'Bongo's magic would turn anyone into a star'

PUBLISHED: 15:59 11 March 2009 | UPDATED: 09:46 12 August 2010

GENEROUS: Ali Bongo, aka William Wallace.

GENEROUS: Ali Bongo, aka William Wallace.

A CLOSE friend of magician Ali Bongo who died last week said he turned wannabes into stars with no trouble at all. Fellow magician Jack Devlin, 77,

INSPIRATION: Jack said his fellow magician and friend invented dozens of tricks.

A CLOSE friend of magician Ali Bongo who died last week said he turned wannabes into stars with no trouble at all.

Fellow magician Jack Devlin, 77, from Orpington visited the much-loved performer as he lay ill in St Thomas Guy's Hospital in Westminster, before he died aged 79 last Sunday (9) morning.

Now the grandfather-of-three looks set to take over from Bongo whose real name was William Wallace, as the president of the magicians' society, the Magic Circle.

Mr Devlin whose is also president of the Bexleyheath Society of Magicians said Bongo's acts were like a whirlwind dervish.

The magician who was performing for a birthday party at Dartford's Irish Club on Tuesday (10) told the Times:

"Any magician who was stuck for something in their act, would ring him up and no trouble at all he would tell them where they were going wrong and turn them into stars."

Indian-born Bongo was known as the 'magicians' magician' after advising many leading performers, including Paul Daniels, David Nixon and David Copperfield.

He also toured the world performing his different acts, including the Shriek of Araby, before he became the inspiration for the character of Jonathan Creek in the BBC series.

Grandfather-of-three Mr Devlin said it is Bongo's kindness and generosity he will miss the most.

He said: "If you said to Ali do you know the trick where so and so happened he would say 'of course I do. I invented it'.

"The difference was he probably had. He would make these claims and we would laugh at him but they would turn out to be true.

"I was in hospital to see him up until a couple of days before he died. I haven't broken down but I know it is going to happen."

The close friends met when Mr Devlin was in his 20s working at the magic shop Ellisdons in Holborn and Bongo was working in toy shop Hamleys in Regent Street.

They would meet once a week for coffee with other budding magicians and then started going to the Magic Circle together when Devlin would pick Bongo up from his Clapham Common flat.

When Mr Devlin informed the society's members about his death they held a round of applause.

He said: "He would have hated to see us all sad."

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Bromley Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Bromley Times