Irish lives


Thomas Dudley (Bang Bang) (1907-1981):THOMAS Dudley (“Bang Bang”), eccentric, was born in the Rotunda hospital, Dublin.

Raised in an orphanage in Cabra, he lived for much of his adult life on Mill Lane near The Coombe in the Liberties. Although he worked briefly as a kitchen porter in Rialto hospital, he became a familiar and colourful figure of the Dublin streets. His nickname derived from his practice of pursuing trams armed with a large brass door key which he would point at the moving vehicles while imitating the action and sound of firing a handgun.

Leaping aboard the vehicles’ open-doored entrance platforms, from this vantage he would “fire” on pedestrians and passengers. Frequently his “victims” would join in the running wild-west pantomime by dodging in and out of doorways and around corners, “shooting” back, clutching at “wounds”, and “dropping dead”. Adapting his tactics to changing transport technologies, he engaged in similar practices on city buses. In his later years, when age and failing eyesight limited his armed sorties, he preferred being addressed as “Lord Dudley”. After residing for a time in a pensioner’s cottage on Bridgefoot St, he moved to Clonturk House, Drumcondra, a home for the blind operated by the Rosminian fathers.

Celebrated as ‘the last of the “Dublin characters”, he died on January 11th 1981 and was buried in St Joseph’s cemetery adjoining Clonturk House. Dudley was one of the most familiar of many eccentrics whose presence on Dublin streets was a significant feature of the city’s character, charm, and image.

– Lawrence William White

From the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography, published in nine volumes and online by Cambridge University Press. See