The distant speaking of the voices

Every December when I read or listen to A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas – “All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea …” I am reminded of the first time. The technology, of course was different. Now I can listen on my iPad, but then I was in Grade Twelve at John F. Ross C.V.I. in Guelph. My English teacher, Isobel Cowie, had lugged in from her home what passed in those days for a portable record player. With it she brought a vinyl recording of the reading by Thomas that she played for the class.

The performance ran for about 20 minutes. I was mesmerized. A Welsh poet reading his own work and so lyrical! I was hooked. It was at that point that the door to my future opened. Oh, there was one other door, when I volunteered about the same time to write a high school news column for the Guelph Mercury, but that’s another story. The door that opened that morning in Miss Cowie’s class was to the love of language and reading. What a gift she gave me.

The same Miss Cowie pointed me to a scholarship I won at Western that paid half my tuition, provided a summer job at the London Free Press and launched my journalism career. At Western, in those days, first year was general, you did not pick your major until second year. Again, I lucked out. My English 20 prof was Murdoch MacKinnon, a gifted scholar and teacher. Because the class consisted of only twenty students you had to read every title expected for that day’s seminar, take a view, and be prepared to defend it. I revelled in such surroundings and went on to graduate in Honours English Language and Literature.

A lifetime later, A Child’s Christmas in Wales still thrills me. The imagery is grand and I always hear something new. So, at this joyous season, remember someone who is no longer with you, someone who changed your life. And Season’s Greetings to my constant and faithful readers. My poor words will never approach the heights of Dylan Thomas, but they are my own.


1 Response

  1. Don Brown says:

    I must have been about the same age as you, Rod, when I first discovered Dylan Thomas. He’s been rattling around in my head ever since. For some reason there’s part of a line from A Child’s Christmas that somehow became lodged in my subconscious: “Years and years ago when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales…” Beautiful stuff.

    I’m saving my Caedmon recording of Thomas’ reading until tomorrow but just last week I rewatched a terrific BBC production of his Under Milkwood, another personal favourite.

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