Gwyn Thomas (novelist)
6 July 1913|
Cymmer, Porth, Rhondda Valley
|Died||13 April 1981
University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff
|Alma mater||University of Oxford, University of Madrid|
|Genre||Short stories, Radio plays, Novels, Plays|
|Spouse||Lynn (nee Williams)|
Gwyn Thomas was born in Cymmer, Porth in the Rhondda Valley, the youngest of 12 children to coalminer Walter Morgan Thomas and his wife. His mother died when he was aged six, and he was resultantly brought up by his sister, often with handouts from the local soup kitchen.
After winning a scholarship, Thomas studied Spanish at the University of Oxford. Plagued by mysterious health problems, terribly poor and depressed, it was only after spending a summer and a term at the end of his second year at Complutense University of Madrid, thanks to a miners' scholarship, that he decided to complete his studies. Thomas was diagnosed at the age of 23 with a previously undetected thyroid malfunction that had been poisoning him for years, which was operated on to avoid his death.
On graduation and wanting to be a writer, Thomas struggled to establish himself during the 1930s depression. He took on part-time lecturing jobs across England, while trying to get his novel Sorrow For Thy Sons published.
He married his childhood friend Eiluned (Lyn) Thomas in Pontypridd Register Office on 5 January 1938. Failing to pass the British Army medical at the outbreak of World War II thanks to 20 years of smoking, he returned to Wales in 1940 and taught at the WEA. He then became a schoolteacher, first teaching French in Cardigan, and then Spanish in Barry at Barry Grammar School for 20 years. At Barry Gwyn was a wonderfully motivating teacher. Aside from of his Spanish language teaching he was probably best known for his talks on American humourists and then, annually, for his adjudication of Eisteddfod competitions where, shaking like a leaf, his considered judgements would leave the audience almost hysterical with laughter but, equally, much the wiser.
Post war, his wife decided to send some of his short stories to three publishers, who all accepted the scripts for publication. Approached in 1951 by a BBC Radio Wales producer to write for the radio, he returned to his childhood memories of 1920s South Wales to create Gazuka!
A prolific novelist and short-story writer, he became a regular on chat shows such as the Brain Trust, and after 20 years of teaching in 1962 he became a full-time writer and broadcaster, retiring with his wife to Peterston-super-Ely.
However, due to a combination of diabetes, heavy drinking and smoking, his health began to fail in the late 1960s. In 1981 Thomas collapsed and was taken to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where he died on 13 April, shortly before his 68th birthday.
In 1993, Sir Anthony Hopkins portrayed Thomas in a BBC Wales television production 'Selected Exits' adapted by Alan Plater and based on his memoir A Few Selected Exits. Later that year, Hopkins unveiled a bronze bust of Thomas in the foyer of the New Theatre, Cardiff where he spoke about his personal experience of knowing the author who had been a family friend. Thomas was further commemorated at an event in Memorial Hall, Barry on Saturday 21 November 2009, when Pride in Barry announced it was placing a Blue Plaque on the Old College Inn, Barry, where his old school classrooms used to be.
2013 saw the centenary of Thomas's birth.
- A Welsh Eye (with drawings by John Dd. Evans)
- Where Did I Put My Pity?: 3
- The World Cannot Hear You
- Point of Order
- The Love Man
- Now Lead Us Home
- The Stranger at My Side
- Ring Delirium 123
- The Dark Philosophers (1946)
- The Alone to The Alone (1947)
- All Things Betray Thee (1949)
- A Frost on My Frolic (1953)
- Sorrow For Thy Sons (1986)
- The Thinker and the Thrush (1988)
- A Few Selected Exits (1968)
- Parnell, M. (1997), Laughter from the Dark: A Life of Gwyn Thomas, Seren Books/Poetry Wales Pr Ltd, ISBN 978-1854111463
- "Gwyn Thomas". BBC Wales. Retrieved 16 August 2010.[dead link]
- "The Dark Philosopher". LibraryOfWales.org. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
- Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 863. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
- Detail from the copy of book entitled A Welsh Eye – First edition published by Hutchinson London in 1964 with no ISBN.