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This report is taken from PN Review 196, Volume 37 Number 2, November - December 2010.

Light from Dusty Papers: R.S Thomas Sheila Savill

The realisation that no critic or biographer of R.S. Thomas seems to have drawn on material from official records, such as census returns and registers of births marriages and deaths, prompted me to investigate whether such records hold information that could enhance our understanding and appreciation of Thomas’s life and writing. This report, on work still in progress, suggests that the records include interesting and illuminating material.

Thomas’s parents, Margaret Davies and Thomas Hubert Thomas (THT), were married in Cardiff on 8 October 1912. Their marriage certificate records that the wedding was by special licence, not after banns (which take four weeks to call), suggesting that it was a hastily arranged affair. The poet’s birth certificate gives the most likely reason for such haste. Although his father registered the birth on 6 May 1913, Thomas had actually been born on 29 March, less than six months after his parents’ wedding.

The premarital pregnancy suggests that Thomas’s allegation that his mother had entrapped his father into marriage had a factual basis:

She went fishing in him;
I was the bait
That became cargo…
                                   (‘A Boy’s Tale’)

In poems such as ‘Salt’, Thomas also accused his mother of ‘destroying’ her husband by enticing him away from the sea:

…the old call
to abandon it
for the narrow channel
from her and back. The chair
was waiting and the slippers
by ...


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