's uncle, David Richards, was married to Anne Davies, a first cousin to Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan. The links are shown in the next family tree, and further details of the connection between Anne Davies and Anne Williams can be found at Llwyngwyn and Maesgwyn on this site:

 

 


 ©¯ = lovechild           <>  = first cousin     first cousins       ........//.........  = half-siblings.  Margaret’s father is thought to have been John James of Trehuddion, Llansteffan, but it is not confirmed. The Will of David Daniel provides further information on family members: http://hdl.handle.net/10107/821263, as does the Will of Theophilus Daniel at http://hdl.handle.net/10107/469602

 

 

The fifth marriage, in 1864, was that of the above Sarah Williams’ daughter, Jane Daniel b.1842, of Pen-y-coed, to William’s brother, John Harries, also the son of Evan and Anne Harry, and a brother to Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan. See the next family tree below.

 

The sixth marriage came in the following year, when Theodocia Harries, the sister of Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan, married Thomas Phillips, the son of Josiah and Rachel Phillips of neighbouring Cwmllyfri farm. Thomas was the brother of William Phillips, Vera’s paternal grandfather, and of Rachel Phillips, who had already married relatives of Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan – see the above second marriage. Theodocia and Thomas Phillips farmed Plas Isaf, Llanybri, from their marriage in 1865.                                                                            

                    D               DDD

Dylan                                                                                       D                            DY                                                                                                            m                   D                                                                                                                          Dy  Dylan b.1914    Dylan b1914 

Sarah  = same person                     Jane = same person     ©¯ = lovechild

 

Theodosia and William Roberts and Thomas and Mary George were Dylan’s great-great-great grandparents. For more on them, and on Evan and Anne Harry of Plas Isaf, Llanybri and John and Hannah Williams of Pen-y-coed, see Family trees on this site. On Josiah and Rachel Phillips, see below and the Family trees page.

 The seventh marriage came in 1890, when John R Davies, the eldest son of Pentowyn and a grandson of Evan and Anne Harry of Plas Isaf, married Elizabeth Phillips, the daughter of David and Mary Phillips of Talvan farm, Llanddowror and, previously, Clos farm, Meidrim. John was a first cousin of Hannah Williams of Waunfwlchan, Dylan’s maternal grandmother, whilst Elizabeth was a second cousin to Thomas Phillips, Vera’s father. Please see the family tree below.

 

<> = first cousins                    <> = second cousins             

 

 Besides these seven marriages, the linkages between the Williams, Harries and Phillips families had been further augmented when, in 1871, Evan, son of Thomas and Anne Williams of Waunfwlchan, also married into the Harries family. Evan was already a Harries on his mother’s side; now he married a Harries, his first cousin, Anne Thomas of Pen-y-coed, the daughter of Sarah and William Thomas/ Harries – see the family tree below. Evan and Anne lived in Tirbach and Llwyngwyn.  

 

 

                                                  

Sarah  = same person     Jane = same person     ....//..  = half-sisters        m<> = married first cousin        ©¯ = lovechild                                                     

 

The link between the Williamses and the Phillips became even stronger in 1929, when Thomas, the son of Evan and Anne Williams of Llwyngwyn, married Mary Ann Davies of Pen-y-coed, who was already doubly related to the Phillips family - two of her cousins from the Francis family had, in the early 1900s, married the grandchildren of Rachel Davies, nee Phillips of Cwmllyfri, the sister of William Phillips, Vera’s grandfather. For more on this, see Notes on the Francis and Williams families on this site.

 

The Williams-Phillips link was given a further  boost in 1934 when Mary Ann’s brother, Gwyn, married Amy Davies, grt-granddaughter of the above Rachel Davies, nee Phillips of Cwmllyfri. For more on this, see the Phillips section in Family trees on this site.

                



Sarah  = same person     Jane = same person     ....//..  = half-sisters      <> = first cousin        

 m<> = married first cousin       ©¯ = lovechild                                                                                                                                        ¯

         

  The data on the marriages of William Phillips and Sarah Thomas, Thomas Phillips and Theodocia Harries, John Harries and Jane Daniel, and William Thomas/Harries and Sarah Williams come from marriage certificates. Please see the page of marriage certifciates on this site. I have already deposited birth and marriage certificates for the Williams family at the NLW (NLW ex 2366).

 

Jane Daniel was the love child of Sarah Williams of Pen-y-coed and Theophilus Daniel. I have the following email from Susan Deacon: “Sarah's eldest daughter, Jane Daniel (1842-1932) was my gt-gt-grandmother. Her date of birth comes from the Penycoed family Bible, I have not found any birth certificate for her. In the 1851 census, she is listed at Penycoed as the grand-daughter of Anna Williams, and using the surname Daniel. Her father Theophilus Daniel is listed at Wernolau with his parents, marital status unmarried. In his Will in 1855, he left a legacy to ‘my natural daughter, Jane’". John and Jane’s marriage certificate notes Theophilus Daniel as her father, and her address as Pen-y-coed.  For more on on John and Anna (aka Hannah)Williams and their children, see Family trees on this site, as well as p288 of Thomas 2003.

 

William Phillips and Hannah Williams, and their children and grandchildren, were part of the same extended family, and are usually described as affinal cousins i.e. they are kin linked together by  marriage. Affinity in anthropology is used to describe any kin linked by marriage, not just in-laws as we commonly use the term. The term affinal cousins includes a group wider than cousins (children of siblings, sharing one set of  grandparents) and cousins-in-law (the spouse of a cousin). Members of this wider group might often be called kinfolk or “distant” cousins, though such cousins can often be closer emotionally than immediate or blood cousins, especially if they live near by. Because they had grown up together, Vera and Dylan, for example, were close affinal cousins i.e. close “distant” cousins. 

 

The third line of relations in the above family tree is a complicated mix of cousins, siblings and spouses, some of whom are consanguineal, and some affinal.  Jane Harries and Thomas Phillips are not, strictly speaking, in-laws: he is the spouse of Jane’s sister-in-law, Theodocia Harries but, in the real world, he would be known as, and introduced as, Jane’s brother-in-law, in recognition of him as an affinal relative. The same applies at the next level. Robert and Anne Phillips of Mwche are first cousins to both Hannah Williams and to Thomas Phillips, Vera’s father. But Thomas and Hannah are not, strictly speaking, cousins (children of siblings) or cousins-in-law (the spouse of a cousin). Yet, in the real world, they were cousins in the commonsensical and everyday use of that word that recognises their affinal relationship. They are part of the same family, kinspeople joined by marriage

 

Who is to be regarded as a significant cousin, either consanguineal or affinal, is much to do with culture and circumstance, especially residential proximity and participation together in family and community activities. In the modern, urban world, affinal cousins (or affinal aunts and uncles), might not be regarded as significant relatives if, for example, they live in distant parts of the country or in different countries. There might only be contact with them at events like weddings and funerals, or through Christmas and birthday cards. But for the Williams and Phillips families, the period in question is the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries, in a remote part of rural Wales, where the Phillips and Williams farms were within a mile or so of each other. This proximity would have strengthened ties between the two families and promoted contact, both in helping with farm chores and in worship both at Capel Newydd, Llanybri, and Moriah, Llansteffan.

                                                                     

 

[xv] Signs of closeness:Daniel Williams of Waunforth” ie Waunffort, was an executor of Josiah Phillips’ Will in 1872. Daniel, who had previously lived at Penlan-fach, was the half-brother of Thomas Williams of Waunfwlchan farm, and uncle to his daughter, Hannah. Daniel was also grandfather of Robert Williams, who married his cousin Anne Gwyn (nee Williams) in 1895. For more on Daniel, see Note 31 in the paper at https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomasandhisaunties/dylan-and-his-aunties-a-portrait-of-the-poet-as-an-only-child

 

One of the witnesses of Josiah’s Will was “John Francis, shoemaker, Waungroes, Llanstephan.” He is part of the family of Francises who were related to the Williamses, and buried on the edge of the Williams’ graves at Capel Newydd. They are described as cousins in Williams funeral reports. For more on the Francises, see Notes on the Francis and Williams families on this site, as well as Thomas 2003 pp 209 and 294.            

 

At the wedding of Sarah Williams Pen-y-coed and William Thomas/Harry in 1851, the witness against Sarah’s name is Daniel Phillips. At the 1851 census, there was a Daniel Phillips living at Tirbach farm (later lived in by William Phillips, son of Cwmllyfri, and then by Sarah’s daughter, Anne). It’s likely that Daniel was a relative of the Phillips of Cwmllyfri, but as yet we have not been able to establish the nature of that relationship. 

 

[xvi] William’s troubles: In 1863, William Phillips had married Jane Lloyd, and they had four children: Josiah, William, John and Mary. They lived at Tirbach, a farm of 59 acres, a few fields south of Cwmllyfri. Jane died in May 1869, followed by their daughter, Mary, in June. William’s father, Josiah, died in 1872.  William then married Sarah Thomas of Cilrhedyn in March 1874, giving his occupation as a farmer. Sarah was the daughter of a jockey, David Thomas. By the birth of their son, Thomas (Vera’s father), in 1878, William was a labourer. By 1881, they were living in Llanelli, where William still worked as a labourer. William died in 1882 in Llanelli.

 

getting on, who you’re related to etc: William Phillips was followed into Tirbach  c1873 by Hannah’s brother, Evan Williams. He and his wife, Anne, and William Phillips were by now part of the same extended family as a result of the marriages described in Note 14 above.  Moreover, Anne had been brought up at Pen-y-coed, which is just a half-mile up the road from Cwmllyfri, where William was brought up. At the 1871 census, Evan and Anne, and their baby, were living at Pen-y-coed with her parents in very over-crowded conditions. It was Evan and Anne’s first farm after their marriage in 1871. Evan and Anne were followed at Tirbach by Evan’s brother, John. Then Annie and Jim Jones (later of Pentowyn and Fernhill) moved into Tirbach after their marriage in 1893; their son Idris was born there in 1897.

 

built up their acreage: after success on Tirbach’s 59 acres, Evan moved on to farm Llwyngwyn (190 acres); then three of his children made good marriages: his daughter Sarah farmed Maesgwyn (132 acres) and his daughter Annie farmed Pencelli Uchaf (93 acres). His son, Thomas, married Mary Ann Davies of Pen-y-coed, bringing that farm back into the Williams’ fold after a gap of 12 years.

 

[xviii] Graves: the Williams, Harries and Phillips graves are immediately side by side. See Photos of the family farms and graves on this site.

 

[xix] Amelia Phillips (1865-1946): Amelia was married, in 1901, to Edward Phillips (1863-1920), a Llanybri tailor, who was Vera’s first cousin once removed, though the age difference would have made Amelia and Edward seem more like aunt and uncle (see the family tree below). They lived in a  cottage called Tygwyn. This was next-door-but-one to Ty Gwyn, where Lynette Roberts (1909–1995) had come to live after marrying Keidrych Rhys in October 1939. Some of the villagers thought Roberts was a German spy; her neighbour, Amelia Phillips, was her principal tormentor. Roberts writes of the experience in her poem “Raw Salt on Eye”, in which Amelia Phillips is mentioned by name. Roberts also uses her sayings in Village Dialect (1944). Amelia was not a native of Llanybri, but had been born in Llanfihangel Abercowin. Edward’s parents, David and Margaret Phillips, had lived in Llanybri since about their marriage in 1842. The throwing of stones is mentioned in Roberts’ diary for August 4 1942 (see Roberts, 2008), where she also writes that “Most of the village turned against me…” The effect on her, she wrote, was “grave and penetrating.” Conway Davies visited Roberts during the war but he does not refer in his account to the trouble she was having (Davies 2002).

 


<> = first cousins       There is a fuller account of these children on the page Family trees on this site.

 

[xx] Dylan’s uncle at Plas Isaf: this was John Hywel Davies, b.1898, a son of Pen-y-coed. He was Dylan’s affinal first cousin once removed, but the age difference would have made him seem like an uncle. He was the brother of Mary Ann Davies of Pen-y-coed who married Thomas Williams of Llwyngwyn in 1929. Thomas was Florence’s first cousin. John Hywel and his wife Phyllis had started farming Plas Isaf in the 1920s and their family is still there today (2012).  There's a list of Mary Ann's other siblings on p209 of Thomas 2003, including Olwen who married Daniel Evans of Brook Forge.                         

                                                                                                                                     

[xxi] Ann Phillips(1866-1944): Ann and Vera were first cousins once removed but, again, the age difference would have made Ann seem more like an aunt. Ann was the daughter of Thomas and Theodocia Phillips of Plas Isaf, Llanybri. Thomas, who was Vera’s great-uncle, had married Theodocia Harries in 1865, and Ann was their first child. Theodocia’s parents, Evan and Anne Harry, had farmed Plas Isaf since the 1830s, and were there at the 1841 census. Theodocia had farmed it herself in the years before her marriage. Thomas Phillips died in 1906, after a heart attack in the Farmers’ Arms (The Welshman, 24/8/1906), and Plas Isaf moved out of the Phillips family. Ann Phillips went to live with her brother, Robert, at Mwche (see below). Thomas and Theodocia, as well as Ann, Robert and his wife Sarah, are buried at Capel Newydd, next to the Williams graves. 

Dylan’s mother, Florence, and Ann Phillips were first cousins once removed. Ann and her brother Robert were first cousins once removed not just to Florence but also, of course, to her sisters Annie Fernhill, Polly, Theodosia and her half-sister, Anne Gwyn nee Williams, Llansteffan (on whom, see below).

 

[xxii] Anne Gwyn nee Williams(1866-1922): Anne’s mother was Amy Williams of Waunfwlchan, the younger sister of Florence’s mother, Hannah. Anne’s father was Hannah’s husband, George Williams, so Anne was Florence’s half-sister. See Thomas 2003, p185 and Note 52. For more on Amy, who lived in Ferryside, see https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomasandhisaunties/home

 

Anne Gwyn and Ann Phillips were first cousins once removed. Both had been born in 1866. Ann had grown up at Plas Isaf, Llanybri and Anne with her grandparents at Waunfwlchan until her marriage in 1891; both families attended Capel Newydd.

 




©¯ = love child           <> =first cousins

 

In the early 1890s, the two Annes lived next door to each other. Anne Williams had had a baby, Gladys (1885-1893), father unknown (Gladys died at Plas Uchaf and Anne is named as her mother on the death certificate). Anne then married, in 1891, John Gwyn, son of Plas Cwrthir, Llangain. They had one child, Thomas Edward Gwyn (1892-1916). They lived at Plas Uchaf, Llanybri, which was next door to Ann Phillips in Plas Isaf; both houses were in the centre of the village behind the Farmers’ Arms (today, Plas Isaf and Plas Uchaf are separated by two modern houses).

 

John Gwyn died in 1893; Anne stayed on at Plas Uchaf, which was still her address when she married her cousin, Robert Williams, at Holy Trinity Chrurch, Llanybri, in 1895, and Ann Phillips was one of the witnesses (marriage certificate). Anne and Robert Williams lived at Rose Cottage, Llansteffan (1911 census, 1918 and 1919 Register of Electors). Their children, Dylan’s first cousins, were William (1897-1917) and Doris (1902-1967) who married Randy Fulleylove. Anne and her children were at Rose Cottage in 1911, and she and her husband, Robert Williams, were there on the Register of Electors for 1918 and 1919. At some later point, Anne moved to Forest House, Brigstocke Tce., Ferryside, where she wrote her Will, leaving a net estate of £83,000. She died there in May 1922.

 

[xxiii] Mwche: At the sale of the property in 1891, it was described as having a dining room, drawing room, six bedrooms and an attic, two kitchens, scullery and dairy. It had extensive farm buildings including a coach house and saddle room (John Francis sale catelogue, NLW). At the 1881 census, Mwche had 290 acres, and advertised at the 1891 sale with 299, which constituted Mwche (161 acres), Ffynnonau (98) and Rhooks (40). But the estate was later split up: William Evans bought Ffynnonau “and at a later date bought Mwche and 30 acres of Mwche's tidal marshland was put with Ffynnonau. Hence he made a farm each for his 2 daughters of 130 acres each.” (email from Alun Davies, July 20 2012). The two daughters were Sarah, who married Robert Phillips and  farmed Mwche, and Mary Anne, who married David Davies and carried on farming Ffynnonau after her father. The sale map showing the extent of Mwche and neighbouring Ffynnonau, is on The Mwche estate map on this site. 

 

[xxiv] Funerals: Thomas Edward Gwyn, Dylan’s oldest first cousin, died in 1916 at Rose Cottage, Llansteffan, aged twenty-four. For more on his preaching career see Thomas 2004, p22. Anne’s mother, Amy Jones of Ferryside, died on July 30 1917. Anne’s second son, William Williams, died on August 3 1917, aged twenty, the day of his grandmother Amy’s funeral. He had gone swimming at, strangely, Gravel Gwyn, Llansteffan. Most of the local Williamses were at Thomas Gwyn’s funeral, as well as those from Ferryside, Llandyfaelog, Pontardulais and Swansea. The Phillipses were represented at the funeral by  Robert Phillips of Mwche, who is described as a cousin. (Carmarthen Journal, 21/4/1916).

 

[xxv] Vera and Dylan’s relations at Mwche: Ann Phillips (1866-1944) did not marry. By 1911, she had moved from Plas Isaf to Mwche to live with her brother Robert (1868-1925) and his wife Sarah Evans (1878-1956) of neighbouring Ffynnonau. Robert and Sarah had married in July 1902 and farmed Mwche from c1910 (and see 1911 census). Ann and Sarah were still living at Mwche in the 1930s when Vera did her tour. See also Note 30 on Ffynnonau.  There is a photo of Robert, Sarah and Ann outside Mwche on Photos of the family farms and graves on this site.

 

Vera’s second cousins at Mwche were the several children of Robert and Sarah, including Gwladys b.1908, who are named in Family trees on this site, all of whom were cousins to both Vera  and Dylan. Ann Phillips and her brother Robert, were first cousins both to Vera’s father, Thomas Phillips, and Dylan’s grandmother, Hannah Williams. See the first page of Family trees on this site. 

 

[xxvi] Gwladys and Dylan: information from Gwladys’ niece, Elizabeth Morgan, daughter of David Edward Phillips, and granddaughter of Robert and Sarah Phillips.

 

Holidays at Llansteffan: Dylan and his parents used to holiday with Anne Williams/Gwyn at Rose Cottage, Llansteffan until Anne’s death in 1922. It is more than likely that they would have visited their relatives at Mwche on these holidays. For more on these holidays, see the interviews with Anne’s daughter, Doris, and Llansteffan resident, Ocky Owen in Thomas 2003 (in full at CE/NLW).

 

Farmers’Arms: see Thomas 2004, chapter 6, on Dylan and the Farmers’ Arms.

 

[xxvii] Moving out of Mwche: Gwladys moved out in the 1980s with her brother, Llewelyn, to a bungalow called Wenallt in Llangain. Another brother,  David Edward Phillips, a retired police officer, was clerk to the Llangain community council.  

Good terms: Heulwen Morris of Llwyngwyn told me that the Phillipses were “always good friends” with Dylan’s relatives at Llwyngwyn and Maesgwyn. The friendship continued when Gwladys moved to Llangain. (on Heulwen, see https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomasandhisaunties/home ) 

[xxviii] Pentowyn and the Mwche Phillips were cousins: Anna Evans nee Davies of Pentowyn was a first cousin to Robert Phillips of Mwche and his sister, Ann. The tree belows shows all of Anna’s first cousins. She was also a first cousin once removed to Florence ie a first cousin to Florence’s mother, Hannah.    

 <> = first cousins     m<> = married first cousin         Jane  = same person.      ....//...... = half-sisters

 

Thomas Phillips of Plas Isaf was the brother of William Phillips, whose son, Thomas, was Vera’s father. Vera was a second cousin to Gwladys of Mwche and an affinal second cousin to Anna Pentowyn’s several children. Vera’s father was, of course, a first cousin to Robert and Ann of Mwche, and an affinal cousin to the eight other children of the Harries siblings shown above. He was also a second cousin-in-law to Eliza and Ben Davies’ eldest son, John Richard,  who had married Elizabeth Phillips, Thomas’ second cousin. See Note 14 above   

Pentowyn a mixed holding: here’s the story of the farm as I presently understand it. Pentowyn was farmed in the early 1800s by Richard Davies, son of Llwyngwyn, whose brother, David, married Theodocia Robert of Maesgwyn, the sister of Dylan's great-great grandmother, Anne Harries of Plas Isaf, Llanybri. Richard left his estate to his brother, John, in 1839 (St. David's Probate Records, 1556-1858 (WlAbNL)3650004), but it is not clear whether or not this included Pentowyn. John is at the farm on the 1841 census; he is still there in 1861, when it’s noted as a farm of 604 acres, employing 24 labourers. John was unmarried but he seems to have had three relatives working as labourers on the farm. One of these is Benjamin Davies b.1835, possibly John Davies’ nephew. On September 17 1857, Benjamin married Eliza Harries b.1839 of Plas Isaf, Llanybri (marriage certificate), and John Davies was one of the witnesses.  Three of Eliza’s siblings married into the Williams family (see above tree), whilst her sister, Theodocia, and her grandson, John R. Davies of Pentowyn, married into the Phillips family (on John’s marriage, see Note 14 above). Through these marriages, Pentowyn became linked to both the Phillips and the Williams families. But there was also another link to the Phillipses: Rachel Phillips, daughter of Cwmllyfri, married John Davies’ nephew, William, as in the following tree:

 

        

                     

For more on Rachel and William, see the page Family trees on this site.  For more on Richard and John, see Llwyngwyn and Maesgwyn on this site.                                       

Benjamin and Eliza Davies lived first in Llansteffan, where he worked as an agricultural labourer (1861). Their address in 1869, when their son John was born, was Tyr Meirw in Llansteffan, and Benjamin is listed as a farmer on the birth certificate. They then moved to Pentowyn, presumably after John Davies’ death, which they farmed from at least 1871. Their children included John R. Davies b.1870 and Anna b.1875, who were first cousins to their neighbours, Robert Phillips and his sister, Ann, at next-door Mwche farm (see above family tree). Benjamin, Eliza and Anna are still at Pentowyn in 1881; they are there in 1891 (though Eliza has now died)  but by 1901 they have moved to neighbouring Lacques-newydd, where their farm labourer is a young Llangynog man named David Evans. Their place at Pentowyn was taken by Jim and Annie Jones (nee Williams), who came here sometime after the birth of their son Idris at Tirbach in 1897. At over two hundred acres, Pentowyn was a step up in the world for Jim and Annie, and this was also reflected in the composition of the household: it included a cook, a servant and three agricultural workers. Annie’s sister, Polly, soon came to stay (1901 census), as did Florence and DJ Thomas after their marriage in 1903 (Rees Davies interview, CE/NLW).

Anna Davies married David Evans in 1903, and presumably they lived at Lacques-newydd with her widowed father, Benjamin. Jim and Annie Jones were still at Pentowyn in 1906 (Register of Electors) but by 1910, they were at Fernhill (1910 land tax survey). Jim’s failure as a farmer at Pentowyn gave David and Anna the opportunity to return. They are at Pentowyn in 1911, together with their several children and with Anna’s father, Benjamin. David was at the farm until his death in 1945, and Anna until her death in 1959. It’s clear from family events such as funerals that David and Anna were seen, and saw themselves, as very much part of the Williams family. They are buried, together with Eliza and Benjamin, at Capel Newydd, next to the Williams, Phillips and Harries graves. Pentowyn had 216 acres in 1881.  

[xxix] Pentowyn related to Vera: her father’s second cousin, Elizabeth Phillips, had married John Davies, the eldest son of Pentowyn. See the end of Note 14 for more detail on this.  

Poetry quotation: taken from Poem in October, completed at Blaencwm, Llangain, in 1944, but conceived some years earlier in Laugharne. 

installed windows: Dylan's daughter, Aeronwy, has recalled that Caitlin installed the windows in the shed for Dylan "so that he could look out over the estuary at the farms that used to belong to the Williams family..." (A video interview by Jennifer Heywood, daughter of the Llansteffan artists and writers, Stanley and Min Lewis, at 

 

Down and Laques-newydd farms: for how Dylan and Vera were related to these farms, see Notes on the Francis and Williams  families on this site. 

 

[xxx] Ffynnonau: farmed by Mary Anne Evans and her husband, David Davies of Ferry farm, since their marriage in 1910, though it had previously been farmed by her father, William Evans, from the 1890s. Mary Anne’s sister, Sarah, married Robert Phillips of Plas Isaf, Llanybri, and they lived at Mwche. Mary and David were succeeded at the farm by their son, Richie Davies, and it remained in the family until the 1970s. At the 1891 Mwche sale, Ffynnonau had 98 acres. I received the following email from Alun Davies, paternal grandson of Mary Anne: “William Evans lived at Manarddwylan St Clears a tennant of the Phillip's of Picton Castle. William Evans was having great difficulty with his landlord getting repairs done to the farm especially the house. He was forced into buying a farm himself, so around 1895 he bought Ffynnonau and had a new house built there. Robert and Sarah started their married live there, they then moved to a farm in Laugharne and about 1910 William Evans purchased Mwche farm which was adjoining Ffynnonau. Robert and Sarah Phillips moved to Mwche and Mary Evans married David Davies of Ferry farm and they settled in Ffynnonau.” June 2012. But there is yet another Phillips link to Ffynnonau: Rachel Phillips, daughter of Cwmllyfri, had a great-granddaughter, Louise, who married the above Ritchie Davies. Their son, Alun, lives in Llansteffan today. There is more on this in the page Family trees on this site.

 

[xxxi] Vera’s father: Thomas Phillips was born on December 22 1878 in Shantstone House, Llansteffan. William, his father, is described on the birth certificate as a labourer. It’s likely that Thomas was named after his Plas Isaf uncle. I can’t find Shantstone House on census returns. Nor have any of my contacts in Llansteffan ever heard of it. The Register Office think it could also be “Shandstone” or “Standstone” house, but these aren’t to be found in Llansteffan on the 1881 census either. My best bet is that it was St Anthony Cottage (spelt “Stantony” in the census), which was a common lodging house with two families there. Thomas was brought up in Llanelli, before he moved to the Rhondda where he met and married Maria Morgans of Llanarth, New Quay. They had four children, Evan b.1910, William b.1911, Evelyn b. 1912 and Vera b.1916 in Swansea . Thomas worked in insurance for most of his life.

 

Other Phillips farms: for more on the Phillipses at Heol-Down, Gilfachwen, Coomb Farm and Coomb Lodge, which were farmed by Vera’s cousins, see Family trees on this site.

 

[xxxii] Evelyn knew something: referring to Dylan, she said: “I have much the same background as he’s got, with Welsh-speaking parents but an English-speaking neighbourhood as he had himself, with relations with the same kind of farming background, and all these things about our backgrounds are very similar…” Evelyn Milton (nee Phillips), CE/NLW. Although Vera and Evelyn's father, Thomas Phillips, had gone to live in Llanelli as a baby, his older half-brother Josiah, also living in Llanelli, would have been a source of information about the Phillips' farming background, as would Thomas' various aunts, uncles and cousins who were living in Neath and Swansea (see the Phillips section in Family trees on this site). When Thomas married Maria Morgans in 1908, his father, William Phillips, was described as "Fisherman and Game Keeper" on the' marriage certificate.

 

Full of the lore: this was a comment made by radio journalist, Colin Edwards, in his interview with Gwyneth Edwards. At CE/NLW.

 

Visiting Americans: John Brinnin, Dylan’s American agent, and Rollie McKenna, a photographer. They went on a tour of the peninsula with Dylan and Florence in 1953: Mrs Thomas entertained us with a flow of anecdotes of gentry and yeomanry, called Dylan’s attention to a hundred houses or woodlands or chapels, and seemed altogether delighted in her role of cicerone.”

 

They went to Capel Newydd, Llanybri, where the stori (es continued. Florence paid her respects at one grave after another, wrote Brinnin, “pointing out to Dylan names he had probably forgotten...Dylan followed after his mother silently, listening to her little stories of the dead.” As they returned at dusk to Laugharne, there were more tales. Florence was bright and sprightly, laughing with Dylan “as they recounted old stories the day’s visits had recalled.” See Brinnin 1955, chapter 7.

 

As a young boy, Dylan may not have been totally enthralled by the details of his family history, or Vera’s, but his mother, an able raconteur, would have been able to weave colourful stories from it. Later, Dylan had other sources of local knowledge; for example, in pubs such as the Farmers’ Arms in Llanybri and the Edwinsford in Llansteffan: “Oh, Dylan was a proper gentleman. He was a real farmer in his way, you know, talking to you…he used to like to have Llangain people there. Some of the boys from Llangain, and talking to those always.” Sarah Ann Evans, landlady of the Farmers’ Arms, CE/NLW and in chapter 6 of Thomas 2003.

 

[xxxiii] Whitehall Mandarin: Sir Archibald Rowlands (1892-1953), on whom see Family trees on this site. As private secretary to three Secretaries of State for War, he worked closely with the security services. As Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Supply, he was involved with the detection and exposure of the Soviet spy, Klaus Fuchs. He was also closely involved with the Venona project (a secret collaboration between US and UK intelligence agencies), particularly in relation to Soviet spies within the Australian government and Communist Party.  He was also one of the very few privy to Nomination, an MI6-CIA group set up to swap information about the Soviet Union’s atomic activities. For more on Rowlands, see  http://wbo.llgc.org.uk/en/s2-ROWL-ARC-1892.html   and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Rowlands)  as well as DJ Williams’ extended tribute to him in Baner ac Amserau Cymru in 1955. He and Williams were at Aberystwyth together; their correspondence is at NLW. Rowland’s first letter in the archive to Williams is from Penarth in 1915; the last are from Henley and Delhi in 1945, in which Rowlands writes: “I am getting so tired that there is nothing I would like better than to retire to a little seaside village in the west of Wales.” Perhaps he had New Quay in mind, where his parents-in-law now lived. They were Phillip Walter Phillips, a grandson of Cwmllyfri, and his wife Margaret. For more on Philip Walter Phillips etc, see Family trees on this site.

 

Finest fly-half: Willie Davies of Penclawdd, who played for Swansea, Wales and Bradford Northern. Part of the winning Swansea side in 1935 against the All Blacks, together with his cousin, Haydn Tanner. Willie was the grt-grandson of Rachel Phillips of Cwmllyfri, sister of William Phillips, Vera’s grandfather. See the Phillips section in Family trees on this site. 

 

 

References

 

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

 

C. Davies (2002) A Nest of Singing Birds, in The Carmarthenshire Antiquary, vol 38

 

L. Roberts (1944) Village Dialect, Druid Press

                  (2005) Collected Poems, ed. P. McGuiness, Carcanet

                  (2008) Diaries, Letters and Recollections, ed. P. McGuiness, Carcanet

 

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

                        (2002) The Dylan Thoms Trail, Y Lolfa                       

                        (2003) Dylan Remembered 1914-1934 vol 1, Seren

                        (2004) Dylan Remembered 1935-1953 vol 2, Seren

                        (2011) Dylan Thomas and his aunties, Cambria, October and at              https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomasandhisaunties/home

 

D. J. Williams (1955) Syr Archibald Rowlands, in Baner ac Amserau Cymru, April 6-May 18, five articles.            

 

 

 

ĉ
David Celyn,
7 Apr 2014, 10:25
Comments