Wales, the Gregynog Press, Dylan Thomas and Baritones

Literary Tourist in Wales

Before heading off to Wales for a sneak preview of what that principality had in store for literary tourists the following year (2014), I took an inventory of what I knew about the place: Dylan Thomas of course: grew up in Swansea, lived in the coastal village of Laugharne, baritone, had a tempestuous marriage, died in New York, drank a lot. Tom Jones, baritone, drank a lot, tempestuous marriages, hairy chest. Richard Burton, baritone, movie idol, Taming of the Shrew, tempestuous marriages, drank a lot. Hay-on-Wye, leeks, and the Gregynog Press.

The team at Visit Wales did a superb job touring us around, rounding out my limited knowledge of the territory. Part of that rounding involved my interviewing people about Dylan Thomas for The Biblio File podcast. Annie Haden for instance.

She’s a tour guide who specializes in the poet. With over 20 years experience in the tourism sector, she uses an easy to listen to story-telling technique which keeps her charges both awake and informed.

I caught up with her at Morgans hotel in Swansea, Thomas’s home town, to talk about poet and place. Listen here:

I also interviewed George Tremlett an author, bookshop owner, and former politician. After leaving King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon he worked for the Coventry Evening Telegraph from 1957 onward as a TV columnist and pop music reviewer. In the 1960s he became a freelance rock journalist and in the 1970s wrote a series of paperbacks on pop stars, including The David Bowie Story, the first bio of the musician.

He’s also a biographer of Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin. In Caitlin: Life with Dylan Thomas he argues that the poet was the world’s “first rock star.” In 1997 he published a book with James Nashold, The Death of Dylan Thomas, which claimed that Thomas’s demise was not due to alcohol poisoning but to a mistake by his physician prescribing cortisone, morphine and benzedrine when it wasn’t called for, because Thomas was actually in a diabetic coma.

Tremlett runs the Corran Bookshop in Laugharne, Wales – has since 1982. The shop is located right across the street from Browns,

the pub that Thomas frequented (frequently). In addition to a selection of used books, his shop offers tourist information and it’s where I met George to have this conversation:

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Unfortunately we couldn’t fit Gregynog Hall,

where the press’s books are printed, into our Welsh itinerary. So I decided Continue reading “Wales, the Gregynog Press, Dylan Thomas and Baritones”

10 of Britain’s most fascinating literary landmarks

Here, from VisitBritain, are ten must see literary destinations to add to your bucketlist. Click on the link at the bottom for details. I’ve attended a play at The Globe, which was riveting. The action on stage was so absorbing that I didn’t even notice standing on a hard concrete floor for three hours. A modern day groundling. And Dylan Thomas’s Wales was beautiful, atmospheric, poetic in fact. Love his writing shed overlooking the Taf estuary in Laugharne. Even got up to Hay-on-Wye with all of its photogenic bookstores. As for the rest? Plenty to look forward to!

1. Roald Dahl: Cardiff
2. Shakespeare: Globe Theatre, London
3. Beatrix Potter: The Lake District
4. Bronte Sisters: Yorkshire Moors
5. Arthur Conan Doyle: London
6. Dylan Thomas: Wales
7. Charles Dickens: Kent
8. A.A. Milne: East Sussex
9. Robert Burns: Alloway
10. Agatha Christie: Torquay

Details here.

Wales meets Peterborough, W.W. E. Ross and Hugh Kenner

If there’s one thing you’ll find in a bookstore it’s connections…like the one made here

in Thea’s Books and Violins in Peterborough. I’m was in town to do a literary audit of the region, and what a delightful segue from my recent trip to Wales the owner provided.

Turns out his father, just like Dylan Thomas’s father, read Shakespeare to him at an early age, instilling in him a life long love of poetry. Bill gave me a copy of “A Book Lover’s Guide, Antiquarian, Rare & Out of Print Books in the Kawarthas…Peterborough, Lakefield, Cavan” and as warm a welcome to the area as anyone could wish for. Reminded me of the time I arrived in Dublin late one night. Cutting through a darkened park on the way to my hotel I encountered an old man lying on the grass. As I walked past him he raised himself up and exclaimed ‘Welcome to Dublin!’ the last thing I’d expected to hear. Set the tone for the entire trip.

Thea’s is a lovely, tight mess of a shop. Just the way I like it. Lots of interesting older titles. I found this one, Shapes & Sounds, Poems of W. W. E. Ross.

Ross was born in Peterborough in 1894 and is credited as Canada’s leading Imagist of the time, taking as his subject matter the Canadian landscape – birds and trees and such – describing them in short lines, with direct diction, movement, clear images. Interesting coincidence that one of the world’s great Ezra Pound scholars, Hugh Kenner, also hailed from Peterborough.