“A Child’s Christmas in Wales” is a prose piece written for radio by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. The piece was derived from a series of radio memoirs written by Thomas over a 15-year period and is meant to evoke feelings of nostalgia. In 1945, Lorraine Davies, producer of Children’s Hour in Wales, suggested Thomas write a piece about Christmas memories. It was finished in August of 1945 and recorded on December 6th, 1945. It was broadcast on Dec 16 and went on to form part of A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Its first publication met with only modest success, but it has gone on to become one of Dylan Thomas’s most recognized pieces. “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” is credited by the National Recording Preservation Board of the United States Library of Congress with being the beginning of audiobooks. Reading a “Child’s Christmas in Wales” alongside works such as Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is a staple of literary Christmas traditions.
As time moves forward, what was first meant by Thomas to evoke 1920’s nostalgia in 1952 is quickly becoming a snapshot of Swansea social history. For instance:
Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang “Cherry Ripe,” and another uncle sang “Drake’s Drum.” It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird’s Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed.
The songs “Cherry Ripe” and “Drake’s Drum” are barely within contemporary memory and the songs not referenced by name have become a source of some debate. Although the piece is told as if it were a memoir, with a chronological layering of individual incidents within a single Christmas day of a boy’s life, the piece is fiction. We asked South Wales born writer and Dylan Thomas enthusiast, Aaron Farrell, to try his hand at retelling this piece from the eyes of a child in the 1990’s.
This is the December 18th., 2020 6pm recording of Aaron Farrell’s, “A Man’s Christmas In Wales: Portrait of the Artist as an Older Boy”. Composed for public reading in the same style of Dylan Thomas’ piece, Farrell takes us back to Swansea, Wales in the 1990’s when Wet Wet Wet topped the music charts with “Love Is All Around” and Home Alone first debuted.
Growing up just a few miles from Dylan Thomas’ house, Farrell says that he was living in Bangor, Wales as a student before he really recognised the importance of Dylan Tomas’s works and hopes this adaptation will encourage people to explore the stories around them.