Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

Dylan and local legend's farewell

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Archive footage of Tommy Watts and Brown's in Laugharne

Tommy Watts, who was for many years the landlord of Dylan Thomas's local, the Brown's Hotel in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, has died.Catryn Jenkins, who used to work in the Brown's, remembers a man with a sharp wit, and a repertoire of "tourist tales" about the revered Welsh poet.


"Tom, there's some Americans in here," I said. "They want to know what soup Dylan used to have."

"Tell them he used to have vegetable soup," came the reply.

"So what soup is on today?" I asked.

Brown's Hotel
Tommy Watts was landlord of Brown's Hotel for about 40 years

He looked over his shoulder at me and deadpanned: "Vegetable soup."

Truth was, who knew what soup Dylan used to have, or even if he ever actually had a meal in the Brown's.

But those Americans on their pilgrimage to the poet's favourite watering hole in Laugharne wanted to share in part of the history and Tom was helping them to do that... as well as making a sale, of course.

People came from far and wide for the Dylan experience. Pictures of the writer adorned the walls.

The table and chair he used to sit on were still in the corner they were when Thomas and his wife Caitlin drank there - except now it was in the shadow of a large television sitting on a shelf above.

And Tommy, ever the pro, would fill the ears of those on the Dylan trail with stories of the man he once knew.

Dylan Thomas
Tommy had been telling these stories for a million years... but to the virgin ears of those soaking up the atmosphere of the Brown's for the first time, it was a connection to the writer

Standing behind the bar, I'd watch the beer-bellied regulars, lined on stools hunched over the bar, cigarette smoke clouding over them, wryly smile into their glasses as Tommy shared tales with the tourists.

They'd heard it all before - Tommy had been telling these stories for a million years. But to the virgin ears of those soaking up the atmosphere of the Brown's for the first time, it was a connection to the writer.

In the days when smoking in a pub was the norm, some new to the Brown's would ask if there was a no smoking lounge.

"Certainly sir," said Tom, opening the hatch and stepping over the threshold onto the carpet sticky from spilled drinks leading the customer from the comfort of the main bar to the lounge.

"Follow me. This is the bar for nice people," he would proclaim pointing to a sign bearing those words above the lounge door which he would throw open.

Brown's Hotel
Dylan's old stool and table were kept at the pub after he died

A room empty of people, cigarette smoke and atmosphere. But Tommy had sold it to them well.

Maybe they felt short-changed when he rejoined the regulars in the main bar; Tommy was like a magnet. People wanted his company.

There were stories of tourists wanting to buy the dartboard because Dylan had played on it. Tommy was said to drive a hard bargain with the hapless soul who would leave thrilled to be clutching a piece of Dylan history.

And legend has it that Tom would later nip to the cellar to replace the board and maybe spin the yarn to another gullible Dylan pilgrim. I don't know if it is true, but I hope so.

To Laugharne people he was Tommy the Brown's. His wit was sharp as a razor and he was privy to all the latest local scandal.

He would sit in the window before the customers would arrive, peering through net curtains yellow from tobacco.

Sometimes you'd hear him greet someone as he swept the steps leading into the building. "How art thee maid?" he'd yell with a wave.

I don't know if he ever even read any Dylan. Not many "Larnies" have, I suspect - me included.

But on his final journey, I hope he took on the poet's advice and raged against the dying of the light.



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