Saturday, 28 May 2016

51 Composer Dr Daniel Jones

51 Dr Daniel Jones   (photos: Dr Dan Jones 3) - 28 May 2016

No. 38 Eversley Road in Sketty is a large semi-detached house, though the name “Warmley” is no longer displayed.  It was the boyhood home of the composer Dr Daniel Jones, friend of Dylan Thomas.  Born in Pembroke in 1912 - and thus two years older than Dylan - Dan Jones was a polymath, a person who excelled in many fields.  With a father who was a composer and a mother who was a singer, his forte was music, but he initially obtained a degree in English literature at Swansea University before studying at London’s Royal Academy of Music between 1935 and 1938.  Having won the 1935 Mendelssohn Scholarship, he studied in Czechoslovakia, France, Germany and the Netherlands, and developed his linguistic skills.  During the war he was a captain in the Intelligence Corps, and served at Bletchley Park decoding Russian, Romanian and Japanese texts.

He attended Swansea Grammar School on Mount Pleasant, where the senior English teacher was D.J. Thomas, Dylan’s father.  The first meeting of the two schoolboys is described in “The Fight”, a short story in Dylan’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog”. 

Before Dan Jones went abroad on the music scholarship, he was one of the “Kardomah Boys”, the group of talented young men who met informally over coffee upstairs in the Kardomah Café in Castle Street in the 1930s.  They included painters Alfred Janes and Mervyn Levy, writer Charles Fisher, journalist and broadcaster Wynford Vaughan Thomas, and Dylan.  When from 1935 poet Vernon Watkins joined them, Dan Jones had already moved from Swansea to pursue his music studies.  He and Vernon first met during the war at Bletchley Park - where both were working at the government code breaking centre. 

In October 1949, along with Alfred Janes, Vernon Watkins and writer John Prichard, Dan Jones took part at the Grove in the Uplands in the BBC radio discussion “Swansea and the Arts” with Dylan.  The ‘Evening Post’ photo of that occasion (reproduced on the cover of the ‘Radio Times’) stated that Daniel Jones was then the only Welsh composer to have written a symphony, and would be conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of it during the Swansea Festival. 

In 1951 he was made a Doctor of Music, and the following year awarded an Honorary D Litt degree.

Before Dylan took the train to London for his fateful fourth visit to New York in October 1953, he sent a telegram to Dan Jones “Can you meet Bush 1.30 today on my way to America – Dylan”.  Though now demolished, the Bush Hotel in the High Street became the final Swansea pub Dylan visited, joined that afternoon by others including Vernon Watkins, Rev. Leon Atkin of St Paul’s Church in St Helen’s Road, and Dan Jones, who eventually saw him onto the train at High Street Station. 

After Dylan’s death the landlord of Brown’s Hotel in Laugharne drove Dan Jones to Southampton to meet the liner “United States”, which brought Dylan’s body back from New York.

Awarded an OBE in 1968, he published the memoir “My Friend Dylan Thomas in 1977.  The National Museum of Wales has Alfred Janes’s portrait of Dan Jones, while Bernard Mitchell’s photographic portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

Daniel Jones had three daughters from his first marriage in 1937, and a son and a daughter by his second marriage.  From 22 Rosehill Terrace off Constitution Hill he moved to 53 Southward Lane, a detached house in Newton where a plaque states he lived from 1957 until his death in 1993.  By then he had composed thirteen symphonies – his fourth in 1954 in memory of Dylan – and eight string quartets.  Many of his compositions were written to commission - by the Festival of Britain, the Swansea Festival, the Royal National Eisteddfod, the BBC and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Composer Dr Daniel Jones was far more than just “the friend of Dylan Thomas”.

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