Although Dylan Thomas himself turned out to be a bit of a legend after his death, on his frequent visits to Llansteffan he would regularly call in Occy Owen’s Emporium to listen to the locals gossip, and perhaps even occasionally to get his hair cut by the legendary Octavius Owen. To the uninitiated Occy used to have a wood and metal shed next door to what is now TY Bach Twt on the Square where the local men would buy their toiletries and shaving utensils, and also repair to the back room for a haircut and gossip around an old paraffin stove. Many locals of a certain age can still remember with trepidation the times when we were sent to Occy’s to get our hair cut ready for a new term, an upcoming wedding, or some other momentous occasion. In the era of the Beatles, Merseybeat and trendy Carnaby Street the last thing a teenager wanted was to have Occy attacking you in the Barber’s chair with his basin and clippers!!! The tears that regularly flowed at times like this were not only caused by the noxious paraffin fumes!!
In this short interview Occy remembers his meetings with Dylan Thomas for the book Dylan Remembered 1914 – 1934.
“He used to come here [Llansteffan] every summer, and father and mother – and his sister…Dylan used to come every day, with his little curly hair, pale little face, for an ounce of tobacco and a box of matches…a box of Swan, and I think it was Westward Ho tobacco.
…..rather delicate…puny little fellow, sallow complexion and didn’t look very strong. But a very delightful little chap…everybody liked him…his sister was a delicate-looking little girl, too…his father was a nice man, you know.
They stayed with some relation in a house called – I’m not sure it was called – Ty Gwyn or something. Mrs Anne Williams – she was a relation, and they always came there to stay…
CE: This was when he was visiting, too, at Fernhill in the summers?
OO: Yeah, probably visiting from here then, but his holiday was fixed here…they stayed here – for about three weeks or a month…he came here, as I say, for many years, probably visiting Fernhill and places from here…Dylan didn’t live on the farm, he lived here…he was fixed here – the holiday was spent here…buckets and spades on the sands. Spent the day as every other child spent it…didn’t seem to possess any special gifts beyond the ordinary child, you know.
As years passed on, Keidrych Rhys came to me one day, and he asked me if I knew Dylan Thomas. I said “Yes, I know him well.” “Do you know,” he said, “he’s a great man.” “Well, that I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t got the intelligence perhaps or the brain to recognise a great man when I see one.” “He’s a future Shakespeare,” he said to me. “Well, I don’t know about that. The only answer I can give you to that,” I said, “God help poor Shakespeare.”
…to those who had got eyes to see, probably a great man. But to those who haven’t got the eyes to see, they don’t recognise greatness when they see it…and it was such a sad thing that one that could contribute so much to life, that he didn’t pull himself together…he had such a lot to render.
In another episode Dylan turned up in Llansteffan church as best man to the aforesaid novelist Keidrych Rhys who was about to marry the poet Lynette Roberts. Occy admonished both men as being improperly dressed and sent them packing to find suitable buttonholes. I think the great poet certainly met his match with Occy Owen!