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.

Published: 10 May 2013

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