Boathouse

This is the '...sea-shaken house on a breakneck of rocks', where Dylan Thomas and his family lived from 1949. It is now a museum and tea room. The lack of moving images and rare colour photos locate Dylan in a bygone era but in 2011 Jean Davidson, aged 92, visited. She lived here from 1938-1942 (her husband worked for the MOD in Pendine), several years before Dylan and there are many alive in Laugharne today who remember him fondly. The wandering bard's return to his beloved Laugharne was facilitated by his benefactor, American actress Margaret Taylor, who arranged for mains water and electric to be installed. He was thrilled, '...this is it: the place, the house, the workroom, the time...' But time ran out in New York in November 1953, when Dylan died aged just 39.

Apart from a few months in Camden, a trip to Iran and four American tours, Dylan settled into family life in, '...this tumbling house whose every broken pane and wind-whipped-off slate, childscrawled wall, rain-stain, mousehole, knobble and ricket, man booby-and-rat-trap I know in my sleep.' Aeronwy, his daughter, remembered his bed-time stories, and that he used to eat dolly mixtures and pickled onions in the bath. A dancing wife, housekeeper, kids, pets, constant visitors and regular post closing-time parties kept things lively in this colourful bohemian home. However, dogged by poverty, Dylan's practice of sending self-piteous begging letters continued; to one '...the weather gets me like poverty... shrouds me in my wet self, rains away the world,' and to another it was his '...wet idyllic tomb on the coast.'

First records date the Boathouse to 1838, but it might have had some prior industrial use as late 19th century photos show boats moored up outside and Laugharne port had long since silted up. The harbour with its sea-door - the outline of which can still be seen today - is relatively new; built to import coal into Laugharne in 1913 (Dylan Thomas 'Coalhouse' anyone...?!) From the 1850s to 1889 it was converted to a semi-detached building with shared entrances for fishermen's families; the division in the window on the top floor the only evidence that remains of this. It was often used as a holiday home, albeit a primitive one, and Dr Cowan - the man who commissioned the 'garage' which Dylan later adapted as his work-shed - used it as such from 1906-1918.

Florrie, Dylan's mother, was the last full-time resident up to her death in 1958. Such was his fame that in 1963 Cliff Walk was renamed Dylan's Walk and a local character, Johnny Oriel, sold strips of 'Dylan's' wallpaper from behind the wardrobes to tourists. Margaret Taylor willed the lease - owned by the Laugharne Corporation - to Caitlin in 1973 who sold it for 22.5k to a Swansea school who duly paved the harbour area. Carmarthenshire County Council paid 27.5k for a new 2000 year lease at 37.5p per annum in 1975. The boundary wall collapsed in 1983 taking the old gate, stepped pathway and bike shed with it. The ruined gate is now in the possession of artist John Uzzell Edwards, who happened to be with the actor Michael Sheen when he found it in a skip.

Dylan's youngest son's middle name was Garan - Welsh for heron. Dylan was fascinated by herons and after his death it is said they came looking for him. Many iconic figures, eg. President Carter have done the same but Laugharne has always had a certain cachet. In 1880 Mary Curtis wrote, 'So many people know Laugharne or have heard of it. Persons from most distant parts of the world find it out somehow... Go to London... I am sure you will find someone whose home has been here, or has sojourned in it, or heard of it; many come expecting to find a certain refuge from observation, a safe hiding-place; but they soon discover there is no place where things will be more quickly known... no place where kinder people are found.'

The Boathouse c.1900


Dylan and Caitlin in the Boathouse garden



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