At the end of January 1954 the BBC broadcast Dylan Thomas' play Under Milk Wood for the first time with the actor Richard Burton in one of the main roles. This was nearly three months after the untimely death of the author at the beginning of November 1953.
Thomas had been working on the play for years. The idea probably came to him in the 1930s when he was at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire - Thomas, along with his wife Caitlin, had been regular visitors and residents for periods between 1936 and 1953 - and it is popularly agreed that Laugharne proved his greatest inspiration while writing Under Milk Wood. Others insist that inspiration must also have come from the period he spent at New Quay, Ceredigion, between 1944 and 1945, where he dedicated himself seriously to begin writing the play. The work was finished by September 1953 and he sent it to the BBC, but within two months he was dead in a New York hospital.
Thomas drew the map of Llareggub, the village of Under Milk Wood, to help him as he wrote the play. It is obvious that by this time a number of the characters had been created, such as Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, Organ Morgan, Polly Garter, No-Good Boyo; Lord Cut Glass and Mr. Waldo. It is also obvious that the geography of the village, under the shadow of Llareggub Hill, had also formed in his mind.
In Under Milk Wood Dylan Thomas paints a picture of twenty -four hours in the life of a Welsh seaside village. But Thomas' interest is not only in what happens in the streets and houses of Llareggub. He also allows us to see inside the minds and souls of the residents. The play was a huge success from the beginning. The BBC won the prestigious Prix Italia for the 1954 production and before long it had been translated into over a dozen languages, including Welsh, and performed all over the world.
The National Library of Wales purchased the map in 2004 as part of a larger collection of papers and items relating to Dylan Thomas.