John Summers


Dylan's Cell

from the Diary column in The Times, 1 May 1970

Welsh author John Summers hopes to buy Dylan Thomas’s boathouse at Laugharne as a home for writers about Wales. ‘They can be Chinese as long as they write about Wales,’ he says. A similar suggestion last year by Pamela Hansford Johnson and other friends of the poet fell through when the house was withdrawn from auction after reaching only £7000.

‘I’m sure Caitlin will stick out for £10,000,’ says Summers. ‘It’s three storeys – a much bigger piece than people think. I stayed there for a while when I was writing a book.’

His plan depends on the success of two new books to be published by the New English Library: a paperback next week on the Aberfan disaster, and next month Dylan, a biography in novel form of the poet. Summers knew Thomas at various times and lived near him in Llanstephan; he says that this village, not Laugharne as generally believed, was the original of Llareggyb in Under Milk Wood.

‘What killed Dylan Thomas was the whole bloody attitude of the Welsh people. They still regard him as a rather dubious boyo. You still meet people like the man in Laugharne who told me: “I lent him the battery for a radio and he never gave it back.” He was so glad to get away that he was tanked up by the time he got to Paddington.

‘They don’t like artists in Wales. They like parsons who write long incomprehensible poems in Welsh about the true meaning of Cavalry. There’s been no Welsh literature for 500 years; that’s why I want to use Dylan’s house as a cell for the resurgence of Welsh writing.’