Listen. Time passes, and Caitlin lies with Dylan

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The Independent Online
CAITLIN THOMAS went gentle into that good night yesterday in a country churchyard in Wales, writes Charles Oulton. She had been a contrary and passionate woman, but as her coffin was lowered into her husband's grave, there was none of the raging at death that Dylan Thomas advocated in his most popular poem.

Instead, other lines came to mind from Under Milk Wood, when the first voice narrator observes: 'Time passes. Listen. Time passes.' And when the Rev Eli Jenkins appeals to God in the same play: 'We are not wholly bad or good / Who live our lives under Milk Wood, / And Thou, I know, wilt be the first / To see our best side, not our worst.'

Much forgiveness and understanding were needed, and evident, in Laugharne yesterday when 300 relatives and friends crowded into the town's 13th-century church for the funeral service of Caitlin, who died last week aged 81. With the church lit by one candle after a power cut had put out all the town's lights, the congregation were led through a simple service by a clergyman no doubt mindful of Dylan Thomas's own funeral in 1953.

Then, Caitlin had been so overcome that she tried to throw herself into her husband's grave and later disgraced herself at the wake at Brown's Hotel when she threw a box of chocolates at a fellow guest and then overturned a tray of drinks. That day saw the start of Caitlin's decline into drunkenness, promiscuity and loneliness.

She spent the rest of her life tormented by what at some stages was thought to be her undying love for Dylan, and at other stages by what she considered to be a waste of her youth. Only after she met a Sicilian actor, Giuseppe Fazio, did she seem able to exorcise Dylan's influence, settling down to a more normal life.

Yesterday, however, those contrary influences converged once again in the shape of her two families, the one she formed with Dylan, producing two boys and a girl, and the other with Fazio, whom she never married, who gave her a son, Francesco, when she was 49. Looking round at the fellow mourners who were gathered at Brown's Hotel - a scene this time without emotional outbursts - Francesco said: 'All these beautiful blonde women here in some ways remind me of my mother. I only wish all these people coming to say goodbye had come to see her while she was still alive in Sicily.'

Colm, the youngest son of Dylan and Caitlin, was anxious that people thought well of his Sicilian stepfather, who early on fell out of favour with his sister, Aeronwy. Colm said: 'They were together for 35 years. My mother would have died 20 years ago if it had not been for him.' But Aeronwy cannot bring herself to say anything nice about her stepfather and is confused about her mother's decision to be buried in Wales. 'As she grew older my mother became more and more bitter at the memory of my father. I would have thought that she could not have possibly wanted to have come back.'

(Photograph omitted)