The next place of interest to us is Llangain, a small village between Carmarthen and Llansteffan. This village and the area around are where Dylan’s mother’s family came from. Drive through the village and after about half a mile take a small right turn, sign posted to Llangynog and Glog Farm. About a quarter of a mile on your right is the leafy entrance to Fern Hill Farm.
‘Fern Hill’ was the farm kept by Dylan’s Aunt Annie. She was Dylan’s mother’s eldest sister. Ann and her husband Jim lived and farmed here and as a boy Dylan often came and stayed with them during his school holidays. The place would later inspire two of Dylan’s greatest poems.
‘Fern Hill‘ is a joyous celebration of childhood innocence and its inevitable loss, a poem which Dylan described as a poem ‘for evening and tears’. It begins’
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Along with ‘Do not go gentle into that good night‘ it is probably Dylan’s most loved and anthologised poem.
The other great poem inspired by this place is ‘After the funeral (in memory of Ann Jones)’. When Dylan read this poem on the radio he introduced it as the only poem ‘I have written that is directly about the life and death of one particular human being I know’. In the poem, which Dylan began in 1933 but abandoned until 1938 when he returned to it and completed it – Dylan tries to come to terms with death and bereavement. The poem also gives us an accurate description of the front parlour of the house.
In a room with a stuffed fox and a stale fern
I stand, for this memorial’s sake, along
In the snivelling hours with dead, humped Ann……
The poem was issued as a war-time broad-sheet with a macabre but haunting wood cut by Brenda Chamberlain. It was one of a series of six published by the Caseg Press which was set up by John Petts, Brenda Chamberlain and Alan Lewis. One 500 copies were printed and the Dylan Thomas Centre has one of the rare few surviving examples.
Fern Hill Farm is also the setting for a fine autobiographical story ‘The Peaches‘ which is the first story in ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog‘.
‘I saw the plates on the shelves, the lighted lamp on the long
clothed table, ‘Prepare to Meet thy God’ knitted over the fire
place, the smiling china dogs, the brown-stained settle, the
grandmother clock, and I ran into the kitchen and into
It is a good idea to carry a copy of ‘Collected Poems‘ on this trail and read the relevant poems in situ. Where better to read and contemplate ‘After the Funeral’ than beside Ann’s grave at the Capel Newydd in nearby Llanbri, where she and her husband are buried. The gravestone is towards the far left about six rows back from the left hand corner of the Chapel. Although it is carved in Welsh, and covered in lichen, her names, and her husband’s, are visible.
Go back to the B4312, and turn right. Approx. two miles further on after an old style red phone box on your left, turn right. Past a farm on your left, and after about 500 yards, there are a pair of cottages on the right.
Next stop, Llangain (Llansteffan).