Dylan Thomas was born in October 1914 in Uplands, Swansea, where he grew up. His father, David John Thomas, had taken his degree at University College Aberystwyth and obtained a First in English, which he taught at Swansea Grammar School. His pupils found him quick tempered and intimidating, but he had a beautiful, sonorous voice for reading aloud, which his son inherited.
Thomas' mother, Florence Hannah Williams, had been a seamstress before her marriage. Welsh was her first tongue, but her husband - although he did speak Welsh - preferred English. He was cynical about religion, whilst she was traditional in her piety.
The name "Dylan" comes from a character in the Welsh ...view middle of the document...
Thomas ventured into amateur dramatics. He appeared with his sister in Hay Fever, but missed his cue in The Merchant of Venice because he was (once again) in a nearby pub.
In 1933, he began to get some of his poetry published in periodicals and he submitted a poem to a BBC competition and got it read on the air.
His family life became very difficult and he became fed up with the opportunities Swansea offered. 'This bloody country's killing me." he said. He wrote an article for the Swansea and West Wales Guardian entitled "Expose Humbug and Smug Respectability". "The more I see of Wales," he wrote, "the more I think it's a land entirely peopled by perverts."
He moved to London in 1934, where he behaved, for the most part, like a drunken boor, although his first volume of verse 18 Poems (1934) had an immediate impact. He developed a particular dislike of ex-public school communists and by 1936 had acquired notoriety as a bawdy drunk rather than as a serious poet.
He met (and was to marry in 1937 at Penzance Registry Office) Caitlin Macnamara, a young dancer who was Augustus John's model and mistress. At the wedding both bride and groom had been drinking.
He was to make his first broadcast for the BBC in 1937, reading the work of other poets. The following year he was to broadcast again, this time reading his own work in the company of other writers of the stature of Auden and Spender.
Thomas and his wife visited Laugharne in Carmarthenshire in 1933. It was here that they were ultimately to settle in 1949. Here he could work whilst drying out from his London binges.
At the outbreak of War, Thomas was terrified that he might be called up for military service - but he was judged medically unfit. Some of his neighbours in Laugharne...