|Cardiff Central Square||The city centre|
The city centre
A baby boy was born in Cardiff, then a port town to export coals but now the capital for Wales, on 29 March 1913 by an English-speaking Welsh family. It was in an ordinary house. The house was/is at number 5, Newfoundland Road, Gabalfa, Cardiff.
He was their only-child. He was too large but so weak. He suffered from meningitis. Who did imagine his name would make the headline on BBC News on his own death? Who would have dreamed he would become the leading figure among the 20the century Anglo-Welsh poets? No one did. Yet his name did make the headline. His name was Ronald Thomas. Later when he started going to school, Stuart was adopted. Yes, this was the birth of R.S. Thomas, the priest poet.
R.S. left Cardiff with his family soon after his birth. His father was a sailor so his family followed him from port to port and R.S. was raised on various places including Liverpool until they settled in Holyhead at the end of the First World War. After leaving Cardiff, he and his mother sometimes returned to visit his mother's relatives in Cardiff.
It passed more than two decades since R.S. had left Cardiff in his babyhood. After he graduated from the University of Wales, Bangor, in July, 1935, he moved to Llandaff, outside Cardiff, in order to enter St. Michael's College for the theological training.
He found it quite uncomfortable there, not because of the college itself, but the location; there was nowhere for him to go for a walk, something he enjoyed. Llandaff is quite near the city and he could not enjoy the nature. Howevr he had two happy memories there; one of them was Kreisler's concert held in the city. He much later wrote "The Musician" from it.After having just passed the first part of General Ordination Examination which consisted of two part, he heard that the vicar in Chirk, a mining village in mid Wales, needed a new curate. He made an appeal to him. The vicar persuaded the Bishop to ordain R.S. as a curate. And then he left the college in October, 1936, to move to Chirk.
My first trip to the United Kingdom was in August, 2000. It was during this trip that I visited Cardiff. After travelling for two hours from London, I stepped off the train and I felt a completely different atmosphere than the one I experienced in London. I could read the Welsh everywhere; in the shops or on the board of buses. A guide of the Cardiff castle drew himself up when he explained the Welsh history. I felt that I was no longer in England, but in Wales.
That evening, it suddenly began to rain. I found it to be very cold. I looked for a shelter and wandered in the city. But all the shops had closed at 5 or 6, except for some pubs or big shopping centres. While I waited for a next train to London, I felt very cold. Only the cup of tea I bought at the station was warm.
Cardiff has been an urban city as a cultural and business capital in Wales for a long time but it was in 1955 that the city declared official capital of Wales. The city accustoms to rapid changes and now has the building of the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff bay and an airport. The city has also a beautiful variegated array of 19C and 20C buildings near the Cardiff station. The Cardiff Castle in the city centre was built about 2000 years ago. The National Museum and Gallery has a section of evolution of Wales.
Llandaff is the refined suburb of Cardiff. This town has the Llandaff Cathedral which is famous for the huge aluminum figure of Majesty in Christ, called "Majestas." Sir Jacob Epstein created this work. St. Michael's college is near the bus stop at Llandaff Cathedral.
Special thanks to Grahame Davies, the poet, editor & novelist, for the information on the house where RST was born and taking me there!
I am happy to announce that you can see RST's birth certificate at Babylon Wales(see article on 21 August 2006).
I would also like to thank for giving me the permission to use the photo, which I took in August 2005, to St. Michael's College. To visit their web-site, click here.