The Mysterious Cap
Dylan Thomas - 1914-1953 Author Playwright and one of the 20th Century's most influential lyrical poets
Bob Dylan - 1941 - (changed name from Robert Zimmerman having been influenced by the poems of Dylan Thomas) Musician and folk singer and one of the most influential lyricists of the last century
David Thomas - Unknown previous owner of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits album on Vinyl
I had walked miles around the site of a huge car boot fair looking for vinyl records to add to my (growing) collection when I came upon a stall that was selling old football related items including cards and programmes. My eyes were drawn to what appeared to be an antique sporting cap - the type issued to players when selected to play for club or country. The seller thought it was probably a rugby football cap. It was made from a beautifully deep red velvet material and embroidered with a gold cotton crest. I have a (also growing) collection of antique sporting memorabilia and imagined that the cap would enhance my display. And so, for a few pounds, I bought it.
Upon arriving home I made a space for the cap within my display case. It looked great! I eagerly set about researching the origins of the cap but before doing so, and as was my custom, I made a cup of tea and placed a record on the turntable. I put on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits album, as I had found this at the boot sale and wanted to check its condition. The record had been pre-owned by one David Thomas (I knew this because a name label had been proudly stuck to the top left corner of the cover). If the said David Thomas was as much a Dylan fan as me then I ventured the disc would have been well played but also well looked after. It was both.
The crest of the cap bore a motto which when viewed under a magnifying glass read: "Virtue and Good Literature"; I thought that a strange motto for a rugby team! The motto in fact belonged to Bishop Gore School in Wales, formerly Swansea Grammar School est. 1682. This information, and the Welsh location of the school, triggered a series of thought processes centred around the words coming from the turntable (Dylan was singing Like a Rolling Stone, with the lyric "going to the finest school"), and the name David Thomas, the previous owner of the vinyl. Then, all of a sudden, a conjoined name presented itself in big and bold at the front of my mind. The name was DYLAN THOMAS.
I looked down the roll call of famous people who had been to the Welsh grammar school. Could the great poet have gone there? And then, there he was, Bishop Gore's most famous alumnus was none other than Dylan Thomas, author, playwright and one of the greatest lyrical poets of all time.
It also seemed that the cap was contemporaneous with Thomas' attendance at the school. The date on the cap is 1924-5. The school records confirmed that Thomas was at the school between his enrolment in 1923 (aged 8) and 1932. So he was there at the school from where the cap had come and he was there at the time it was worn. Amazing. I took hold of the cap again and looked more closely at it. Inside there was a name in ink. The name read D. THOMAS. This was the point at which the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as Bob's harmonica played on in the background.
Could this really be Dylan Thomas' school cap? Were caps given out or awarded? Would he have been awarded one? Further research confirmed that Thomas, whilst academically unremarkable, gained attention through winning the school's annual one mile race and for publishing his first poem "The Song Of The Mischievous Dog" in 1926. So there was every chance that if caps were awarded he would have got one.
Dylan Thomas' most famous poem is, arguably, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night containing the line, "Rage rage against the dying of the light" an impassioned account of the scene which haunted him at his father's deathbed. In less than a year following this event, Thomas himself collapsed in New York, and consumed by alcoholic poisoning died shortly after. He had lived a remarkable and colourful short life. His work lives on and he is considered by many to have been the most influential lyrical poet of all time. The young Robert Zimmerman, both inspired and influenced by Thomas' work, changed his name to Bob Dylan before embarking on his own poetical enterprise.
Of course, subject to further research, it's possible that my cap was never worn by Dylan Thomas at all. But it might have been. That's the point. It might have been. Imagine that. And what an exciting journey I've been on since trudging round that sprawling field. Transported to other worlds and new places…and more to travel to.