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This article is taken from PN Review 220, Volume 41 Number 2, November - December 2014.

Lynette Roberts and Dylan Thomas: Background to a Friendship Charles Mundye
In the early hours of Saturday 8 April 1939 the British cruise liner Hilary ran aground in dense fog at Carmel Head, Anglesey. It had begun its voyage to Liverpool in Manaos, nine hundred miles up the Amazon River, collecting holidaymakers at various stops en route, including two young women writers returning to London from an extended stay on the Island of Madeira. The Daily Mail report on the following Monday had an especial interest in ‘sun-tanned cruise girls’ rudely awakened from their cabins, but it also highlighted the morale-boosting spirits of the two writers: in the third-class lounge, as the ship listed to port, Celia Buckmaster began playing the piano, while her friend Lynette Roberts sang along.1 Amid the excitement of the occasion it may or may not have occurred to Roberts that this shipwreck, as she later styled it, was a kind of unexpected homecoming. For Lynette Roberts was of Welsh descent, albeit through several generations of familial expatriation in Australia and then Argentina, where Roberts spent the first fifteen years of her life.

Whether this grounding and the ensuing evacuation of the ship via the Holyhead lifeboat was symbolic or not, within a year Lynette Roberts had made a home in a small Welsh village in Carmarthenshire, following a marriage to Keidrych Rhys at which Dylan Thomas was best man. Thomas found the bridesmaid Celia Buckmaster every bit as attractive as the Daily Mail had earlier that year. Writing in an otherwise spitefully satiric mode to Vernon Watkins, Thomas was to comment ...

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