The National Museum at Cardiff houses a number of important Dylan Thomas related artworks including portraits by Fred Janes and Augustus John. It is advisable to check with the museum before a planned visit as they are not on permanent display.
The Little Theatre was also a touring company, taking part in drama festivals and competitions across south Wales. Travelling to these productions would have opened Dylan’s eyes to the realities of mass unemployment and poverty in the years immediately following the Great Depression. The Theatre’s tours took Dylan to Pontypridd, Cwmdare, Trecynon and Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, as well as to coalmining towns near Swansea, such as Gorseinon, and to those on the edges of the coalfields, including Llandybie, Pembrey and Llandeilo.
Dylan’s thirst for beer and company also took him out to the industrial areas around Swansea, as one of his teenage friends has described:
“Like Dylan, I loved a damn good argument. I used to really like Dylan, I used to enjoy going out to these pubs – Pontlliw, oh, I’ll name them all for you…you take the Penllegaer Inn…the Castle in Pontlliw. Go on into the Hendy – well, you go in with the Welsh collier…a few Welsh farmers, and have a darned good argument and listen to their views of life…Dylan enjoyed that sort of company.”
In July 1953 Dylan visited the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen to gather material for a radio talk on the subject. Dylan was joined on the week long trip by Caitlin and their daughter Aeronwy; during the trip Dylan was introduced to Queen Elizabeth.
Llangollen. A town in a vale in rolling green North Wales on a windy July morning. The sun squints out and is puffed back again into the grey clouds blowing, full to the ragged rims with rain, across the Berwyn Hills. The white-horsed River Dee hisses and paws over the hills of its stones and under the greybeard bridge. (from The International Eisteddfod)
Pontarddulais lies just a few miles outside Swansea, on the main road to Carmarthen. Aunts and uncles on both sides of Dylan’s family lived here; Wynford Vaughan Thomas’ mother was brought up here, and later ran the Farmers Arms. Dylan would stop here for a pint or two as he passed through the village on his way to Llansteffan. It also gave him the chance to meet up with one of his relations, Granny Williams, who provided him with material for his story Rebecca’s Daughters.
“in the bus coming down here, each town a festering sore on the body of a dead country, half a mile of main street with its Prudential, its Co-op, its Star, its cinema and pub. On the pavements I saw nothing but hideously pretty young girls with cheap berets….thin youths with caps and stained fingers…little colliers, diseased in mind and body as only the Welsh can be, standing in groups outside the Welfare Hall.”
In 1928, Dylan’s first cousin from Llansteffan, Doris Williams, married Randy Fulleylove, a dentist who set up a practice in Abergavenny. The fifteen-year old Dylan was soon on his way to stay with them. After one of his visits, in the winter of 1929, they set off back to Swansea, passing first through Crickhowell, Sennybridge and then
“…the Cray Waterworks and down past Madam Patti’s house, and when you get over the Beacons there’s a terrible turn, and I lost control of the car, snow and ice were on the ground. You get to the bottom of the hill and there was a sharp right-hand turn and a sharp left. Somehow I pulled the car up and I bathed my face, I was sweating like a bull. And Dylan calmly turned round and said ‘Lovely, uncle – go and do it again!’”
Dylan returned to the area in 1944-45, making several visits to the sanatorium in Talgarth to visit a dying friend, Griff Jenkins from New Quay.