R S Thomas

R S Thomas, Priest and Poet 1913-2000
The Hanmer Connection

R S Thomas and Mildred Eldridge at Tallarn Vivarage 1940

R S Thomas and Mildred Eldridge at Tallarn Vicarage 1940

Ronald Stuart Thomas was a Welsh poet and priest, whose standing continues to grow since his death with a stream of publications about his life and poetry. He was ordained into the Church in Wales in 1936 and appointed curate at Chirk. When he married the artist, Mildred E Eldridge, he needed married accommodation, and accepted in 1940 the post of curate at Hanmer, where they lived in Tallarn Green vicarage.

When R.S.Thomas was at Tallarn Green he was a young priest with a young wife. He was still remembered in 2013 by the oldest of the local people as one who spoke English with an Oxford accent and was in every respect the typical vicar of that time. I don’t know if anyone knew that he wrote poetry. But he was writing poetry and when he left in 1942 he published his first volume of collected poems. His poem called ‘In Church’ fits the now closed Tallarn Green Church so well.

Often I try
To analyse the quality
Of its silences. Is this where God hides
From my searching? I have stopped to listen,
After the few people have gone,
To the air recomposing itself
For vigil. It has waited like this
Since the stones grouped themselves about it.

He was a priest until he retired and a prolific writer all his long life. At  Tallarn Green in Hanmer parish on the edge of Wales his poetry changed as he found his own more troubled and fierce voice. Here he stood at the vicarage door by the church watching and hearing German planes flying over and dropping their bombs on the distant Liverpool docks.  When he left Hanmer for Welsh parishes he began to learn Welsh and gradually became the forbidding figure of later life. The sentiments expressed in his stronger poems were sometimes strong along with some of his political views.

A second connection with Hanmer is that whilst here he wrote poetry about the Rising of Owain Glyndwr who was married in Hanmer to Margaret Hanmer in about 1380.

Thunder-browed and shaggy-throated
All the men were there,
And the women with the hair
That is the raven’s and the rook’s despair.

Both poems can be found in full in published collections.

Entered 22nd November 2013, updated 21st November 2014 by Bill