Criminal Celebrations at Bangor, North Wales
Published: Wednesday 27th Nov 2013
Written by: The Wales Cottage Holidays Team
One of Wales’ most infamous criminals is being commemorated by Bangor University.
It’s 100 years since the death of compulsive thief John Jones, who was born in Bala around 1854. He spent 30 of his 60 years behind bars – perhaps largely due to a flaw in his plans! He would escape from prison and head back home, where he’d invariably be arrested again. Coch Bach y Bala, as he was known, became a popular character across Britain; he wanted people to know what he’d done and rarely stole anything of significant value. There were newspaper reports about him almost daily and when, following an escape in 1913, he was shot dead by the son of an unpopular local landowner, his community rose up strongly in support of him.
To mark the centenary of his death, Bangor University's archives and special collections department has put together an online feature of newspaper clippings, police reports and his own writings. Myth and legend abound - including having learnt English and lived some of his time as an English gentleman and sometimes as a woman - but it’s certain that Coch Bach was as expert at breaking out of jail as he was at breaking in to property. According to Mr Wyn Thomas from the university archives, nowadays he’d probably be diagnosed as having a mental illness but 100 years ago he was a criminal plain and simple and had a £5 ticket on his head! Coch Bach was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave which only had a headstone added on the 50th anniversary of his death. Check out Wales Holidays cottages near Bala and around Bangor and North Wales.