Hannah Ellis: My Grandfather Dylan Thomas


Hannah Ellis author photograph (Welsh government)This is a guest blog by Hannah Ellis’ taken from her forthcoming book Dylan Thomas: a Centenary Celebration

Dylan Thomas: a Centenary Celebration has been a ‘labour of love’ for me, and has signified my own journey of discovery. It has been both exciting and scary finding out about my colourful and extraordinarily talented family.

My voyage to learn more about my grandfather, Dylan Thomas, started by delving into biographies and quickly finding out that there was much more to understand about Dylan Thomas than the ‘legend’ would have you believe. I discovered that realizing the truth was far more fascinating than accepting the myths. It was with increasing frustration that I found myself unable to stop the events of 1953 that ended in my grandfather’s life being cut tragically short. The questions were endless. What if he had not been given the injection of morphine? What would an opera he planned to write with Stravinsky have been like? How would my mum’s life have been different? Would I even be here today?

With an element of embarrassment, I had to admit that I had not read my grandfather’s work. What if I didn’t like it? What if it was too difficult? So, it was with amazement I found myself reading beautiful and descriptive poetry, surreal and dark short stories, memories of Dylan’s childhood in Wales and passionate letters to family and friends. My sheer delight and enjoyment was followed by alarm. If I was only just finding out about the wonderful writing, there must be others of my generation who have not yet experienced it.

My aims for the anniversary were very clear from the start. I wanted to bring the focus back to Dylan Thomas’s work. I wanted it refreshed and revitalized, so new audiences, as well as those already familiar with it, could enjoy it. As a primary school teacher, it was also key for me that we find a way to engage young learners. I visualized using my grandfather’s example to give children the confidence to play with words, use rhyme and alliteration and make up a few new words or phrases of their own.

I feel privileged to have been involved in helping create a newfound energy that has relit a love for my grandfather’s work, along with a realization that there is also a vulnerable man behind those words. It is so important that we make the most of the amazing opportunity the centenary offers and build a worldwide community that will continue to celebrate Dylan Thomas, and, as a consequence, bring attention to the arts, education and places associated with him. I certainly will be flying the flag the highest. This year, for me, is just the start …

Dylan Thomas: A Centenary Celebration, edited by Hannah Ellis, is published by Bloomsbury. All Hannah’s royalties will be generously donated to Literature Wales.