The real Dylan Thomas?

Posted by Nick Hennegan on Sunday, January 29, 2017 Under: Writers

It’s been great being involved with the new International Dylan Day. 14 May each year has been designated Dylan Day to mark the first time his play for voices ‘Under Milk Wood’ was performed in public in the USA. It’s a direct lift from Blooms Day, an annual event inspired by one of the lead characters in Ulysses, by James Joyce. We're going to celebrate it this year with an extra tour and extra Dylan content.  Book now for 13th May - the Saturday before the day.  We also have some ideas about recording a new play about Dylan, but more news of that later!


Last years poster.

In the past, much has been made of Dylan’s drinking and philandering. Many assume he drank himself to death in New York. The first rock-n-roll poet. We like our legends to burn bright and die young!

But doing the research on Dylan, for his ‘role’ in The London Literary Pub Crawl in London, I came across one or two inconsistencies in the legend. The hospital where he died are still loath to talk about his death, but the autopsy showed no signs of alcohol damage to his organs. It looks like it may have been a combination of air pollution and a bungled medical diagnosis.  

If you check out the video page on the www.LondonLiteraryPubCrawl.com site, you’ll see a short film made by Griff Rhys Jones about Dylan.  Many of the people who remember him are now rather elderly, but there is one particularly interesting recollection about Dylan coming out of The Wheatsheaf, (one of the pubs we feature, of course) having had just a half-a-pint of beer.  He was completely sober, until he saw a publishing acquaintance coming towards them, when he suddenly started acting drunk.

I think Dylan was so determined to be a successful poet that he was aware of the notion of the drunken artist and aware of what might today be called, his ‘brand.’  That’s not to say he was a perfect gent - I’m sure he wasn't - but most first-hand reports of Dylan tend to be mainly favourable.

So I don’t think it was the famous “18-double whiskies” that finished Dylan off.  I think it was an overdose of Morphine, given by a Doctor unaware that Dylan was asthmatic.

As we say on the Literary Pub Crawl, Dylan was the Michael Jackson of the 1950′s.  Killed not by booze, but medical neglect. Michael Jackson died young, but he lived more than Dylan’s 39 years.  And as you can see from the short, silent, black and white newsreel on our website, his wife Caitlin, was devastated.  

Dylan did go gentle into that good night.

In : Writers 


Tags: blooms day  michael jackson  ulysses  james joyce  dylan thomas  soho  the wheatsheaf  pubs  dylan day 
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About Us


Nick Hennegan Hello. I'm Nick Hennegan and I started the London Literary Pub Crawl. Most of the blogs on here will be by me. I've always written but my first theatrical success was an adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Henry V'. I founded Maverick Theatre in 1994. This pub crawl is really more a promenade theatre performance than a tour and I'm running it with a bunch of enthusiastic local actors and writers. I love sharing my passion for the area and the artists. I also present a radio show on Resonance 104.4fm - London's Arts Station. It's called 'Literary London' and is on Fridays at 7pm (and repeated Weds at 7am.) If you haven't visited us in London yet, I hope you'll come soon. And feel free to leave comments or email me at nick @ LondonLiteraryPubCrawl.com - I reply to them all and I love to hear from you.

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