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18 June 2014
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Myths and Legends
Coch Bach y Bala – ‘The Welsh Houdini’

‘Coch Bach Y Bala’s’ many escapes earned him the nick name of ‘The Welsh Houdini’. Houdini was a magician and escapologist who achieved international fame and notoriety for his daring feats of extrication, at the same time as ‘Coch Bach’ was making his many escapes from jail.
The spot where 'Coch Bach y Bala' was shot in 1913
© University of Wales, Bangor and Gathering The Jewels Ltd
Houdini and ‘Coch Bach’ captured the public’s imagination. The media and public interest in latter-day illusionist David Blaine’s stunts show how fascinated and enthralled we become in tales of derring-do, whether the events are staged or not.

Stories about those who buck the system, be they villains or heroes, capture the imagination of the everyday man, who may sometimes dream of escaping to a better world, defying their own personal and professional constraints.

‘The Little Redhead of Bala’ provided his local and national public with a rebellious symbol of hope, and many a ripping yarn to enjoy in the bar or at the hearthside. Those who bought the postcard showing his funeral, held the key to the reality of Coch Bach’s life, that in death, there is no escape. Something that the Denbigh authorities were probably quite keen to promote as a deterrent to anyone who would follow in in his footsteps.

With thanks to Ruthin Gaol and Denbighshire County Council

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Your comments

1 G.H.Jones from Toronto, Ontario - 16 December 2003
"My mother who was London Welsh,but brought up on a farm in CEFNDDWYSARN as a teenager,remembered Coch Bach Y Bala and often talked about him,especially his escaping through a pipe from Carchar Rhythun. I have a framed picture taken by the late William Meredydd of a sail boat on LLyn Tegid containing five people, one of whom is Coch Bach wearing an old seafaring cap. "

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