The entrance is reached along the Cliff Path,
now renamed "Dylans Walk", and through the front
garden to the door on the first floor. The path through the garden
used by Dylan no longer exists, although remains of it may be seen
towards the edge of the garden closest to the river.
The first floor included the Parlour, the bedroom
of the oldest child, Llewelyn, now the reception area and bookshop,
and the bathroom.
A staircase leads down to the basement where
the kitchen and sitting room were found. These are now the kitchen
and the tearoom. There is a rear door that gives onto the garden.
The top floor included two bedrooms, that of
Dylan and Caitlin, and that of Aeronwy and Colm. Dylans bedroom
now houses the display area with a rich collection of exhibits,
while in the smaller room a video on Dylan Thomas is shown.
The parlour was the best room in the house,
where special guests would be received. It was a formal room, not
the living room for the family. The parlour has been restored to
what it would probably have been like when Dylan and Caitlin lived
here. It is the parlour of a household with little money and which
is at the same time both rather bohemian and middle-class.
The furniture, family photographs and the numerous
smaller items in the parlour are mainly from the 1940s and
the 1950s. Of particular interest is the desk near the door.
This belonged to Dylans father and was given to Dylan. It
was originally in Dylans birthplace, Cwmdonkin Drive, in Swansea.
Other pieces of furniture brought from Cwmdonkin
Drive include the blue-backed armchair, the chaise longue and the
slatted-back chair. This particular chair was remembered clearly
by one of the home help girls at Cwmdonkin who visited the Boat
House after Dylans death. She said it was the only chair on
which the servants were allowed to sit.
The folding writing desk and much of the rest
of the furniture belonged to Dylans mother and were brought
to the house when she lived there between 1954 and 1958. The coffee
table was found in the writing shed in 1980 and was probably part
of the Thomas household.
Apart from the material objects, it is the light,
the silence and especially the views which give insight into the
world of Dylan Thomas. The room has windows on three sides, giving
views over the water and the surrounding hills. The room is perched
high above water and mud-flats and captures constantly the sounds
of the birds and the shifting light on the landscape.
A few moments spent in the quiet in this room,
listening to the voice of Dylan reading his own poems, offer a privileged
experience and a glimpse of the extraordinary quality of Dylans
work. For it is his work that is important, beyond all the scandal
and gossip and hype that surrounds the man.
THE UPSTAIRS BEDROOMS AND THE DISPLAY FACILITIES
The two upstairs rooms offer both a video
presentation and an interpretative display of books, photographs,
letters and documents and explanatory panels.
Among the many objects of interest, there is the famous portrait
of Dylan as a young man. This is the original photograph signed
by Dylan and dedicated "For Pamela and Neil and Mrs J with
all my love. Dylan. Christmas 1936." The Pamela in question
is Pamela Hansford Johnson, a poet and novelist. She and Dylan corresponded
in the 1930s, and eventually friendship and love grew. Dylan
visited Pamela in London frequently, and Pamela and her mother visited
Swansea. Dylan hoped to marry Pamela, but she was concerned about
his drinking habits and about his unreliability and declined his
proposal. Pamela later married the eminent scientist and novelist
C. P. Snow, later Lord Snow, author of The Corridors of Power
and a minister in the Labour Government of 1964.
Incidentally, when NASA, the American Space
Agency, was collecting cultural icons to send into space they selected
this portrait to make the journey!
Other notable objects include a drawing by Dylan, a pair of his
cuff-links and the death mask of Dylan by David Slivka. This mask
formerly belonged to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. After
the death of Richard Burton, the mask was included in the sale of
some of his belongings, and the purchaser brought the mask to Laugharne
to place it in the Boat House.
HARBOUR AND TERRACE
The terrace to the rear of the house may
originally have been used as a harbour or dry dock. Until recently
the river would cover the terrace, reaching up to the house at high
tide, and indeed still does so in particularly high tides. Originally
a door led to a path along the waters edge to the town. This
has now been closed off, although the traces of the entrance can
still be seen.
THE WRITING SHED
When Dylan worked here, the shed contained a table, a chair and
a chest of drawers. A coal-fired stove provided heating in cold
weather. On the walls were photographs of his favourite authors
and a few reproductions of paintings and photographs. On the floor
were the numerous drafts that he discarded as he sat, staring out
of the window, copying out his work time and time again as he struggled
to find exactly what he wanted.
After extensive restoration, the shed today
is largely as it was in Dylans time. The structure itself
is as it was. The chairs and the table are belonged to the Thomas
family. Most importantly, the view is still as breathtaking and
almost as unspoilt as when Dylan lived here. The sources of his
inspiration can be experienced directly by visitors today.
Almost immediately after arriving in Laugharne
in 1949, Dylan started to write again. He adopted as his place of
work the shed alongside the path that led from the town to the Boat
House. Here, perched high above the estuary, at a safe distance
from his family and conveniently placed to slip away to the town
and the pub, Dylan was inspired by the dramatic views and by the
life that he saw unroll before him.
In this shed, Dylan wrote many of his finest
works. The first poem he wrote was "Over Sir Johns Hill"
in which he describes the view from the shed, and in which he talks
of birds stalking their prey and bringing death in the midst of
this beauty. Life, death, beauty, tragedy, eternity and God: Dylan
could see them all from his window in this unique place.
After his first trip to America, other poems
followed. "In the white giants thigh", "In
Country Heaven", "Poem on his Birthday", "Do
not go gentle into that good night" and "Elegy" were
all crafted in the silence of the writing shed, and in the increasingly
destructive despair that was overtaking Dylan.
Unhappy and unable to control his life, Dylan
asserted that he would write only of "universal happiness".
Under Milk Wood, his radio play set in a caricatural Welsh
village and based on various villages Dylan had known but mainly
on Laugharne, sprang joyously from his dark days in his shed.