Even if the poet, writer and broadcaster Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) hadn’t lived at the Boathouse in Laugharne for the last four years of his tragically short life, it is a truly remarkable place to visit. In this collage is Laugharne Castle, the wooden statue, the boathouse, his writing shed, Laugharne Castle and the wooded path along the side of the Taf Estuary that leads to the boathouse.
The Boathouse terrace offers wonderful views of the Taf estuary and the Gower beyond – a haven for egrets, lapwings, herons, oystercatchers, seals and otters with fishermen and cocklers continuing the ancient traditions.
The Boathouse tearoom with its locally sourced, home-cooked menu provides a welcome respite for walkers tackling the newly launched Wales Coast Path.
As well as the tearoom, there is a furnished front parlour, an upstairs exhibition area showing a 24 minute film, a shop and toilet facilities.
It was Dylan Thomas, however, who made the Boathouse iconic. It is the building most closely associated with him and the stability of a permanent home meant he enjoyed a creative renaissance. He worked in the Writing Shed above the Boathouse with its remarkable and inspiring views of four estuaries.
The first poem he wrote there was ‘Over Sir John’s Hill’, in which he describes the view from the shed, writing of birds stalking their prey and bringing death in the midst of this beauty.
Over Sir John’s hill,
The hawk on fire hangs still;
In a hoisted cloud, at drop of dusk, he pulls to his claws
And gallows, up the rays of his eyes the small birds of the bay
And the shrill child’s play
Of the sparrows and such who swansing, dusk, in wrangling hedges.
And blithely they squawk
To fiery tyburn over the wrestle of elms until
The flash the noosed hawk
Crashes, and slowly the fishing holy stalking heron
In the river Towy below bows his tilted headstone.
Flash, and the plumes crack,
And a black cap of jack-
Daws Sir John’s just hill dons, and again the gulled birds hare
To the hawk on fire, the halter height, over Towy’s fins,
In a whack of wind.
Where the elegiac fisherbird stabs and paddles
In the pebbly dab-filled
Shallow and sedge, and ‘dilly dilly,’ calls the loft hawk,
‘Come and be killed,’
I open the leaves of the water at a passage
Of psalms and shadows among the pincered sandcrabs prancing
And read, in a shell
Death clear as a bouy’s bell:
All praise of the hawk on fire in hawk-eyed dusk be sung,
When his viperish fuse hangs looped with flames under the brand
Wing, and blest shall
Green chickens of the bay and bushes cluck, ‘dilly dilly,
Come let us die.’
We grieve as the blithe birds, never again, leave shingle and elm,
The heron and I,
I young Aesop fabling to the near night by the dingle
Of eels, saint heron hymning in the shell-hung distant
Crystal harbour vale
Where the sea cobbles sail,
And wharves of water where the walls dance and the white cranes stilt.
It is the heron and I, under judging Sir John’s elmed
Hill, tell-tale the knelled
Of the led-astray birds whom God, for their breast of whistles,
Have Mercy on,
God in his whirlwind silence save, who marks the sparrows hail,
For their souls’ song.
Now the heron grieves in the weeded verge. Through windows
Of dusk and water I see the tilting whispering
Heron, mirrored, go,
As the snapt feathers snow,
Fishing in the tear of the Towy. Only a hoot owl
Hollows, a grassblade blown in cupped hands, in the looted elms
And no green cocks or hens
Now on Sir John’s hill. The heron, ankling the scaly
Lowlands of the waves,
Makes all the music; and I who hear the tune of the slow,
Wear-willow river, grave,
Before the lunge of the night, the notes on this time-shaken
Stone for the sake of the souls of the slain birds sailing.
Tagged: , boat house , writing shed , woods , dylan thomas , the boathouse , laugharne , carmarthenshire , wales , west wales , laugharne castle , welsh history , welsh poet , monument , statue , dylan marlais thomas , taf estuary , river taf estuary , grist carpark