A songwriter, a king slayer and even a wailing wizard have all found final resting places within Carmarthenshire’s borders...
Resting place: St Martin’s Church Graveyard, Laugharne SA33 4QD. Map...
Welsh poet, author and broadcaster Dylan Thomas died aged just 39, on November 9, 1953, in the US. Reputedly, his last words were: 'I've had 18 straight whiskies... I think that’s the record.'
Interestingly, the post mortem revealed no cirrhosis of the liver. His body was brought back to Laugharne, the Carmarthenshire town where he and wife Caitlin lived during their early married life. It also provided the inspiration for fictional Llareggub (spell it backwards for an unflattering description), setting for his most famous work, Under Milk Wood. Thomas is buried in the over-spill graveyard of St Martin’s Church, the grave marked by a plain white cross. Caitlin was buried with him in 1994. Visitors can see also The Boathouse museum where the couple lived, Thomas’s writing shed and his favourite drinking haunt Browns Hotel.
St Peter’s Church, Carmarthen SA31 1GW. Map...
It’s 1485, at what was probably the most decisive fight of the War of the Roses, forces loyal to the houses of York and Lancaster were lined up on Bosworth Field. At the end of it, victory belonged to Henry Tudor, later crowned Henry VI, and King Richard III lay dead, struck down by a poleaxe. The man wielding that weapon was said to be Rhys ap Thomas, who, according to the poet Guto Glyn, 'killed the boar, shaved his head', a reference to Richard III’s crest. Thomas was knighted for his loyalty, and died many years later at St Johns Priory, Carmarthen. He was buried there initially, but moved to St Peters Church during Henry VIII’s Reformation. Sir Rhys’s tomb, with an effigy of himself in top, is a spectacular sight.
(Just a legend... or was he?)
Resting place: Merlin’s Hill, near Abergwili, Carmarthen SA32 7ER. Map...
Merlin, a legendary figure who features in a number of different ancient stories, is best known as the wizard friend of King Arthur of Camelot fame and himself a somewhat mysterious figure, possibly from the 5th Century. The sorcerer, who was born in Carmarthen, reputedly met his end when, having fallen for a huntress named Niviane, daughter of the king of Northumberland, she spurned his advances by stealing his spells and imprisoning him in a cave deep inside Merlin’s Hill, or Bryn Myrddin. Merlin may not be dead however - it is said you can hear his cries and clanking of chains on certain dark nights and one day, when mankind needs his help again, he will be released.You can climb the hill, listening out for supernatural wailing, and the visit The Merlin’s Hill Centre, Alltyfyrddin Farm.
St Illtyd’s Church, Pembrey SA16 0AQ. Map...
What could be the connection between Napoleon Bonaparte and the village of Pembrey, overlooking Carmarthen Bay between Burry Port and Kidwelly? Well, in the graveyard of St Illtud’s Church you’ll find the final resting place of Adeline Coquelin, niece of Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais, whom he divorced in 1810. In 1828, Adeline, then just 12 years old, was a passenger on Le Jeune Emma, bound from the West Indies to France when it foundered on Cefn Sidan Sands in thick fog with the loss of 13 of the 19 lives on board, including the girl’s father. The ship’s cargo of sugar, spices, coffee, cotton, ginger and rum was swiftly 'unofficially salvaged' by the locals. The church itself, a Grade I listed building, dates back to the 1100s and is worth a visit.
Llanfair-ar-y-bryn Churchyard, near Llandovery SA20 0ED. Map...
If you’ve ever been bowled over by the voices of thousands of Welsh rugby fans singing Bread of Heaven during a match at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, you can thank songwriter William Williams Pantycelyn. One of Wales’s most famous hymn writers and one of the key leaders of the 18th Century Welsh Methodist revival, it was he who penned the hymn, officially entitled Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. For much of his life, Rev Williams lived in the parish of Llanfair-ar-y-bryn, near Llandovery. He died there in 1791, at the age of 74 and is buried in the churchyard where an impressive headstone marks his grave. There’s also an elegant memorial chapel named after him in Llandovery.