The ‘Winch’ – is not a misspelling of ‘witch’, nor is it anything to do with the sort of winch you might use to raise a heavy object. It was a character in Welsh folklore similar to the sirens in ancient Greek mythology.
They were alluring temptresses that lived in or near water and would entice their unsuspecting male victims to their deaths while under their spell.
There is a legend of a ‘winch’ which lived by the whirlpool in the river Taff in Cardiff which local people used to believe was fathomless.
This winch would bathe near youthful men who were fishing or swimming in the river. As they swum out to her they would be caught in the swirling water and dragged to their deaths.
A teller of this tale to a nineteenth century traveller in south Wales described this winch as ‘the devil in disguise’. She said of the whirlpool “it reaches from the Taff to the mouth of perdition, where Satan waits for the souls who are beguiled by the lovely lady”.
There was another legend about this whirlpool. That in its cavernous depths a serpent lived, who would gorge itself on unfortunate victims sucked in to it. If ever someone floated to the surface after being sucked into the whirlpool (either alive or dead) it was believed that they were virtuous as the serpent would not touch those blessed by God.
I remember the whirlpool but I’m pretty confident it’s now gone – the victim of flood prevention engineering and the flooded bay.