BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Wales
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

BBC Wales arts correspondent Jon Gower
"He wrote poetry and courted controversy in equal measure"
 real 56k

BBC Wales's arts correspondent Jon Gower
"RS Thomas was one of the most important poets of the 20th century"
 real 28k

Professor Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate
"A wonderful mixture of plainness and austerity"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Tributes paid to poet RS Thomas
RS Thomas
RS Thomas: Hailed as best religious poet of his time
Tributes have been paid to poet RS Thomas who has died at the age of 87.

First Secretary Rhodri Morgan led the political tributes, saying Wales had lost " a great man of letters, one of the finest poets of the twentieth century."

"He was not afraid to be contentious on issues on which he felt deeply and was irrascible but human," added Mr Morgan.

The Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones described RS Thomas as one of Wales's greatest literary voices, who helped put Wales on the cultural map of the world.

"His profound spirituality and unashamed patriotism made his poetry unique and gained him an international audience and widespread critical recognition for his work," Mr Jones said.

Jonathan Morgan AM, the Welsh Conservative culture spokesman said RS Thomas was a giant of Welsh poetry.

" Whatever his political views, he will be remembered as a truly great figure," Mr Morgan said.

His work will remain with us as a testament to the flowering of Welsh writing in English and the emerging Welsh identity in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Plaid Cymru president
Ronald Stuart Thomas, who was a Church in Wales priest, wrote more than20 volumes of poetry in a career lasting more than half a century.

In 1964 he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.

He was widely regarded as the best religious poet of his time although his verse covered a wide range of themes.

Born in Cardiff to non-Welsh speaking parents, he grew up in Liverpool and Holyhead.

Outspoken campaigner

His grand passion was the Welsh language, even though he did not learn it himself until he was 30, and he wrote nearly all of his poems in English.

He was an outspoken campaigner on political issues, such as nuclear disarmament.

Thomas considered himself to be a patriot rather than a fervent nationalist, and his poetry in the 1960's expressed the growing nationalist sentiment in Wales at the time.

There are places in Wales I don't go, Reservoirs that are the subconscious
Of a people, troubled far down
With gravestones, chapels, villages even.
The serenity of their expression
Revolts me

'Reservoirs', RS Thomas

As time went on, his views became increasingly outspoken. In the early 1990's, he publicly praised the arsonists who firebombed English-owned holiday homes in Wales.

He also believed that English speakers were ruining Welsh culture and called for "non-violent night attacks" against English-owned properties in Welsh speaking areas.

Even some of his closest admirers found it difficult to condone his uncompromising stance on issues of that kind.

However, despite the controversy that surrounded his public pronouncements, he is likely to be remembered chiefly for the quality of his award-winning poetry which earned him an international reputation.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Wales stories