On this day in history : 27th October – The birth of Dylan Thomas, perhaps the most legendary of 20th century poets – but also known for his hard drinking and boisterous behaviour….

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Dylan Thomas in New York, 1952 – Fair use

Born Dylan Marlais Thomas, in Swansea, Wales, his father an English teacher and his mother a seamstress, the young Dylan developed an interest in language at an early age…. His father would read Shakespeare to him at bedtime – Dylan loved the sound of the words, even if he was too young to understand them….

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5, Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea – birthplace of Dylan Thomas – Photo credit : Hywel Williams CC BY-SA 2.0

On leaving school at 16 Dylan became a journalist for a while – but had his first poems published whilst still in his teens…. Dylan wrote hundreds of poems, short stories, a novel and a play during his lifetime…. He was a disciplined writer, often re-drafting his work to the point of obsession – his poetry having a musical, nostalgic tone, frequently focusing on childhood and death…. Some of his greatest work was produced in the 1940s, particularly his 1946 collection which was heavily influenced by war….

In 1936 Dylan met Caitlin Macnamara and they married the following year at Penzance Registry Office…. They moved to Laugharne, a Welsh fishing village, in 1938 – where they settled and raised their three children…. It was a stormy marriage, fuelled by alcohol, infidelity and money problems – but they remained together until Dylan’s death….

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The Boat House, Laugharne – where Dylan and Caitlin raised their family – Photo credit : GerritR CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1950 Dylan fulfilled an ambition to tour the United States, giving readings of his work – which attracted large audiences…. The very nature of the trip meant much socialising was done and Dylan returned home with very little money – he had effectively drank his profits…. Another two trips to the States ended the same way – not surprisingly this caused a rift between himself and Caitlin….

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Dylan’s writing shed at Laugharne – Photo credit : wardyboy400 CC BY 2.0

Dylan’s father died on the 16th of December 1952; as an English teacher at a grammar school he had been disappointed with his position in life – he had longed to be a poet; how proud he must have been of his son…. Dylan had great respect for his father and watching him succumb to the ravages of cancer would have torn him apart…. Indeed whilst his father lay on his deathbed, Dylan wrote one of his most emotive poems ~ “Do not go gentle into that good night”…. Little did Dylan know at that time that in less than a year he would face his own untimely death – at the age of just 39…. On a last fateful trip to New York in October 1953 and after several bouts of heavy drinking Dylan was taken ill at the Chelsea Hotel on the 4th of November…. He was admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital where he died five days later – the cause of his death pneumonia and pressure on the brain – due to excessive alcohol…

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forced no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
                              ~ Dylan Thomas

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