Dylan and the Boathouse
Dylan Thomas first arrived in Laugharne in 1934 aged 19. He came with a friend by ferry from the other side of the Taf estuary and would have alighted just behind the Boathouse. He was instantly fascinated with Laugharne and moved his family here in 1938 to live in a humble fisherman’s cottage: Eros on Gosport St.
Shortly afterwards he moved to a grander residence, Sea View, behind the castle where he settled very happily with his wife Caitlin and their young family. However, the outbreak of the Second World War meant he had to move to London to work. After the war he tried for many years to return to his beloved Laugharne but it wasn’t until the actress Margaret Taylor bought the lease of the Boathouse in 1949 that he was able to fulfill this dream.
Poems written here include "Do Not Go Gentle", "Poem on His Birthday", "Over Sir John's Hill" as well as his most famous play for voices, "Under Milkwood", inspired in part by the people of Laugharne.
It was from the Boathouse that Dylan made the fateful journey to New York where he died in 1953 aged 39; an early death that turned a talent into a legend.
The house itself has an interesting history. The origin of the name could come from the fact that boats were once moored here, or that small boats were once repaired nearby. The earliest records show that it was leased by the Corporation to a local family in 1834. Later it was converted into 2 fisherman’s cottages but in 1899 it was converted back into a single residence.
Since that time it was mainly used as a family home or for holiday lets but there are also rumours that the Boathouse was used by smugglers, as there is a secretive entrance down to the water that leads to the path near the front door.
Its location below a cliff down on the water’s edge means that it could have had some sort of industrial or storage use before 1834. For centuries soldiers marching from Pembroke to London, and pilgrims journeying from St Davids to Canterbury would have crossed at a point just behind the Boathouse to avoid travelling miles inland, and in 1913 the harbour wall was built in front of the Boathouse to bring coal into the town.
These two facts suggest that when the port of Laugharne in front of the castle became silted up after a tsunami devastated the Bristol Channel in 1607, the area around the Boathouse became important for the shipping of goods and ferrying of passengers.
Dylan’s family still have a very strong connection to the Boathouse. Aeronwy, Dylan’s only daughter, became an ambassador for his work as well as a fine writer herself. Since her untimely death in 2009 the mantle has passed to her daughter, Hannah Ellis, who is herself a regular visitor to the Boathouse with her family. This is a place the Thomas family still feel very much at home.