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Tom Williams, Fernhill

I’m sometimes asked if Tom Williams, who moved into Fernhill after Annie and Jim Jones had left, was part of Dylan’s maternal family,

the Williamses i.e. descended from the Williams of Pen-y-coed and the Harries of Plas Isaf, Llanybri, both Dylan’s great-great 

grandparents. The interest in Tom springs partly from the fact that Dylan and Florence visited him at Fernhill in September 1953, 

together with John Brinnin who wrote at length about the visit in his book, Dylan Thomas in America. Rollie Mckenna took a 

photograph of them together in the lane outside the house.


        

“As we drew up, the new owner and his dog came out…he led us through a little fine-graveled courtyard and into the house by way of a tiny conservatory roseate with giant geraniums. From the rafters of the dining room great sides of cured bacon hung in neat rows above heavy dark tables and chairs, and a glinting exhibition of blue and white china..."


"Seen from a little distance, the house assumed a simple beauty, black shutters against yellow-wash giving it the appearance of a child's drawing of a house."


"When we came back to the car after our rambling tour of the farm, Rollie took shots of Mrs Thomas and Dylan as they chatted with the congenial new owner..."                                                        




 

Tom was born in 1901, and so was just three years younger than Idris Jones, Annie and Jim Jones’ only son. After their deaths, Idris 


continued to live in nearby Mount Pleasant and then in 2, Blaencwm cottage, so Tom knew him as a neighbour. Colin Edwards 


interviewed Tom in the early 1970s:

 

                    TW:     I heard his cousin saying a lot about him. I knew his cousin quite well - he's dead now, poor feller…Idris Jones…

                   Did you hear mention of Jack Bassett at all, coming here with him, a friend of Dylan's?

                   Yes. Heard him saying that, too. Yes, yes.

                   ‘Cause he's in the poem, and in one of the stories, The Peaches.

                   Yes, yes, yes. Heard him saying about Jack Bassett.

                   What did he say about Jack Bassett?

                  Well, only that he's coming here with 'im, that's all.

                   As a boy?

                   Yes.

                   Dylan came back here later?

                  Oh yes, he was here…on a Sunday night, before he died…and he had a lady and a gentleman from America with him,                   and his mother….they took a photograph of me and his mother and the dog, just in the gateway…Mr Dylan Thomas                     promised to send me one, but…

                  Never did.

                 Well, I suppose….

                 He died.

                 He died, you see. Yes.


Tom Williams and the Williamses

 


Tom came from Llwynbychan farm, just north of St Clears and, before that, from the village of Llanddarog, to the east of Carmarthen. 


He was not a blood relative of the Williamses but was related to them through his marriage to Doris Lewis of Llangain (on whom see 


below), as well as through the marriage of his brother, James.

 


James had married Agnes Phillips of St Clears in 1927. She was a third cousin to Gwladys Phillips and her siblings at Mwche, one of the 


Williams farms down on the Tâf estuary near Llansteffan.  But Agnes also had a second link to Dylan’s family, through her aunt, 


Elizabeth Phillips, who had married John Davies of Pentowyn, another Williams farm on the banks of the Tâf

 

Agnes had two more interesting relatives: Wing Commander Ira ‘Taffy’ Jones, the First World War flying ace, and one of Dylan’s 

drinking companions in New Quay, was a first cousin. And Vera Killick nee Phillips, Dylan’s relation from Swansea, London and New 

Quay, was a third cousin. Dylan and Vera’s friendship was fictionally portrayed in the 2008 film, The Edge of Love, but see also 

https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomasandtheedgeoflove/dylan-thomas-and-the-edge-of-love-the-real-story

 

The following family tree shows how Tom was related through his brother, James, to the Williams and Phillips families:

* David and Mary lived at Close farm, Meidrim and then at Hill farm, Ludchurch, Pembs. By 1891, the widowed Mary and her children were at Talvan farm, Llanddowror. Jotham and Miriam married in 1896. In 1901, Jotham was a farmer (Penback, St Clears) and later a cattle dealer (Crown House and Ostney Villa, St Clears). For more on Jane and Miriam Jones of St Clears, see under Further Information below.

 There is more information on Thomas Phillips and Theodocia Harries of Plas Isaf Llanybri, and on  Eliza Davies (nee Harries) of Pentowyn at https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomaspeninsularity/background-papers/family-trees-for-williams-harries-and-phillips   On how Dylan’s and Vera’s families were related, see https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomasandtheedgeoflove/dylan-thomas-and-the-edge-of-love-the-real-story


James and Tom Williams were the sons of John and Elizabeth Williams of Llwynbychan farm, St Clears, but originally from Llanddarog, 

where John’s parents, Thomas and Hannah, had farmed Llwynfedwen (1881). By the 1911 census, John and Elizabeth, and six of their 

children, were at Llwynbychan.

 

John and Elizabeth, together with Tom, moved to Fernhill, Llangain, sometime after Annie and Jim Jones moved out c1929. John and 

Elizabeth died at Fernhill in 1936 and 1937, as noted on their gravestone in Llanddarog churchyard. 


The Williams and Lewis Families

Tom Williams married Doris Lewis of Meini farm, Llangain in 1937. The following is a pared down version of the family tree showing 

how Doris was related to the Williamses: Doris’ grandmother, Anne, was a first cousin to Dylan’s grandmother, Hannah. There is a 

fuller version, with notes about her parents, in Note xlii at

https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomaspeninsularity/a-true-childhood-dylan-s-peninsularity


siblings      

Margaret, Anne and William (together with Theodocia and Eliza in the previous family tree) were siblings; they were the children of Evan and  Anne Harries of Plas Isaf, Llanybri. Anne Thomas was the daughter of Sarah and William Thomas/Harries.  For more on why some of the Harries children changed their surname to Thomas see   https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomaspeninsularity/background-papers/family-trees-for-williams-harries-and-phillips       


Further information

1. Jane Jones (1866-1949) and Miriam Jones (1867-1935) were the daughters of James and Phoebe Jones of Woolstone farm, St. Clears, Carmarthen, on whom see http://www.cullum.uk.com/blog/ . This site also provides information on the wartime exploits of Jane’s son, Ira ‘Taffy’ Jones; for more on Ira and Dylan, see the index of  A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow (Seren, 2000), as well as the interview with Ira’s wife, Olive, in Dylan Remembered 1935-1953, vol 2 (Seren, 2004).


2.  Alan Radford, a descendent of John and Elizabeth Williams of Llwynbychan farm, has provided the following information (2015) on their children:

        Johnny Williams, the eldest boy, married Lizzie. Two children, Wynford and Gwen

        Lizzie Jane m Lewis Phillips, Rydal Mount, St Clears. One daughter, Betty Marks

        Sally m Henry Walters, Llanginning. One son, Dennis Walters

        David m Fanny, no children

        Margretta Williams, unmarried

        Mary Ann m David Evans, Tynewydd, no children

        Tom m Doris Lewis, Meini farm, Llangain

        James (Jim) m Agnes. One son, Gordon, Llwynbychan.

 

3.   Felicity Cleaves has provided the following information (2001) at

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CARMARTHENSHIRE/2001-03/0985957766

  • The following graves are in the graveyard of the parish church in Llanddowror:

          Miriam, wife of Jotham Phillips, late Ostrey Villa, St Clears. 14/12/1935, 68yrs.
          Jotham Phillips 13/12/1940, age 73yrs.

    David Stanley, son of Jotham and Miriam Phillips of Penback, St Clears, age 14 months.

 

  • Jotham and Miriam’s daughter, Pheobe Agnes, married James Williams and
    they had one son, Gordon, who farmed Llwynbychan. Gordan died 2015, age 86.

 

  • Besides David Stanley and Agnes, Jotham and Miriam Phillips had a daughter, Ida Phillips, who was Matron of Gorseinon Hospital from 1929 –1965. She is buried in St Clears.

 

  • 1891 Census for Llandowror RG12/4516   Talvan Farm

    Mary Phillips Head, widow 52? 
    Jotham Philips, son 24  
    David Phillips, son 20     
    Joseph Phillips, son 20          
    Catherine Phillips, dau 18 

Esther Phillips, dau 14 
Anne Phillips, dau 10?
*Elizabeth Davies, dau married, 26. Living on her own means

Catherine Thomas, grandmother, widow 80? Living on her own means  

Benjamin Davies, grandson,  infant.   

*Elizabeth had married John Davies of Pentowyn farm in 1890. They settled and farmed in Leicestershire. There is more on them and their children at https://sites.google.com/site/dylanthomaspeninsularity/background-papers/family-trees-for-williams-harries-and-phillips
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