Monday, October 27, 2014


As I write, back in Wales the Dylathon is in progress in Swansea, the home city of our great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. There are, of course, other celebrations of the centenary of his birth taking place in many countries but tonight I'd particularly like to be in Wales.

Never mind - my thoughts are with Dylan and the magic of his words is something that I can carry with me daily. But I'm also thinking of his wife Caitlin, who, though long-suffering, was, by all accounts, a larger than life character herself, for this interesting lady had a connection with Sicily:

In Daphne Phelps's book A House in Sicily, the story of how she fell in love with and maintained the beautiful Casa Cuseni in Taormina, there is a short chapter entitled Mrs Dylan Thomas.  By this time, Daphne Phelps was taking bed and breakfast guests and she was not a little disconcerted when her friend Wyn, a companion to the widowed Caitlin, announced the latter's intention to descend upon Casa Cuseni, which she deemed a suitable setting in which to write her autobiography.  

Daphne made excuses in writing twice and didn't answer the third letter from Wyn but one night, the two women turned up, Caitlin carrying a large bottle of wine. Daphne told her, truthfully, that she was going away the next day but managed to put them up in a small pensione

When Daphne got back, she found a letter from a worried Wyn, explaining that Caitlin had fallen for a Sicilian man from whom Wyn had tried to separate her, believing the match would not be a happy one. Caitlin, however, had missed him, had written to him and had now gone away with him.

The Sicilian was film director Giuseppe Fazio, who became Caitlin's partner and with whom she had a son, Francesco. Daphne Phelps says that, according to Wyn, Fazio "beat" Caitlin but I can find no corroboration of this. Caitlin spent the rest of her life with him, apparently staying sober during her last twenty years and she died in Catania in 1994.

Caitlin, then, was attracted first to a fiery Welshman and then to a presumably fiery Sicilian. Some say there is Latin blood in the Welsh and I wouldn't be a bit surprised. I think it would have been fun to have known Caitlin and to have talked to her about Sicily.

Post scriptum:  I like to think I have brought a little of Dylan to Sicily myself, having, for the past three years, read from A Child's Christmas in Wales at our multilingual carol service. It goes without saying that no one reads it like Dylan!


annechung said...

I have read Daphne Phelps book. I love it that there is a view of Mt Etna. I remember staying at an old hotel in Catania, the owner lived in the upstairs apartment and he took us to the rooftop to see the view of Mt Etna. It was so magical. I don't remember Caitlin in the book but I do remember Bertrand Russell as having stayed there.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Anne. I'm glad you enjoyed the book too. That must have been a wonderful view!


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