In these days of Kindle, television and the Internet, the specialist bookshop might not occupy such a vital position as it would have done in the 1930s for those seeking to widen their knowledge and further their interests.
In 1935 the Morgan and Higgs bookshop was regularly visited during his lunch hour by 28 year-old Vernon Watkins, who worked at the St Helen’s Road branch of Lloyds Bank. He had worked for the bank for ten years, though spending the first two at the branch in Butetown,
One February Monday
was amazed to see
in the window of the bookshop a display of a new book called “18 Poems” which
prominently claimed to be by A LOCAL POET.
He was unaware that there was anyone in Vernon other than himself writing poetry, so
he went into the shop and looked at the volume, with no intention of buying it,
before hurrying back to work. Dylan
Thomas’ first volume of poetry contained such poems as ‘Especially when the
October wind’ and ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’:
like a moth attracted to a flame Swansea
was drawn back each lunchtime that week to read more of the poems. Eventually on the Saturday afternoon (for
banks were routinely open on Saturday mornings then), he purchased the book,
before catching the Swan bus home to Pennard where he lived with his parents at
Heatherslade (now a residential home), above Vernon . Foxhole Bay
The Watkins family used to attend Paraclete Congregational Chapel in
when they lived at Redcliffe (now demolished) in Caswell. Paraclete’s minister was Rev. David Rees, married
to one of Dylan’s maternal aunts. By
1935 he was retired, but a chance meeting enabled Newton to obtain Dylan’s address. When he called at Vernon 5 Cwmdonkin Drive he found that Dylan was
away in London, but left his phone number with Mrs
Florence Thomas. Contact was established
once Dylan returned to Vernon
and the two poets met up, forming a friendship of mutual benefit. Swansea
When Keidrych Rhys brought out a new magazine “The Morgan and Higgs premises were among those destroyed by aerial bombardment during the war.
1937, Dylan persuaded
to let him send off two poems for inclusion.
He did not tell Vernon
that he had altered two words in the poem “Griefs of the Sea”. When Vernon
received his copy of the new publication he was very angry at Dylan’s
presumption. He went into Morgan and
Higgs and altered every copy back to what he had originally written, and did
similarly at Vernon ’s
other major bookshop, W.H. Smith, then at Swansea 11 High Street. One wonders what response members of staff
received at either bookshop when seeking to dissuade , for the determined and indignant bank
worker was not to be thwarted from his task!
had made his feelings known to Dylan, cordial relations were subsequently
re-established between the two poets. Vernon