Arts: Battle breaks out over dead poet's final resting place

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The Independent Online
A piece of furniture that once belonged to Dylan Thomas is at the centre of a tale involving some of Britain's biggest celebrities. Andrew Buncombe follows the trail of the bed that everybody wants to sleep in.

Brown's Hotel in Laugharne is an imposing establishment with a facade of white painted stone, set on the main road from Carmarthen.

It is a popular place, and both locals and tourists visiting the South Wales town enjoy its unchanging atmosphere. But many visitors are unaware of a piece of furniture within the hotel which is causing, as they say in these parts, a bit of a fuss.

A 50-year-old bed is at the centre of a battle for ownership that involves a rock star, a poet's daughter and James Bond (or at least the actor who plays him).

Like many things in Laugharne, the bed has connections with the town's most famous son, Dylan Thomas. Unlike many things in Laugharne, the connection between the bed and the poet are not in doubt; it is Thomas's bed, rescued from the cottage where he lived before his death in New York in 1953. The bed is currently used by a long-term resident who lives in a flat in the hotel. But that could change.

Thomas Watts, the landlord, who has owned the bed for the past 26 years, recently received a "substantial offer" for it from the actor Pierce Brosnan. He said he believed Mick Jagger also wished to buy it.

Brosnan, a Dylan Thomas fanatic who named his son after the poet, visited the area last year while on a fishing trip. He stopped off at the hotel and made an offer for both the bed and a table at which the wayward genius used to sit with his equally wayward wife, Caitlin, who died in 1994.

"I told Brosnan about the table and the bed and he made me an offer for both but I have not accepted," said Mr Watts, 66. "I understand that Mick Jagger is also very interested in them, but they are staying put for now."

Jagger's interest in Thomas is such that his film company, Jagged Films, is soon to start work on a film about the relationship between Dylan and Caitlin. Whether the singer actually intends to make an offer for the bed is less clear. A spokeswoman for Jagged Films said he did not plan to buy it.

The battle for the bed takes a further twist through the involvement of Thomas's daughter, Aeron Ellis.

"She came in here and said she wanted the bed back in the family," said Mr Watts, whose hotel is close to St Martin's church where Dylan and Caitlin are buried. Mr Watts said the bed was a gift from Caitlin for his help in selling Thomas's cottage, the Boat House, in the early Seventies.

"The cottage was cleared out and there were a few bits and pieces left, including the bed. Caitlin said I could either keep it or throw it out."

Mrs Ellis denies making any fuss. "I would like to own it as I don't have anything of my father's. But I can't compete against the likes of Pierce Brosnan."