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Under Milk Wood

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Under Milk Wood is a 1954 radio drama by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. The BBC commissioned the play, which was later adapted for the stage. A film version directed by Andrew Sinclair, was released in 1972, and another adaptation of the play, directed by Pip Broughton, was staged for television for the 60th anniversary in 2014.

An omniscient narrator invites the audience to listen to the dreams and innermost thoughts of the inhabitants of the fictional small Welsh fishing town, Llareggub, (buggerall spelt backwards).

They include Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, relentlessly nagging her two dead husbands; Captain Cat, reliving his seafaring times; the two Mrs. Dai Breads; Organ Morgan, obsessed with his music; and Polly Garter, pining for her dead lover. Later, the town awakens, and, aware now of how their feelings affect whatever they do, we watch them go about their daily business.

Origins and development[edit]


The Coach & Horses in Tenby, where Thomas is reputed to have been so drunk that he left his manuscript to Under Milk Wood on a stool

In 1931, the 17-year-old Thomas created a piece for the Swansea Grammar School magazine that included a conversation of Milk Wood stylings, between Mussolini and Wife, similar to those between Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard and her two husbands that would later be found in Under Milk Wood.[1] In 1933, Thomas talked at length with his mentor and friend, Bert Trick,[2] about creating a play about a Welsh town:

He read it to Nell and me in our bungalow at Caswell around the old Dover stove, with the paraffin lamps lit at night ... the story was then called Llareggub, which was a mythical village in South Wales, a typical village, with terraced houses with one ty bach to about five cottages and the various characters coming out and emptying the slops and exchanging greetings and so on; that was the germ of the idea which ... developed into Under Milk Wood.[3]

In February 1937, Thomas outlined his plans for a Welsh Journey, following a route that would “be decided by what incidents arose, what people told me stories, what pleasant or unpleasant or curious things...I encountered in the little-known villages among the lesser-known people.” [4]

A year later, in March 1938, Thomas suggested that a group of Welsh writers should prepare a verse-report of their "own particular town, village, or district."[5]


In May 1938, the Thomas family moved to Laugharne, a small town on the estuary of the river Tâf in Carmarthenshire, Wales. They lived there intermittently[6] for just under two years until July 1941, but did not return to live there until 1949.[7] The author Richard Hughes, who lived in Laugharne, has recalled that Thomas spoke to him in 1939 about writing a play about Laugharne in which the townsfolk would play themselves,[8] an idea pioneered on the radio by Cornish villagers in the 1930s.[9] Four years later, in 1943, Thomas again met Hughes, and this time outlined a play about a Welsh village certified as mad by government inspectors.[10]

Hughes was of the view that when Thomas "came to write Under Milk Wood, he did not use actual Laugharne characters."[11] Nevertheless, there are some elements of Laugharne that are discernible in the play. A girl, age 14, named Rosie Probert ("Rosie Probert, thirty three Duck Lane. Come on up, boys, I'm dead.") was living in Horsepool Road in Laugharne at the 1921 census.[12] Although there is no-one of that name in Laugharne in the 1939 War Register,[13] nor anyone named Rosie, Laugharne resident, Jane Dark, has described how she told Thomas about her.[14] Dark has also described telling Thomas about the ducks of Horsepool Road ("Duck Lane") and the drowning of the girl who went in search of them.[15]

Both Laugharne and Llareggub have a castle,[16] and, like Laugharne, Llareggub is on an estuary ("boat-bobbing river and sea"), with cockles, cocklers and Cockle Row. Laugharne also provides the clock tower of Myfanwy Price's dreams,[17] as well as Salt House Farm which may have inspired the name of Llareggub's Salt Lake Farm.[18] Llareggub's Butcher Beynon almost certainly draws on butcher and publican Carl Eynon, though he was not in Laugharne but in nearby St Clears.[19]

New Quay[edit]

In September 1944, the Thomas family moved to a bungalow called Majoda on the cliffs outside New Quay, Cardiganshire (Ceredigion), Wales, and left in July the following year. Thomas had previously visited New Quay whilst living in nearby Talsarn in 1942–1943,[20] and had an aunt and cousins living in New Quay.[21] He had written a New Quay pub poem, Sooner than you can water milk, in 1943,[22] which has several words and ideas that would later re-appear in Under Milk Wood.[23] Thomas' bawdy letter-poem from New Quay to T. W. Earp, written just days after moving into Majoda,[24] contains the name "No-good", anticipating Nogood Boyo of Under Milk Wood.

Thomas's wife, Caitlin, has described the year at Majoda as "one of the most important creative periods of his life...New Quay was just exactly his kind of background, with the ocean in front of him ... and a pub[25] where he felt at home in the evenings."[26] Thomas' biographers have taken a similar view. His time there, recalled Constantine FitzGibbon, his first biographer, was "a second flowering, a period of fertility that recalls the earliest days … [with a] great outpouring of poems", as well as a good deal of other material.[27] Biographer Paul Ferris agreed: “On the grounds of output, the bungalow deserves a plaque of its own.”[28] Thomas’ third biographer, George Tremlett, concurred, describing the time in New Quay as “one of the most creative periods of Thomas’s life.” [29]

Some of those who knew him well, including FitzGibbon, have said that Thomas began writing Under Milk Wood in New Quay.[30] The play's first producer, Douglas Cleverdon, agreed, noting that Thomas "wrote the first half within a few months; then his inspiration seemed to fail him when he left New Quay."[31] One of Thomas' closest friends and confidantes, Ivy Williams of Brown's Hotel, Laugharne, has said "Of course, it wasn’t really written in Laugharne at all. It was written in New Quay, most of it."[32]

The writer and puppeteer, Walter Wilkinson, visited New Quay in 1947, and his essay on the town captures its character and atmosphere as Thomas would have found it two years earlier.[33] Photos of New Quay in Thomas' day, as well as a 1959 television programme about the town, can be found here.[34]

There were many milestones[35] on the road to Llareggub, and these have been detailed by Professor Walford Davies in his Introduction to the definitive edition of Under Milk Wood.[36] The most important of these was Quite Early One Morning,[37] Thomas' description of a walk around New Quay, broadcast by the BBC in 1945, and described by Davies as a "veritable storehouse of phrases, rhythms and details later resurrected or modified for Under Milk Wood."[38] For example, the “done-by-hand water colours” of Quite Early One Morning appear later as the “watercolours done by hand” of Under Milk Wood.[39]

Another striking example from the 1945 broadcast is Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard who later appears as a major character in Under Milk Wood:

Open the curtains, light the fire, what are servants for?
I am Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard and I want another snooze.
Dust the china, feed the canary, sweep the drawing-room floor;
And before you let the sun in, mind he wipes his shoes.

Mrs Ogmore Davies[40] and Mrs Pritchard-Jones[41] both lived on Church Street in New Quay.[42] Mrs Pritchard-Jones was constantly cleaning, recalled one of her neighbours, "a real matron-type, very strait-laced, house-proud, ran the house like a hospital ward."[43] In her book on New Quay, Mrs Pritchard-Jones’ daughter notes that her mother had been a Queen's Nurse before her marriage and afterwards "devoted much of her time to cleaning and dusting our home ... sliding a small mat under our feet so we would not bring in any dirt from the road."[44]

Jack Lloyd, a New Quay postman and the Town Crier, also lived on Church Street.[45] He provided the character of Llareggub's postman Willy Nilly, whose practice of opening letters, and spreading the news, reflects Lloyd's role as Town Crier, as Thomas himself noted on a work sheet for the play: "Nobody minds him opening the letters and acting as [a] kind of town-crier. How else could they know the news?"[46] It is this note, together with our knowledge that Thomas knew Jack Lloyd ("an old friend"),[47] that establish the link between Willy Nilly and Lloyd.[48]

There were also other New Quay residents in Under Milk Wood. Dai Fred Davies the donkeyman on board the fishing vessel, the Alpha, appears in the play as Tom-Fred the donkeyman.[49] Local builder, Dan Cherry Jones,[50] appears as Cherry Owen in the play, as Cherry Jones in Thomas’ sketch of Llareggub,[51] and as Cherry Jones in one of Thomas' work sheets for the play, where Thomas describes him as a plumber and carpenter.[52]

The time-obsessed, "thin-vowelled laird", as Thomas described him,[53] New Quay's reclusive English aristocrat, Alastair Hugh Graham, lover of fish, fishing and cooking, and author of Twenty Different Ways of Cooking New Quay Mackerel,[54] is considered to be the inspiration for "Lord Cut-Glass … that lordly fish-head nibbler … in his fish-slimy kitchen ... [who] scampers from clock to clock".[55]

Third Drowned’s question at the beginning of the play “How’s the tenors in Dowlais?” reflects the special relationship that once existed between New Quay and Dowlais, an industrial town in South Wales. Its workers traditionally holidayed in New Quay and often sang on the pier on summer evenings.[56] Such was the relationship between the two towns that when St Mair's church in Dowlais was demolished in 1963,[57] its bell was given to New Quay's parish church.[58]

Other names and features from New Quay in the play include Maesgwyn farm [59] the Sailor's Home Arms,[60] the river Dewi,[61] the quarry,[62] the harbour,[63] Manchester House,[64] the hill of windows[65] and the Downs.[66] The Fourth Drowned's line "Buttermilk and whippets" also comes from New Quay,[67] as does the stopped clock in the bar of the Sailors' Arms.[68][69]

Walford Davies has concluded that New Quay "was crucial in supplementing the gallery of characters Thomas had to hand for writing Under Milk Wood.[70] FitzGibbon had come to a similar conclusion many years earlier, noting that Llareggub "resembles New Quay more closely [than Laugharne] and many of the characters derive from that seaside village in Cardiganshire..."[71] John Ackerman has also suggested that the story of the drowned village and graveyard of Llanina, that lay in the sea below Majoda, "is the literal truth that inspired the imaginative and poetic truth" of Under Milk Wood.[72] Another part of that literal truth were the 60 acres of cliff between New Quay and Majoda, including Maesgwyn farm, that collapsed into the sea in the early 1940s.[73]

Elba, South Leigh and Prague[edit]

In April 1947, Thomas and family went to Italy. He intended to write a radio play there, as his letters home make clear.[74] Several words and phrases that appear in Under Milk Wood can be found in some of Thomas’ letters from the island of Elba, where he stayed for three weeks. The "fishers and miners" and "webfooted waterboys" [75] of the letters become the "fishers" and "webfoot cocklewomen" of the first page of Under Milk Wood.[76] The "sunblack" and "fly-black" adjectives of Elba anticipate the "crowblack" and "bible-black" descriptions of Llareggub. The play's Fourth Drowned, Alfred Pomeroy Jones, "died of blisters", and so, almost, did Thomas, as he vividly describes in a letter home.[75] And, in time, the island's "blister-biting blimp-blue bakehouse sea" would re-appear as Llareggub's "slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea."[77]

On their return from Italy in August 1947, the Thomases moved to South Leigh, near Witney in Oxfordshire, where Thomas declared his intent to work further on the play.[78] It was here that he knocked the play into shape, as one biographer described it.[79] There are various accounts of his work on the play at South Leigh, where he lived until May 1949.[80] He also worked on filmscripts here, including The Three Weird Sisters, which includes the familiar Llareggub names of Daddy Waldo and Polly Probert.

Just a month or so after moving to South Leigh, Thomas met the BBC producer, Philip Burton, in the Café Royal in London, where he outlined his ideas for "The Village of the Mad…a coastal town in south Wales which was on trial because they felt it was a disaster to have a community living in that way… For instance, the organist in the choir in the church played with only the dog to listen to him…A man and a woman were in love with each other but they never met… they wrote to each other every day…And he had the idea that the narrator should be like the listener, blind.…"[81] Burton's friendship with Thomas, and his influence on the play, has been set within the context of the work done by Burton and T. Rowland Hughes in developing community portraiture on the radio.[82]

Thomas went to Prague in March 1949 for a writers’ conference. His guide and interpreter, Jiřina Hauková, has recalled that, at a party, Thomas "narrated the first version of his radio play Under Milk Wood". She mentions that he talked about the organist who played to goats and sheep, as well as a baker with two wives.[83] Another at the party remembered that Thomas also talked about the two Voices.[84]

The testimony from Prague, when taken with that of Burton about the meeting in the Café Royal in 1947, indicates that several of the characters of the play were already in place by the time Thomas had moved to the Boat House in Laugharne in May 1949: the organist, the two lovers who never met but wrote to each other, the baker with two wives, the blind narrator and the Voices.

The first known sighting of a script for the play was its first half, titled The Town that was Mad, which Thomas showed to the poet Allen Curnow in October 1949 at the Boat House.[85]

A draft first half of the play was delivered to the BBC in late October 1950.[86] It consisted of thirty-five handwritten pages containing most of the places, people and topography of Llareggub, and which ended with the line "Organ Morgan's at it early…" A shortened version of this first half was published in Botteghe Oscure in May 1952 with the title Llareggub. A Piece for Radio Perhaps. By the end of that year, Thomas had been in Laugharne for just over three years, but his half-play had made little progress since his South Leigh days. On 6 November 1952, he wrote to the editor of Botteghe Oscure to explain why he hadn't been able to "finish the second half of my piece for you." He had failed shamefully, he said, to add to "my lonely half of a looney maybe-play".[87]


Thomas gave a reading of the unfinished play to students at Cardiff University in March 1953.[88] He then travelled to America in April to give the first public readings of the play, even though he had not yet written its second half. He gave a solo reading of the first half on 3 May at the Fogg Museum, Harvard, where the audience responded enthusiastically.[89] Rehearsals for the play's premiere on 14 May had already started but with only half the play, and with Thomas unavailable as he left to carry out a series of poetry readings and other engagements. He was up at dawn on 14 May to work on the second half, and he continued writing on the train between Boston and New York, as he travelled to the 92nd Street Y's Poetry Center for the premiere. With the performance just 90 minutes away, the "final third of the play was still unorganised and but partially written."[90] The play's producer, Liz Reitell, locked Thomas in a room to continue work on the script, the last few lines of which were handed to the actors as they were preparing to go on stage.[91] Thomas subsequently added some 40 new lines to the second half for the play's next reading in New York on 28 May.

The former Salad Bowl Café, Tenby
2–3 The Croft, the former Salad Bowl Café
Blue plaque indicating that Thomas first read from Under Milk Wood on 2 October 1953

On his return to Laugharne, Thomas worked in a desultory fashion on Under Milk Wood throughout the summer.[92] His daughter, Aeronwy, noticed that his health had "visibly deteriorated. ... I could hear his racking cough. Every morning he had a prolonged coughing attack. ... The coughing was nothing new but it seemed worse than before."[93] She also noted that the blackouts that Thomas was experiencing were "a constant source of comment" amongst his Laugharne friends.[94]

Thomas gave readings of the play in Porthcawl and Tenby,[95] before travelling to London to catch his plane to New York for another tour, including three readings of Under Milk Wood. He stayed with the comedian Harry Locke, and worked on the play, re-writing parts of the first half, and writing Eli Jenkins' sunset poem and Waldo's chimney sweep song for the second half.[96] Locke noticed that Thomas was very chesty, with "terrible" coughing fits that made him go purple in the face.[97]

On 15 October 1953, Thomas delivered another draft of the play to the BBC, a draft that his producer, Douglas Cleverdon, described as being in "an extremely disordered state...it was clearly not in its final form."[98] On his arrival in New York on 20 October 1953, Thomas added a further 38 lines to the second half, for the two performances on 24 and 25 October.

Thomas had been met at the airport by Liz Reitell, who was shocked at his appearance: "He was very ill when he got here."[99] Thomas' agent John Brinnin, deeply in debt and desperate for money, also knew Thomas was very ill, but did not cancel or curtail his programme, a punishing schedule of four rehearsals and two performances of Under Milk Wood in just five days, as well as two sessions of revising the play.[100] After the first performance on 24 October, Thomas was close to collapse, standing in his dressing room, clinging to the back of a chair. The play, he said, "has taken the life out of me for now."[101]

At the next performance, the actors realised that Thomas was very ill and had lost his voice: "He was desperately ill … we didn't think that he would be able to do the last performance because he was so ill … Dylan literally couldn't speak he was so ill … still my greatest memory of it is that he had no voice."[102] After a cortisone injection, he recovered sufficiently to go on stage. The play's cast noticed Thomas' worsening illness during the first three rehearsals, during one of which he collapsed. Brinnin was at the fourth and was shocked by Thomas' appearance: "I could barely stop myself from gasping aloud. His face was lime-white, his lips loose and twisted, his eyes dulled, gelid, and sunk in his head."[103]

Then through the following week, Thomas continued to work on the script for the version that was to appear in Mademoiselle, and for the performance in Chicago on 13 November. However, he collapsed in the early hours of 5 November and died in hospital on 9 November 1953.


The inspiration for the play has generated intense debate. Thomas himself declared on two occasions that his play was based on Laugharne,[104] but this has not gone unquestioned. Llansteffan, Ferryside and particularly New Quay also have their claims. An examination of these respective claims was published in 2004.[105] Surprisingly little scholarship has been devoted to Thomas and Laugharne, and about the town's influence on the writing of Under Milk Wood.[106] Thomas’ four years at the Boat House were amongst his least productive, and he was away for much of the time. As his daughter, Aeronwy, has recalled, "he sought any pretext to escape."[107]

Douglas Cleverdon has suggested that the topography of Llareggub "is based not so much on Laugharne, which lies on the mouth of an estuary, but rather on New Quay, a seaside town...with a steep street running down to the harbour.” [108] The various topographical references in the play to the top of the town, and to its ‘top and sea-end’ are also suggestive of New Quay, as are Llareggub's terraced streets and hill of windows.[109] The play is even true to the minor topographical details of New Quay. For example, Llareggub's lazy fishermen walk uphill from the harbour to the Sailors' Arms.

Thomas drew a sketch map of the fictional town, which is now held by the National Library of Wales and can be viewed online.[110] The Dylan Thomas scholar, James Davies, has written that "Thomas's drawing of Llareggub is... based on New Quay"[111] and there has been very little disagreement, if any, with this view. An examination of the sketch has revealed some interesting features: Thomas uses the name of an actual New Quay resident, Dan Cherry Jones, for one of the people living in Cockle Street. The Rev. Eli Jenkins is not in the sketch, however, and there are also three characters in the sketch who do not appear in the draft of the play given by Thomas to the BBC in October 1950.[112]

Thomas also seems to have drawn on New Quay in developing Llareggub's profile as an ocean-going, schooner and harbour town, as he once described it.[113] Captain Cat lives in Schooner House. He and his sailors have sailed the clippered seas, as First Voice puts it. They have been to San Francisco, Nantucket and more, bringing back coconuts and parrots for their families. The Rev. Eli Jenkins' White Book of Llareggub has a chapter on shipping and another on industry, all of which reflect New Quay's history of both producing master mariners[114] and building ocean-going ships, including schooners.[115] In his 1947 visit to New Quay, Walter Wilkinson noted that the town “abounds” in sea captains [116] The following year, another writer visiting New Quay noted that there were “dozens of lads who knew intimately the life and ways of all the great maritime cities of the world.”[117]

Llareggub's occupational profile as a town of seafarers, fishermen, cockle gatherers and farmers has also been examined through an analysis of the returns in the 1939 War Register for New Quay, Laugharne, Ferryside and Llansteffan. This analysis also draws upon census returns and the Welsh Merchant Mariners Index. It shows that New Quay and Ferryside provide by far the best fit with Llareggub's occupational profile.[118]

Thomas is reported to have commented that Under Milk Wood was developed in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, as a way of reasserting the evidence of beauty in the world.[119] It is also thought that the play was a response by Thomas both to the Nazi concentration camps, and to the internment camps that had been created around Britain during World War II.[120]


A boat bearing the name of the fictional location of Under Milk Wood

The fictional name Llareggub was derived by reversing the phrase "bugger all".[121] In some published editions of the play,[122] it is often rendered (contrary to Thomas's own use - see below) as Llaregyb or similar. It is pronounced [ɬaˈrɛɡɪb].[123] The name bears some resemblance to many actual Welsh place names, which often begin with Llan, meaning church or, more correctly, sanctified enclosure, although a double g is not used in written Welsh.

The name Llareggub was first used by Thomas in two short stories published in 1936. They were The Orchards[124] ("This was a story more terrible than the stories of the reverend madmen in the Black Book of Llareggub.") and The Burning Baby[125] ("Death took hold of his sister's legs as she walked through the calf-high heather up the hill... She was to him as ugly as the sowfaced woman Llareggub who had taught him the terrors of the flesh.")

Thomas’ first known use of the name Llareggub in relation to Under Milk Wood was at a recitation of an early version of the play at a party in London in 1945.[126]

Thomas had also referred to the play as The Village of the Mad or The Town that was Mad.[127] By the summer of 1951, he was calling the play Llareggub Hill[128] but by October 1951, when the play was sent to Botteghe Oscure,[129] its title had become Llareggub. A Piece for Radio Perhaps. By the summer of 1952, the title was changed to Under Milk Wood because John Brinnin thought Llareggub Hill would be too thick and forbidding to attract American audiences.[130]

In the play, the Rev Eli Jenkins writes a poem that describes Llareggub Hill and its "mystic tumulus". This was based on a lyrical description of Twmbarlwm's "mystic tumulus" in Monmouthshire that Thomas imitated from Arthur Machen's autobiography Far Off Things (1922).[131]

The town's name is thought to be the inspiration for the country of Llamedos (sod 'em all) in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Soul Music.[132] In this setting, Llamedos is a parody of Wales.


The play opens at night, when the citizens of Llareggub are asleep. The narrator (First Voice/Second Voice) informs the audience that they are witnessing the townspeople's dreams.

Captain Cat, the blind sea captain, is tormented in his dreams by his drowned shipmates, who long to live again and enjoy the pleasures of the world. Mog Edwards and Myfanwy Price dream of each other; Mr. Waldo dreams of his childhood and his failed marriages; Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard dreams of her deceased husbands. Almost all of the characters in the play are introduced as the audience witnesses a moment of their dreams.

Morning begins. The voice of a guide introduces the town, discussing the facts of Llareggub. The Reverend Eli Jenkins delivers a morning sermon on his love for the village. Lily Smalls wakes and bemoans her pitiful existence. Mr. and Mrs. Pugh observe their neighbours; the characters introduce themselves as they act in their morning. Mrs. Cherry Owen merrily rehashes her husband's drunken antics. Butcher Beynon teases his wife during breakfast. Captain Cat watches as Willy Nilly the postman goes about his morning rounds, delivering to Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, Mrs. Pugh, Mog Edwards and Mr. Waldo.

At Mrs. Organ-Morgan's general shop, women gossip about the townspeople. Willy Nilly and his wife steam open a love letter from Mog Edwards to Myfanwy Price; he expresses fear that he may be in the poor house if his business does not improve. Mrs. Dai Bread Two swindles Mrs. Dai Bread One with a bogus fortune in her crystal ball. Polly Garter scrubs floors and sings about her past paramours. Children play in the schoolyard; Gwennie urges the boys to "kiss her where she says or give her a penny." Gossamer Beynon and Sinbad Sailors privately desire each other.

During dinner, Mr. Pugh imagines poisoning Mrs. Pugh. Mrs. Organ-Morgan shares the day's gossip with her husband, but his only interest is the organ. The audience sees a glimpse of Lord Cut-Glass's insanity in his "kitchen full of time". Captain Cat dreams of his lost lover, Rosie Probert, but weeps as he remembers that she will not be with him again. Nogood Boyo fishes in the bay, dreaming of Mrs. Dai Bread Two and geishas.

On Llareggub Hill, Mae Rose Cottage spends a lazy afternoon wishing for love. Reverend Jenkins works on the White Book of Llareggub, which is a history of the entire town and its citizens. On the farm, Utah Watkins struggles with his cattle, aided by Bessie Bighead. As Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard falls asleep, her husbands return to her. Mae Rose Cottage swears that she will sin until she explodes.

The Sailor's Home Arms, New Quay, now known as the Seahorse Inn, which provided the name for the Sailors Arms[133]

As night begins, Reverend Jenkins recites another poem. Cherry Owen heads to the Sailor's Arms, where Sinbad still longs for Gossamer Beynon. The town prepares for the evening, to sleep or otherwise. Mr. Waldo sings drunkenly at the Sailors Arms. Captain Cat sees his drowned shipmates—and Rosie—as he begins to sleep. Organ-Morgan mistakes Cherry Owen for Johann Sebastian Bach on his way to the chapel. Mog and Myfanwy write to each other before sleeping. Mr. Waldo meets Polly Garter in a forest. Night begins and the citizens of Llareggub return to their dreams again.


  • Captain Cat – The old blind sea captain who dreams of his deceased shipmates and lost lover Rosie Probert. He is one of the play's most important characters as he often acts as a narrator. He comments on the goings-on in the village from his window.
  • Rosie Probert – Captain Cat's deceased lover, who appears in his dreams.
  • Myfanwy Price – The sweetshop-keeper who dreams of marrying Mog Edwards.
  • Mr. Mog Edwards – The draper, enamoured of Myfanwy Price. Their romance, however, is restricted strictly to the letters they write one another and their interactions in their dreams.
  • Jack Black – The cobbler, who dreams of scaring away young couples.
  • Evans the Death – The undertaker, who dreams of his childhood.
  • Mr. Waldo – Rabbit catcher, barber, herbalist, cat doctor, quack, dreams of his mother and his many unhappy, failed marriages. He is a notorious alcoholic and general troublemaker and is involved in an affair with Polly Garter.
  • Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard – The owner of a guesthouse, who dreams of nagging her two late husbands. She refuses to let anyone stay at the guesthouse because of her extreme penchant for neatness.
  • Mr. Ogmore – Deceased, Linoleum salesman, late of Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard.
  • Mr. Pritchard – Deceased, failed bookmaker, late of Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard. He committed suicide "ironically" by ingesting disinfectant.
  • Gossamer Beynon – The schoolteacher (daughter of Butcher Beynon), dreams of a fox-like illicit love. During the day, she longs to be with Sinbad Sailors, but the two never interact.
  • Organ Morgan – The church organ player has perturbed dreams of music and orchestras within the village. His obsession with music bothers his wife intensely.
  • Mrs. Organ Morgan – A shop owner who dreams of "silence," as she is disturbed during the day by Organ Morgan's constant organ-playing.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Floyd – The cocklers, an elderly couple, seemingly the only couple to sleep peacefully in the village. They are mentioned only during the dream sequence and when Mrs Floyd is "talking flatfish" with Nogood Boyo.
  • Utah Watkins – The farmer, dreams of counting sheep that resemble his wife.
  • Ocky Milkman – The milkman, dreams of pouring his milk into a river, 'regardless of expense'.
  • Mr. Cherry Owen – Dreams of drinking and yet is unable to, as the tankard turns into a fish, which he drinks.
  • Mrs. Cherry Owen – Cherry Owen's devoted wife, who cares for him and delights in rehashing his drunken antics.
  • Police Constable Attila Rees – The policeman, relieves himself into his helmet at night, knowing somehow he will regret this in the morning.
  • Mr. Willy Nilly – The postman, dreams of delivering the post in his sleep, and physically knocks upon his wife as if knocking upon a door. In the morning they open the post together and read the town's news so that he can relay it around the village.
  • Mrs. Willy Nilly – who, because of her husband's knocking upon her, dreams of being spanked by her teacher for being late for school. She assists Willy Nilly in steaming open the mail.
  • Mary Ann Sailors – 85 years old, dreams of the Garden of Eden. During the day she announces her age ("I'm 85 years, 3 months and a day!") to the town.
  • Sinbad Sailors – The barman, dreams of Gossamer Beynon, whom he cannot marry because of his grandmother's disapproval.
  • Mae Rose Cottage – Seventeen and never been kissed, she dreams of meeting her "Mr. Right". She spends the day in the fields daydreaming and unseen, draws lipstick circles around her nipples.
  • Bessie Bighead – Hired help, dreams of the one man that kissed her "because he was dared".
  • Butcher Beynon – The butcher, dreams of riding pigs and shooting wild giblets. During the day he enjoys teasing his wife about the questionable meat that he sells.
  • Mrs. Butcher Beynon – Butcher Beynon's wife, dreams of her husband being 'persecuted' for selling "owl's meat, dogs' eyes, manchop."
  • Rev. Eli Jenkins – The reverend, poet and preacher, dreams of Eisteddfodau. Author of the White Book of Llareggub.
  • Mr. Pugh – Schoolmaster, dreams of poisoning his domineering wife. He purchases a book named "Lives of the Great Poisoners" for ideas on how to kill Mrs. Pugh; however, he does not do it.
  • Mrs. Pugh – The nasty and undesirable wife of Mr. Pugh.
  • Dai Bread – The bigamist baker who dreams of harems.
  • Mrs. Dai Bread One – Dai Bread's first wife, traditional and plain.
  • Mrs. Dai Bread Two – Dai Bread's second wife, a mysterious and sultry gypsy.
  • Polly Garter – has affairs with married men of the village, and a young mother, who dreams of her many babies. During the day, she scrubs floors and sings of her lost love.
  • Nogood Boyo – A lazy young fisherman who dreams peevishly of "nothing", though he later fantasises about Mrs. Dai Bread Two in a wet corset. He is known for causing shenanigans in the wash house.
  • Lord Cut-Glass – A man of questionable sanity, who dreams of the 66 clocks that he keeps in his house, all telling different times.
  • Lily Smalls – Dreams of love and a fantasy life. She is the Beynons' maid, but longs for a more exciting life.
  • Gwennie – A child in Llareggub, who insists that her male schoolmates "kiss her where she says or give her a penny".

Publication and translation[edit]

The first publication of Under Milk Wood, a shortened version of the first half of the play, appeared in Botteghe Oscure in April 1952.[134] Two years later, in February 1954, both The Observer newspaper and Mademoiselle magazine published abridged versions.[135] The first publications of the complete play were also in 1954: J. M. Dent in London in March and New Directions in America in April.

An Acting Edition of the play was published by Dent in 1958. The Definitive Edition, with one Voice, came out in 1995, edited by Walford Davies and Ralph Maud and published by Dent. A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook for free use went online in November 2006, produced by Colin Choat.[136]

The first translation was published in November 1954 by Drei Brücken Verlag in Germany, as Unter dem Milchwald, translated by Erich Fried. A few months later, in January 1955, the play appeared in the French journal Les Lettres Nouvelles as Le Bois de Lait, translated by Roger Giroux, with two further instalments in February and March.[137]

Over the next three years, Under Milk Wood was published in Dutch, Polish, Danish, Estonian, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Japanese and Italian. It's estimated that it has now been translated into over thirty languages, including Welsh with a translation by T. James Jones, (Jim Parc Nest), published in 1968 as Dan Y Wenallt.[138]

The original manuscript of the play was lost by Thomas in a London pub, a few weeks before his death in 1953. The alleged gift of the manuscript, to BBC producer Douglas Cleverdon, formed the subject of litigation in Thomas v Times Book Co (1966), which is a leading case on the meaning of gift in English property law.

Under Milk Wood, along with all other published works by Thomas, entered the public domain in the United Kingdom on 1 January 2024.[139]

Casts of principal productions[edit]

Character 14 May 1953 New York[140] 1954 BBC Radio 1957 BBC TV 1963 BBC Radio 1964 BBC TV 1972 Film 2003 BBC Radio 2014 BBC TV[141][142]
First Voice Dylan Thomas Richard Burton Donald Houston Richard Burton Donald Houston Richard Burton Richard Burton Michael Sheen
Second Voice Dion Allen Richard Bebb Ryan Davies Siân Phillips
Captain Cat Roy Poole Hugh Griffith William Squire Hugh Griffith Aubrey Richards Peter O'Toole Glyn Houston Tom Jones
Rosie Probert Nancy Wickwire Rachel Thomas Gwyneth Petty Aubrey Richards Elizabeth Taylor Mali Harries Nia Roberts
Polly Garter Nancy Wickwire Diana Maddox Marion Grimaldi Margo Jenkins Marion Grimaldi Ann Beach Eiry Thomas Katherine Jenkins
Mr. Mog Edwards Allen F. Collins Dafydd Harvard Aubrey Richards Richard Davies Victor Spinetti Matthew Rhys Ioan Gruffudd
Myfanwy Price Sada Thompson Sybil Williams Margo Jenkins Gwyneth Owen Glynis Johns Lisa Palfrey Kimberley Nixon
Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard Sada Thompson Dylis Davies Dorothea Phillips Dorothea Prichard Siân Phillips Christine Pritchard Charlotte Church
Mr. Ogmore Allen F. Collins David Close-Thomas David Garfield Jack Walters Dillwyn Owen Sion Probert Tom Ellis
Mr. Pritchard Dion Allen Ben Williams John Gill Emrys Leyshon Richard Davies Islwyn Morris Aneirin Hughes
Butcher Beynon Allen F. Collins Meredith Edwards Gareth Jones Richard Curnock Ieuan Rhys Williams Hubert Rees Sion Probert Robert Pugh
Gossamer Beynon Nancy Wickwire Gwenllian Owen Margo Jenkins Margaret John Angharad Rees |Alexandra Millar
The Rev Eli Jenkins Dylan Thomas Philip Burton T. H. Evans T. H. Evans Aubrey Richards Wayne Forester Bryn Terfel
Lily Smalls Sada Thompson Gwyneth Petty Gwyneth Petty Maralynn Burt Meg Wyn Owen Catrin Rhys Eve Myles
Mr Pugh Roy Poole John Huw Jones Raymond Llewellyn Talfryn Thomas Talfryn Thomas Steffan Rhodri Jonathan Pryce
Mrs Pugh Nancy Wickwire Mary Jones Rachel Thomas Mary Jones Vivien Merchant Sara McGaughey Siân Phillips
Mary Ann Sailors Sada Thompson Rachel Thomas Betty Lloyd-Davies Rachel Thomas Christine Pritchard Sharon Morgan
Sinbad Sailors Allen F. Collins Aubrey Richards Talfryn Thomas Hubert Rees Michael Forrest Steven Meo Jon Tregenna
Dai Bread Allen F. Collins David Close-Thomas John Gill Dudley Jones ? Owen Teale
Mrs Dai Bread One Sada Thompson Gwyneth Petty Guinevere Roberts Dorothea Phillips Ann Bowen Mali Harries Di Botcher
Mrs Dai Bread Two Nancy Wickwire Rachel Roberts Patricia Mort Pamela Conway Ruth Madoc Sara McGaughey Sian Thomas
Willy Nilly Postman Dion Allen Ben Williams Mervyn Johns Denys Graham Tim Wylton Iestyn Jones Tom Rhys Harries
Mrs Willy Nilly Nancy Wickwire Rachel Thomas Rachel Thomas Yvette Rees Bronwen Williams Eiry Thomas
Cherry Owen Dion Allen John Ormond Thomas John Gill John Gill Glynn Edwards Andy Hockley
Mrs Cherry Owen Nancy Wickwire Lorna Davies Buddug-Mair Powell Buddug-Mair Powell Bridget Turner Ruth Jones
Nogood Boyo Allen F. Collins Dillwyn Owen Howell Evans David Jason ? Craig Roberts
Organ Morgan Roy Poole John Glyn-Jones David Garfield Richard Parry ?
Mrs Organ Morgan Sada Thompson Olwen Brookes Patricia Mort Dilys Price Ruth Jones
Mae Rose Cottage Sada Thompson Rachel Roberts Nerys Hughes Susan Penhaligon Catrin Rhys Alexandra Roach
Gwennie Sada Thompson Norma Jones Olwen Rees ?
Jack Black Roy Poole John Rees Steffan Rhodri
Evans the Death Allen F. Collins Mark Jones ? Iwan Rheon
Mr Waldo Roy Poole Gareth Jones Roderick Jones Ray Smith ? Steffan Rhodri
Utah Watkins Allen F. Collins David Davies ?
Mrs Utah Watkins Nancy Wickwire Maudie Edwards ?
Ocky Milkman Roy Poole Griffith Davies ?
P.C. Attila Rees Allen F. Collins Brinley Jenkins Davyd Harries ?
Bessie Bighead Nancy Wickwire Peggy Ann Clifford ?
Mrs Butcher Beynon Nancy Wickwire Branwen Iorwerth Mary Jones Sharon Morgan Suzanne Packer
Lord Cut-Glass Dion Allen Richard Davies Dafydd Havard ?
Gomer Owen Ieuan Rhys Williams ?
First Neighbour Nancy Wickwire ? Sophie Evans
Second Neighbour Sada Thompson ? Melanie Walters
First Woman Sada Thompson ?
Second Woman Nancy Wickwire ?
Child's Voice Sada Thompson ?
First Drowned Allen F. Collins ? Tom Rhys Harries
Second Drowned Dylan Thomas ? Karl Johnson
Third Drowned Allen F. Collins ? Iwan Rheon
Fourth Drowned Dion Allen ? Aneurin Barnard
Fifth Drowned Dylan Thomas ?
Voice of a Guide Book Roy Poole John Humphrys Griff Rhys Jones
Billy Roy Poole ?
Johnny Cristo Dion Allen ?
Dicky Allen F. Collins ?
Voice Matthew Rhys
Voice Aimee-Ffion Edwards
Voice Griff Rhys Jones
Voice John Rhys-Davies
Voice Andrew Howard
Voice Rakie Ayola

Production history[edit]

The play had its first reading on stage on 14 May 1953, in New York City, at The Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y.[143] Thomas himself read the parts of the First Voice and the Reverend Eli Jenkins. Almost as an afterthought, the performance was recorded on a single-microphone tape recording (the microphone was laid at front center on the stage floor) and later issued by the Caedmon company. It is the only known recorded performance of Under Milk Wood with Thomas as a part of the cast. A studio recording, planned for 1954, was precluded by Thomas's death in November 1953.[144]

The BBC first broadcast Under Milk Wood, a new "'Play for Voices", on the Third Programme on 25 January 1954 (two months after Thomas's death), although several sections were omitted.[145] The play was recorded with a distinguished, all-Welsh cast including Richard Burton as "First Voice", with production by Douglas Cleverdon. A repeat was broadcast two days later.[146] Daniel Jones, the Welsh composer who was a lifelong friend of Thomas's (and his literary trustee), wrote the music; this was recorded separately, on 15 and 16 January, at Laugharne School. The play won the Prix Italia award for radio drama that year.[147]

There were other notable productions in 1954:

  • 14 February: extracts from the play read at the Dylan Thomas Memorial Recital at the Royal Festival Hall, London.[148]
  • 28 February: a complete reading at the Old Vic with Sybil Thorndike, Richard Burton and Emlyn Williams, adapted by Philip Burton.[149]
  • 10 March: a broadcast by the BBC German Service, translated by Erich Fried as Unter dem Milchwald, followed on 20 September by the first broadcast on German radio itself.[150]
  • 28 September: the first BBC Welsh Home Service broadcast.[151]
  • November: the first stage performance, held at the Théâtre de la Cour Saint-Pierre, Geneva, by Phoenix Productions, with props lent by the BBC.[152]

The following year, 1955, saw the first British stage production, on 13 August, at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, the first production at the Edinburgh Festival on 21 August and, on 20 September 1957, the first London West End stage production (at the New Theatre).[153]

The first attempt to bring the play to the screen occurred in May 1957 when the BBC broadcast a televised version narrated by Donald Houston.[154] In 1963, the original radio producer, Douglas Cleverdon, revisited the project and recorded the complete play, which was broadcast on the Third Programme on 11 October 1963.[155]

In 1971, Under Milk Wood was performed at Brynmawr Comprehensive School. The production was entirely the work of pupils at the school—from set design, to lighting and direction. With very few exceptions, every character was acted by a different player to allow as many pupils as possible to take part. Scheduled for only one performance; it ran for a week.[citation needed]

The 1972 film adaptation, with Burton reprising his role, also featured Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O'Toole, Glynis Johns, Vivien Merchant and other well-known actors, including Ryan Davies as the "Second Voice".[156] It was filmed on location in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, and at Lee International Film Studios in London.[157]

In 1988, George Martin produced an album version, featuring more of the dialogue sung, with music by Martin and Elton John, among others; Antony Hopkins played the part of "First Voice".[158] This was subsequently produced as a one-off stage performance (as An Evening with Dylan Thomas) for The Prince's Trust in the presence of HRH Prince Charles, to commemorate the opening in December 1992 of the new AIR Studios at Lyndhurst Hall. It was again produced by Martin and directed by Hopkins, who once again played 'First Voice'. Other roles were played by Harry Secombe, Freddie Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Siân Phillips, Jonathan Pryce, Alan Bennett and, especially for the occasion, singer Tom Jones.[159] The performance was recorded for television (directed by Declan Lowney) but has never been shown.[160]

In 1992, Brightspark Productions released a 50-minute animation version, using an earlier BBC soundtrack with Burton as narrator. This was commissioned by S4C (a Welsh-language public service broadcaster). Music was composed specially by Trevor Herbert and performed by Treorchy Male Voice Choir and the Welsh Brass Consort.[161]

In February 1994, Guy Masterson premiered a one-man physical version of the unabridged text at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, playing all 69 characters. This production returned for the subsequent Edinburgh International Fringe Festival and sold out its entire run. It has since played over 2000 times globally.[162]

In 1997, Australian pianist and composer Tony Gould's adaptation of Under Milk Wood (written for narrator and chamber orchestra) was first performed by actor John Stanton and the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra.[163]

In November 2003, as part of their commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Thomas's death, the BBC broadcast a new production of the play, imaginatively combining new actors with the original 1954 recording of Burton playing "First Voice". (Broadcast 15 November 2003, BBC Radio 4; repeated 24 December 2004.) Digital noise reduction technology allowed Burton's part to be incorporated unobtrusively into the new recording, which was intended to represent Welsh voices more realistically than the original.[164]

In 2006, Austrian composer Akos Banlaky composed an opera with the libretto based on the German translation by Erich Fried (Unter dem Milchwald, performed at Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, Austria).[165]

In 2008, the French composer, François Narboni, composed an opera, Au Bois lacté, based on his own translation and adaptation of Under Milk Wood. It was created at the Opéra-Théâtre in Metz, France, with staging by Antoine Juliens. The work is for 12 singers, large mixed choir, children choir, accordion, dancer and electronics sounds.[166]

In 2008, a ballet version of Under Milk Wood by Independent Ballet Wales toured the UK. It was choreographed by Darius James with music by British composer Thomas Hewitt Jones. A suite including music from the ballet was recorded by Court Lane Music in 2009.[167]

In 2009 and 2010 a translation in Dutch by the Belgian writer Hugo Claus was performed on stage by Jan Decleir and Koen De Sutter on a theatre tour in Belgium and the Netherlands (e.g. the Zeeland Late-Summer Festival, the Vooruit in Ghent, etc.).[168]

In 2010, a one-woman production of the text was performed at the Sidetrack Theatre in Sydney, Australia, presented by Bambina Borracha Productions and directed by Vanessa Hughes. Actress Zoe Norton Lodge performed all 64 characters in the play.[169]

In July 2011, Progress Youth Theatre (Reading, Berkshire, UK) performed a stage adaptation of the radio script. All visual aspects, such as stage directions, costume, set and lighting design were therefore devised entirely by the youth theatre. The voice parts were shared equally among seven actors, with other actors playing multiple "named" parts (with the exception of Captain Cat, who remained on stage throughout the production).[170]

The BBC Formula 1 introduction to the 2011 Singapore Grand Prix featured extracts of the audio for their opening VT.[171]

In 2012, the Sydney Theatre Company staged a production starring Jack Thompson as First Voice and Sandy Gore as Second Voice, with a cast including Bruce Spence, Paula Arundell, Drew Forsythe, Alan John, Drew Livingston and Helen Thomson.[172] The production was staged in the Drama Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.[173]

In 2012, Gould's 1997 adaptation of Under Milk Wood (written for narrator and chamber orchestra) was again performed by actor John Stanton as part of the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School's inaugural performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Gould played piano and worked with the students as a musical mentor.[174]

Guy Masterson of Theatre Tours International has produced and performed a solo version of the play over 2000 times since its world premiere in 1994. It has been performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1994, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010; in Adelaide, Australia, in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012; and in London's West End Arts Theatre.[175]

In 2014, Pip Broughton directed an adaptation of the play for the BBC, starring Michael Sheen, Tom Jones, and Jonathan Pryce.[176]

In October 2014, the BBC launched an interactive ebook entitled Dylan Thomas: The Road To Milk Wood, written by Jon Tregenna and Robin Moore. It deals with the journey from Swansea via the BBC to New York City and beyond.[177]

In 2021, as part of its post-COVID-19 programme, the National Theatre produced an adaptation of Under Milk Wood with Michael Sheen reprising his role as First Voice. This new adaptation included additional material from actress Dame Siân Phillips, who also starred in the production. The adaptation tells the story of First Voice trying to connect with his father, played by Karl Johnson, who has dementia by inventing stories of characters from the village his father lived in as a boy.[178]

2020 production starring Kenneth Welsh and featuring Deaf Sign Language Performer, Missy Keast.[179]


One of many articles celebrating the work of Dylan Thomas. This mug bears a quotation from the prayer of the Rev Eli Jenkins in 'Under Milk Wood'.
  • To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea. – opening lines, spoken by First Voice
  • We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under Milk Wood – prayer of the Reverend Eli Jenkins
  • Black as a chimbley! – Third neighbour
  • Me, No-Good Boyo is up to no good... in the wash house. – Nogood Boyo
  • I am going into the darkness of the darkness forever. I have forgotten that I was ever born. – Rosie Probert[180]

References in other media[edit]

Selective bibliography[edit]

  • Brinnin, J. (1955), Dylan Thomas in America, Avon
  • Cleverdon, D. (1969), The Growth of Milk Wood, Dent
  • Ferris, P. ed. (2000), Dylan Thomas: The Collected Letters, Dent
  • Davies, W., and R. Maud, eds.(1995), Under Milk Wood: the Definitive Edition, Everyman
  • M. Lewis (1967), Laugharne and Dylan Thomas, Dobson
  • Thomas, D. N. (2000), Ch. 7, The Plot, in Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren
  • Thomas, D. N. (2001) Under Milk Wood's Birth in Exile, in the New Welsh Review, Spring.
  • Thomas, D. N. (2004), The Birth of Under Milk Wood in Dylan Remembered 1935-1953, vol. 2, Seren
  • Thomas, D. N. (2014), A Postcard from New Quay in Dylan Thomas: A Centenary Celebration, ed. H. Ellis, Bloomsbury.

External links[edit]



  1. ^ Rees, Ian (21 January 2016). "Lunch at Mussolini's': Ethel Ross and Dylan Thomas". DylanThomas.com. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  2. ^ Trick, Kerith (Autumn 2001). "The Original Marx Brother: Bert Trick and Dylan Thomas". New Welsh Review (54).
  3. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2003), Dylan Remembered 1914–1934, Seren, p. 165.
  4. ^ Letters to David Higham, February 9, 1937 and Keidrych Rhys, March 26, 1937 and a telegram to Emily Holmes Coleman, April 6, 1937, in the Collected Letters.
  5. ^ Letter to Meurig Walters, written in Blashford, Hampshire, 28 March 1938 in Collected Letters.
  6. ^ They also lived in Blashford (November 1938 to March 1939 and January 1940 to March 1940), Marshfield, Chippenham (July 1940 to November 1940), and Bishopston (December 1940 to April 1941) – see Thomas' Collected Letters.
  7. ^ Thomas’ Collected Letters show that the family lived for 18 months in Gosport Street and Sea View, Laugharne, between May 1938 and July 1940, and for three months in the Castle in 1941. They did not return to live in Laugharne until May 1949.
  8. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2004), Dylan Remembered 1935–1953, Seren, p. 75.
  9. ^ This was a casting idea developed by Bernard Walke in his 1930 radio plays, featuring Cornish miners, fishermen and farmers playing themselves. See Broadcasting Under Milk Wood, Note 13, online at Broadcasting Under Milk Wood It is also at D.N. Thomas (2020) Under Milk Wood: A Play for Ears: Reflections on T. Rowland Hughes, Philip Burton and Dylan Thomas, May, New Welsh Review.
  10. ^ Richard Hughes in Thomas, D. N. (2004), Dylan Remembered 1935-1953, Seren, p. 75, and also Hughes' review of Under Milk Wood in the Sunday Times, 7 March 1954.
  11. ^ The interview, carried out in the 1960s, is in Thomas, D. N. (2004), Dylan Remembered 1935–1953, Seren, p. 75.
  12. ^ Rosie Probert, born in Swansea, 1907. She was living in Horsepool Road with an aunt and uncle, Margaret and Harlford Francis, a ship’s steward. It was a crowded household: also living with them were their son, daughter, son-in-law, step-son and nephew. 1921 census record transcription from FindmyPast.
  13. ^ "Who Lived in Your House in 1939? - 1939 Register". www.findmypast.co.uk.
  14. ^ See the interview with Jane Dark in D. N. Thomas (2004) Dylan Remembered 1935-1953, p179, Seren.
  15. ^ D. N. Thomas (2004) Dylan Remembered 1935-1953, p179, Seren.
  16. ^ Llareggub's Bessie Bighead has a cow called Fan from the Castle
  17. ^ "Miss Price, dressmaker and sweetshop-keeper, dreams of...her lover, tall as the town clock tower..."
  18. ^ For an alternative explanation of the name "Salt Lake Farm", see Dylan's sketch of Llareggub
  19. ^ For more on Dylan drinking in Eynon’s pub, see online at Eynon butcher and publican which is based on an interview with Eynon: G. Burn (1972) "Dylan Thomas", Radio Times, October 26: "He [Dylan] used to come in here and sit in the room with the coracle men around an open fire and I'd watch him listening and memorising and writing down. He told me he was writing a play and that I was in it, but he'd put you off if you started fishing him...My fridges are down the lane out the back there and sometimes Dylan would see me walking back up to the shop carrying a cleaver, often with my little dog. It was a dachshund, see, a sausage dog, but in his play he calls it a corgi." (Burn 1972)
  20. ^ For an account of Thomas' time in Gelli, Talsarn, see Thomas, D. N. (2000), A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren.
  21. ^ The aunt was Elizabeth Ann Williams who had married his mother Florence's brother, John Williams. Elizabeth came to live in New Quay in the 1920s with her daughter, Theodosia, Dylan's first cousin. Theodosia married a master mariner, Thomas Legg, in 1930. Their three children were born and brought up in New Quay. Thomas Legg's parents, Captain George Legg OBE and his wife, Margaret, also lived in New Quay. For more on Thomas' New Quay relations, see pp. 106-115 of D. N. Thomas (2002), The Dylan Thomas Trail, Y Lolfa. George and Margaret Legg, and their daughter-in-law, Theodosia, are to be found in the 1945 Register of Electors for New Quay.
  22. ^ This poem can be found on page 189 of Thomas, D. N. (2000), Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren, and also in Jones, D. (1991), Dylan Thomas: The Poems, Dent, with a note on its New Quay origins. A later version of the poem can be found in Thomas' letter of May 28, 1945 to T. W. Earp in the Collected Letters, with note on its New Quay origins.
  23. ^ For example, watered-down milk, fish heads, telescopes, bible black and prying preachers. Elements of the play can also be found in another work from 1943, in Thomas’ broadcast, Reminiscences of Childhood e.g. Cherry Owen’s fish-frail of bottles, whilst Thomas’ reference in the broadcast to a far-off race of Mormons anticipates Utah Watkins of Salt Lake Farm.
  24. ^ September 21, 1944, Collected Letters.
  25. ^ The Black Lion
  26. ^ Thomas, C. (1986), Caitlin: Life with Dylan Thomas, Secker and Warburg, p. 92.
  27. ^ See C. FitzGibbon (1965) The Life of Dylan Thomas, p. 266 Little Brown.
  28. ^ P. Ferris (1999), Dylan Thomas: The Biography, Dent, p. 4.
  29. ^ G. Tremlett (1993), Dylan Thomas: In the Mercy of his Means, Constable, p. 95.
  30. ^ FitzGibbon, C. (1965), The Life of Dylan Thomas pp. 266-67, Little Brown.
  31. ^ Cleverdon, D. (1954), in the Radio Times, 22 January. It has to be said that Cleverdon is not consistent in his dating of work on the play.
  32. ^ in Thomas D. N. (2004), Dylan Remembered 1935–1953, Seren, p. 187.
  33. ^ W. Wilkinson (1948), Puppets in Wales, Bles, and online here Wilkinson in New Quay
  34. ^ "Dylan Thomas: A Postcard from New Quay". sites.google.com.
  35. ^ Milestones:in particular, the broadcasts Quite Early One Morning (1945), The Londoner (1946), Margate – Past and Present (1946) and Return Journey (1947).
  36. ^ Davies, W., and R. Maud, eds (1995), Under Milk Wood: the Definitive Edition, Everyman.
  37. ^ The script can be read at R. Maud, ed. (1991) On the Air with Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, New Directions.
  38. ^ Davies, W., and R. Maud, eds (1995), Under Milk Wood: the Definitive Edition, p. xviii, Everyman.
  39. ^ In First Voice's "To begin at the beginning."
  40. ^ Annie Ogmore Davies was the wife of Thomas Ogmore Davies whose drapery shop, Bon Marché, stood at the top of Church Street, next to the Queens Hotel
  41. ^ Eluned Pritchard Jones was the wife of Barclays bank manager, Richard Pritchard-Jones, Bank House, Church Street
  42. ^ Church Street:1945 Register of Electors, with a photo online at Mrs Ogmore Pritchard
  43. ^ Phyllis Cosmo-Jones, interviewed c1999, in D. N. Thomas, A Postcard from New Quay, in H. Ellis, ed. (2014) Dylan Thomas: A Centenary Celebration, Bloomsbury, and online at Pritchard-Jones.
  44. ^ C. Edwards-Jones (2013), New Quay Wales Remembered, pp. 60-61, Book Guild Publishing.
  45. ^ Jack Lloyd was John Lloyd Evans and he lived at Noddfa (now Trenova) at the upper end of Church Street, opposite the Queens Hotel. See S. Passmore (2015), The Streets of New Quay, p. 199, Lulu Press, and the Register of Electors 1945.
  46. ^ See Davies, W. and Maud, R. eds.(1995), Under Milk Wood: the Definitive Edition, p. xxxvi, Everyman. In her book on New Quay, former resident, Catrin Edwards-Jones, gives examples of the local news that Jack Lloyd would cry out e.g. forthcoming local events such as a singing concert or a meeting in the Memorial Hall (New Quay Wales Remembered (2013), Book Guild Publishing, pp. 28–29).
  47. ^ "Jack the Post is an old friend...” Letter to Margaret Taylor of August 29, 1946 in Collected Letters
  48. ^ For more on Jack Lloyd, see note 9 in A Postcard from New Quay online at Postcard from New Quay
  49. ^ Dai Fred was in charge of the donkey engine, an auxiliary engine used for work such as lifting and pumping. He is mentioned in Thomas' letter to Margaret Taylor of August 29, 1946. For more on Dai Fred see Thomas, D. N. (2000), Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren, pp. 219–220.
  50. ^ In 1933, Dan Jones married Phyllis Cherry, the daughter of Walter and Edith Cherry of Margaret Street, New Quay (see Free BMD, June quarter). Dan, Phyllis and her parents are all in the 1945 Register of Electors for New Quay. Following the marriage, Dan became known as both Dan Cherry and as Cherry Jones - see D. N. Thomas (2000), Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren, p. 218.
  51. ^ see Sketch of Llareggub).
  52. ^ Thomas' work sheets for Under Milk Wood are at the Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas at Austin.
  53. ^ This was Thomas’ description of Graham’s cut-glass accent in a letter to Margaret Taylor of August 29, 1946. Fallowell has provided the following description of Graham's accent: "The voice, issuing from slightly pursed lips, was fastidious and well bred..." in Fallowell, D. (2013), How to Disappear p. 164, Union Books
  54. ^ see Thomas, D. N. (2000), Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren, p. 223. The title is provided in Fallowell, D. (2013), How to Disappear, Union Books, p. 202.
  55. ^ For more on Graham, including his obsessive time-keeping, see Thomas, D. N. (2000), Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren, pp. 222–223. On New Quay's clocks, clock makers and clock collectors, read more online at New Quay clocks
  56. ^ D. N. Thomas (2002) The Dylan Thomas Trail, p.73, Y Lolfa.
  57. ^ "A New Church in Dowlais". www.merthyr-history.com. Retrieved 1 April 2024.
  58. ^ Church bell given to New Quay: see D. N. Thomas (2002) The Dylan Thomas Trail, p.73, Y Lolfa.
  59. ^ ("Fourth Drowned: Who milks the cows in Maesgwyn?") Maesgwyn's fields were on the cliff-top between Majoda and New Quay. See S. Passmore (2012) Farmers and Figureheads: the Port of New Quay and its Hinterland p. 26, Grosvenor and S. Passmore (2015) The Streets of New Quay, p. 470, Lulu Press, who gives a date of 1940 for the cliff collapse, with a photo of Maesgwyn on p. 468. There's also another photo of Maesgwyn on p. 213 of D. N. Thomas (2000) A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren.
  60. ^ Always known as the Sailor's Arms locally, and in newspaper reports and in some census returns. See Sailor's Arms See also D. N. Thomas (2000) A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow pp. 212-213, Seren, for more on the Sailor's Arms.
  61. ^ Ffynnon Ddewi (Dewi’s Well), supplied the town’s water until the 1930s. The river Dewi itself flows into the sea nearby. See W. J. Lewis (1987) New Quay and Llanarth p. 35 Aberystwyth
  62. ^ Frondolau quarry at the end of Rock Street and Neuadd quarry on the headland above. As with Llareggub's Mr Waldo and Mrs Beattie Morris up in the quarry, New Quay’s Frondolau quarry had long been a favourite spot for couples, as the New Quay Chronicle had once reported: “Should Cupid pierce the tender hearts of the lovely maidens and brave young men, the quarry and the lonely cliffs form an unapproachable fortress to guard their faltering confessions.” August 1902.
  63. ^ New Quay's harbour and pier date from the early 19th century. See chapter 2 of S. C. Passmore (2012) Farmers and Figureheads: the Port of New Quay and its Hinterland, Grosvenor. They are both still in use today (2022). Laugharne's harbour had vanished under saltmarsh and silt long before Thomas' time. Ever since the 17th century, “…the incremental growth of the salt marsh deprived the town of both beach and harbour and landlocked its castle.” See S. Read et. al. (2021), The geomorphology of the Taf Estuary at Laugharne harbour lost to salt marsh See also Laugharne harbour history
  64. ^ Manchester House in New Quay was a draper and milliner’s shop, as it is in Llareggub but not in Laugharne, where it was a general store. Thomas mentions New Quay’s Manchester House in his broadcast, Quite Early One Morning.
  65. ^ First Voice: “The windy town is a hill of windows…..” See W. Davies and R. Maud, eds (1995), Under Milk Wood: the Definitive Edition, p59, Everyman. For two photos of New Quay as a "hill of windows", see hill of windows with another photo in D. N. Thomas (2000) A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, p. 206, Seren.
  66. ^ Llareggub had Donkey Down (as well as Donkey Street and Donkey Lane). In New Quay, the Downs was an area of steep grassland that stretched down from the Black Lion to the lifeboat station. It was used for grazing donkeys, including Maisie, the Black Lion’s donkey. Thomas refers to the braying of donkeys in a letter from Majoda of May 21, 1945. For more on New Quay’s donkeys, see Thomas, D. N. (2000), op.cit. p. 212, with a photo of a typical New Quay donkey cart on p. 53 of R. Bryan (2012), New Quay: A History in Pictures, Llanina Books. Walter Wilkinson also mentions the town’s donkeys in his account of a visit to New Quay in 1947. Puppets in Wales (1948), Bles, p. 131.
  67. ^ Jack Patrick of the Black Lion Hotel bred whippets and kept cows. He had a dairy next to the hotel, where he made and sold dairy products, including buttermilk. This information on Jack came from interviews with New Quay residents c1998, and with Jack Pat's niece, Anne Brodie. There’s a photo of Jack with one of his whippets in Thomas, D. N. (2000), A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren, p. 82.
  68. ^ Thomas writes about the stopped clock in the Black Lion bar in his letter about New Quay of 29 August 1946, to Margaret Taylor. See Collected Letters.
  69. ^ For more on New Quay names in the play, see Thomas, D. N. (2000), op. cit. pp. 206–216, and online at New Quay names
  70. ^ Davies, W., and R. Maud, eds (1995), Under Milk Wood: the Definitive Edition, p. xvii, Everyman.
  71. ^ The Life of Dylan Thomas, 1965 p. 237, Little Brown
  72. ^ Ackerman, J. (1979), Welsh Dylan, Seren, p. 127. For more on Llanina, see the Wikipedia entry for New Quay.
  73. ^ See Thomas, D. N. (2000), pp. 212–213, Dylan Thomas: A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow, Seren, and Passmore S. C. (2015), p. 470, The Streets of New Quay, Lulu Press, with a photo of Maesgwyn on p. 468. Passmore dates the collapse of Maesgwyn to 1940.
  74. ^ See the letters of 24 May, 29 May, 5 June, Collected Letters.
  75. ^ a b See his letter of 3 August 1947 from Elba, Collected Letters.
  76. ^ The "cocklewomen webfoot" also appear in Thomas’ letter to Margaret Taylor written in South Leigh in October 1948, Collected Letters.
  77. ^ See his letter from Elba of August 3, 1947, Collected Letters.
  78. ^ See his letter to his parents, 19 July 1947, which reads: "I want very much to write a full-length – hour to an hour & a half – broadcast play; & hope to do it, in South Leigh, this autumn." And another to John Ormond 6 March 1948: "A radio play I am writing has Laugharne, though not by name, as its setting."
  79. ^ Lycett, A. (2004), Thomas Untutored in Oxford Today, 16, 2, Hilary.
  80. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2004), Dylan Remembered 1934–1953, Seren, pp. 294–295, and also at South Leigh.
  81. ^ (1) Burton, P. (1953), untitled, Dylan Thomas Memorial Number in Adam International Review. (2) Tape recorded interview in the Jeff Towns Collection. (3) Letters to Douglas Cleverdon, 9 October 1967 and 26 February 1968, in the Cleverdon archive, Lilly Library, University of Indiana, and reproduced at Burton and Thomas.
  82. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2020), Under Milk Wood: A Play for Ears. Some Reflections on T. Rowland Hughes, Philip Burton and Dylan Thomas, New Welsh Review, May. And online at Burton and Thomas
  83. ^ The lines about Organ Morgan playing for nobody and playing for sheep are both found at the very end of the play. See Davies and Maud op. cit. p. 61.
  84. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2004), Dylan Remembered 1934-1953, Seren, pp. 160–164 and 295–296, and also at milk wood Prague. Taken from Hauková's Memoirs: Záblesky života (1996), H&H, Jinočany, and translated at Thomas, D. N. (2004), p. 163. The information about Thomas reading the first version of Under Milk Wood in Prague in March 1949 was first published by Fitzgibbon in his 1965 biography of Thomas (p. 304), after receiving a letter from Hauková.
  85. ^ Curnow, A. (1982), Images of Dylan, NZ Listener, 8 December.
  86. ^ Collected Letters, p. 860.
  87. ^ See his various letters 1950-1953 about failing to work on the play e.g. his 6 January 1953 letter to Gwyn Jones: "I've been terribly busy failing to write one word of a more or less play set in a Wales that I'm sad to say never was…" He wrote to Charles Fry in February 1953, complaining that, apart from the 'Prologue' for Collected Poems, he had not been able to write anything for a whole year. A memo from David Higham, his agent, also in February 1953, noted tersely: "He hasn't made any progress on the Llareggub things."
  88. ^ On 10 March, at the university. For an account by the journalist Alan Road, see Thomas, D. N. (2004), Dylan Remembered 1935–1953, p. 302.
  89. ^ For an account, see Thomas, D. N. op. cit. p. 304.
  90. ^ Brinnin, J. (1955), Dylan Thomas in America, Avon, p. 213.
  91. ^ Brinnin, J. (1955), Dylan Thomas in America, Avon, pp. 211–213.
  92. ^ Desultory: Davies and Maud, op.cit. p. 82.
  93. ^ A. Thomas (2009), My Father’s Places, Constable, p. 199.
  94. ^ A. Thomas op.cit. p204.
  95. ^ For information on both these readings, see Thomas, D. N. (2004) op.cit. p. 306.
  96. ^ Thomas, D. N. op. cit. p. 306.
  97. ^ Thomas, D. N. 2008, p. 46
  98. ^ Cleverdon, D. (1969), The Growth of Milk Wood, pp. 35–38.
  99. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2008), p. 57.
  100. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2008), Fatal Neglect: Who Killed Dylan Thomas?, Seren, pp. 58–67.
  101. ^ Becker, R., A Memoir, in the Constantine Fitzgibbon archive, Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas at Austin.
  102. ^ Nancy Wickwire, one of the cast. See Thomas desperately ill
  103. ^ Brinnin, J. (1955), Dylan Thomas in America, Avon, p. 258.
  104. ^ Letters to John Ormond 6 March 1948 and Princess Caetani, October 1951.
  105. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2004), Dylan Remembered 1935–1953, chapter 2, Seren, and at the play's inspiration
  106. ^ But see (1) Davies, J. A. (2000), Dylan Thomas’s Swansea, Gower and Laugharne, University of Wales Press. (2) Tregenna, J. (2014), If He Were Still With Us (Dylan’s Laugharne – Still Strange), Bloomsbury. (3) Lewis, M. (1967), Laugharne and Dylan Thomas, Dobson.
  107. ^ Of his four years at the Boat House, more than a quarter were spent in America and Persia, and much of the rest in London or travelling the country to read poetry or to broadcast on the radio. Aeronwy's comment: A. Thomas (2009), My Father's Places, Constable, p. 21.
  108. ^ Cleverdon, D. (1969), The Growth of Milk Wood, Dent, p. 4.
  109. ^ There are photos of the terraces and the windowed-hill at Photos of New Quay.
  110. ^ Dylan's Llareggub map at The National Library of Wales's website.
  111. ^ Davies. J. A. (2000), Dylan Thomas’s Swansea, Gower and Laugharne, pp. 103–104, University of Wales Press.
  112. ^ See Analysis of Dylan's Sketch of Llareggub First published on the Discover Dylan Thomas website, September 2021.
  113. ^ On a work sheet for the play, quoted in Davies and Maud (1999), p. 100.
  114. ^ In the 1939 War Register, for example, there were 58 sailors (of whom 30 were merchant master mariners) listed for New Quay but only four sailors for Laugharne, none of whom were master mariners. Over the long-term (1850-1927), 1380 master mariner and mate certificates were issued by the Board of Trade to New Quay men, but only 21 to men from Laugharne. (These are the numbers of certificates issued, not the number of men. A sailor might acquire a number of certificates on his way to becoming a master. In Laugharne, for example, the 21 certificates were gained by ten men.) For more on this see Thomas, D. N. (2019) Llareggub and the 1939 War Register, at Llareggub-and-the-1939-War-Register.
  115. ^ Ship building in New Quay: mainly brigs, barques and schooners. For example, some 99 schooners were built in New Quay between 1848 and 1870. Overall, more than 200 ships were built there between 1779 and 1890. There were six shipyards on the beach at New Quay, with as many smithies in the town, a foundry, and sail and rope makers. There are a number of publications about the town’s maritime history and residents: (1) S. Passmore (2012) Farmers and Figureheads: the Port of New Quay and its Hinterland, Grosvenor House. (2) R. Bryan (2012) New Quay: A History in Pictures, Llanina Books. (3) W. J. Lewis (1987), New Quay and Llanarth, Aberystwyth.
  116. ^ Wilkinson, W. (1948), Puppets in Wales, p. 131, Bles.
  117. ^ D. Parry-Jones (1948), Welsh Country Upbringing, Batsford.
  118. ^ Thomas, D. N. (2019), Llareggub-and-the-1939-war-register Llareggub and the 1939 War Register. First published on the Discover Dylan Thomas website, September 2019
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  122. ^ See, for example, the Project Gutenberg edition online.
  123. ^ For example see Richard Burton reads Dylan Thomas - from 'Under Milk Wood': Rev. Eli Jenkins' poem on YouTube by Welsh actor Richard Burton, at time 0:39.
  124. ^ Dated October 1934 in the Red Notebook and published in The Criterion in July 1936.
  125. ^ The Burning Baby. Dated October 1934 in the "Red Notebook" and first published in the magazine Contemporary Poetry and Prose, issue for May 1936. This information listed by Walford Davies in Dylan Thomas: Collected Stories. Phoenix, 2000.
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  129. ^ Letter to Princess Caetani, October 1951, Collected Letters.
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  138. ^ For an interview with Jones, see Jones See also Jones' article on his translation: Llareggub's Cyfarwydd in New Welsh Review, no. 54, Autumn 2001.
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