(Please note that “context” is not an assessed element of this component of the WJEC in English Literature.)
Ronald Stuart Thomas was born in Cardiff in March 1913. The family were in Liverpool for much of World War I, but in 1918 they moved to Holyhead, Anglesey, where the young Thomas was primarily brought up. At university in Bangor, Thomas studied classics. Then he went to St Michael’s College, Llandaff, in Cardiff, to be trained as an Anglican priest. During his first curacy, in Chirk on the Wales-England border (1936–40), he met the painter Mildred Elsi Eldridge (‘Elsi’; 1909-1991) and they were married in 1940. Elsi’s artistic reputation became obscured over the course of her married life and she is now mainly remembered for the miniatures of birds and plants she produced from the late 1950s onwards. However, she was an artist of considerable achievement, and the centrepiece of her work is the large mural ‘The Dance of Life’, now at Glyndŵr University.
Thomas was vicar in Manafon (Montgomeryshire, 1942–54), Eglwys-Fach (near Aberystwyth, 1954–67), and finally Aberdaron (on the Llŷn Peninsula, from 1967). He retired from Aberdaron in 1978, but stayed in the area, living in the early-seventeenth-century cottage Sarn Rhiw (or Sarn Y Plas), which was austere and very cold. Elsi died in 1991, and the 1992 volume Mass for Hard Times was dedicated to her. The critic M. Wynn Thomas notes that in the aftermath of his wife’s death R. S. Thomas ‘teetered, at times, on the very brink of delusion and breakdown’ .
Late in his life, Thomas was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature but did not win. He died in September 2000.
(A longer biography is available in the Library of Wales anthology: Poetry 1900-2000 ed. Meic Stephens, pp.135-137)
 M. Wynn Thomas, ‘The Poet of Sarn Rhiw’, in John Barnie, ed., Encounters with R. S.: R. S. Thomas at 100 (Swansea: The Hmm Foundation, 2013), pp. 28-35: p. 33.