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Bang Bang Dudley, A Dublin Eccentric

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by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
Published August 8th 2022
Dublin, Ireland, Library, Archive, Architecture, history, Travel, Character, Eccentric
Dublin City Library and Archive Pearse Street, Dublin

Dublin Personality: Bang Bang

Most small towns have a character, someone beloved even when a little bit of a nuisance. It's true of big towns and cities, too, though they may only be known to the neighbourhood. Thomas Dudley, known by all as "Bang Bang" was one such character.

Bang Bang was known for running around town, pulling an imaginary pistol from his side and "Bang. Bang." He used a large skeleton key as his prop.

Dublin, Ireland, Library, Archive, Architecture, history, Travel, key, prop, Character, Eccentric
Bang Bang's Key Courtesy of Dublin City Library and Archive

Orphaned as a boy, it's not known if he had much schooling or ever held a job. But people looked out for him, and he made out all right.

He was probably the biggest trial for the city's bus drivers. My tour guide from Original Dublin Tours, Alan, told us his story. Alan's grandfather was a bus driver who regaled his family with the story of how Bang Bang, as early as the 1920s, would hover around intersections and jump out the minute the light turned green, preventing the drivers from proceeding through the intersection, pull his key and, "bang bang."

And he wouldn't move until they played dead. The driver would have to clutch the chest and slump over the steering wheel before Bang Bang would leave the intersection.

I tracked down Dudley's key, kept safe at the Dublin City Library and Archive on Pearse Street, and learned that one of their recently departed colleagues had left his own first-hand account of a witnessed "massacre" with everyone Bang Bang "shot" down for the count. It must've been quite a sight, having ten or fifteen people playing dead. They enjoyed playing along with him.

Dublin, Ireland, Library, Archive, Architecture, history, Travel, Character, Eccentric
Newspaper Article About Bang Bang found at the Dublin City Library and Archive

In his seventies, he was blind and taken in by the Rosminian Fathers in Drumcondra. He died on 11 January 1981 and was buried in their cemetery. While visiting Glasnevin Cemetery, the archivist helped me track it down. It's a small cemetery.

There wasn't money for a headstone when Bang Bang died, but about 5 years ago, a fundraiser collected enough to place his name and a symbol of the key, which now resides in the City Library. He was posthumously awarded the key to the city.

There's a restaurant, Bang, and a pub, Dudley's, named for him. Even plays have been written that include him, From the Vikings to Bang Bang, and children's songs. It's these characters who add to the colour of the fabric of our communities and a bonus to travellers to hear these bits of folklore.
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