On April 29th at 9pm, BBC2 aired a documentary about well-known Irish comedian Dave Allen. The programme, entitled “Dave Allen: God’s own Comedian” went through Allen’s glittering career, showing clips of some of his more outrageous sketches and interviews with those who knew him best – his family, friends and coworkers. However, one question remains unanswered – how did he lose his finger?
On June 6th, 1941, Dave Allen – then David Tynan O’Mahony - suffered an injury that would later go on to contribute to his career in comedy, and it happened right here in Longford.
Kenagh man Paddy Egan recalls what happened with astounding clarity. “I was in the one class with David”, he says, explaining that David, his mother and his two older brothers Peter and John left Dublin during the war and moved to Kenagh, Co. Longford. His father, Cully, had stayed in Dublin to continue his work with the Irish independent. Mr Egan explains that he knew the family well, as his own family had provided them with eggs, butter and milk. The Kenagh man also points out that even at a young age, David had shown signs of his comedic talent. “I can remember him at 6 or 7 years old”, says Mr Egan, continuing, “The teacher would put him up on the table and he was able to do impressions.”
Having known the family, Mr Egan is able to shed light on the matter of David Allen’s missing finger. The Tynan O’Mahony family lived in the old Mill House in Mosstown and while out playing by the mill, David put his finger in an old cog wheel. One of his friends turned the cog wheel, causing David’s injury. Mr Egan recalls that David was absent from school for over a week, and takes out the page of the roll book from 1941, which shows that David was indeed absent for six days in June 1941. When David returned, however, he was eager to show off his injury. “He came back and took off the bandage and showed the piece of finger that was missing.”
It is unclear how long the family spent in Kenagh, but Mr Egan says that they returned to Dublin before the war ended and he never heard from David again. He also reveals that David never spoke of or acknowledged his time in Kenagh from then on.
Dave Allen used his injury to his advantage in later life, coming up with several stories on how the injury was obtained – each more ridiculous than the last.