Dave Allen

Dave Allen

Date of birth: 06-07-1936

Allen was born David Tynan O'Mahoney on the outskirts of Dublin. After school in the Irish capital he went into journalism, like many of his relatives, starting on the Irish Independent.

At the age of 20, he came to London to try to find work on Fleet Street, but couldn’t – so entered Butlins in Skegness as a redcoat instead. It was there he changed his name to Allen to ensure top billing on the alphabetical list.

He got his first break on a BBC talent show in 1959, and in 1961 he toured his stand-up routine around England and France with a then unknown band called The Beatles.

His fame first grew in Australia, in 1963, where he hosted a live TV chat show. Back in Britain, it was  guest spots on the Val Doonican Show that made his name.

It led to various series of his own, on both the BBC and ITV, running from 1967 to 1994 and mixing his sit-down stand-up with sketches.  The strong language he used often caused controversy, and a four-letter word he uttered on TV in January 1990 was raised in the House of Commons.

Smoking was a trademark part of his routine, but Allen quit his 60-a-day habit in the Eighties, explaining: "I was fed up with paying people to kill me."

He was also famous for missing the tip of one of his fingers, and he invented various tall tales as to how it happened. And when he was asked, “Are you the Irish comedian with half a finger?" he replied, “No, I'm the Irish comedian with nine and a half fingers.”

Allen retired from performing in 1999, ending his broadcast career with a rare interview for BBC Radio 4, but still received offers and was reportedly considering a project at the time of his death.

He once said that he wanted his gravestone to read: "Don't mourn for me now, don't mourn for me never - I'm going to do nothing for ever and ever."
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How Dave Allen REALLY lost that finger

School friend reveals the truth

The riddle of Dave Allen’s missing finger may finally have been solved.

The comic, who died in 2005, never revealed how he lost the top of his left forefinger – but instead used it to spin a number of tall tales.

But now a childhood friend has come forward to reveal the prosaic truth: that he got it caught in a cog wheel of a mill in Longford.

The accident happened on June 6, 1941, when Allen, then known as David Tynan O’Mahony, was a month away from his sixth birthday. School records that show he was absent for six days after that.

According to classmate Paddy Egan, Allen’s family lived in an old mill house, and while out playing by the mill, David put his finger in an old cog wheel. One of his friends turned it, causing the injury.

Egan said the youngster was keen to flaunt his wounds when he returned to school, telling the Longford Leader that when he returned, he ‘took off the bandage and showed the piece of finger that was missing’.

He also said Allen always had a talent for entertaining, explaining: ‘The teacher would put him up on the table and he was able to do impressions.’

After he became a comedian, Allen came up with several stories to explain his injury. One version was that he had his finger in his mouth when his brother John had surprised him by snapping his jaw shut; another was that it was self-inflicted to avoid National Service; and another that he kept dipping it in his whisky, which ate away at the flesh.

The anecdotes were revived after BBC Two aired the documentary Dave Allen: God’s Own Comedian recently. Click here to watch it on iPlayer.

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Published: 10 May 2013

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