He loved the cinema and westerns and his favourite actor was John Wayne. After seeing a movie he would re-enact it on the streets, pointing a key at people and shouting “Bang, Bang you’re dead!” - hence the nick name. Sometimes while watching a film he would stand up and shoot at the bad guys on the screen, to the delight of the patrons and owners. He was never put out of a cinema.
People often entered into the spirit of things and even formally dressed men were seen to pretend umbrellas were rifles and shoot back at him.
Tourists enjoyed it too when he was around - often engaging in his fantasy - it was said that one shootout lasted nearly an hour when some Americans took him on. On another occasion he fell to the ground and when people went to his aid he said, “I’m OK, take the stage to Medicine Bow” - a town in a western he’d just seen.
For a quick getaway he favoured the rear platforms of the old buses and trams and travelled from stop to stop shooting at everyone.
When John Wayne passed away, Bang, Bang told people that his old friend had died.
In the late 1970s his eyesight began to fail and he went into a home where he died peacefully in 1981. He was 75.
His key - some say it came from a church - is now in a museum in Dublin. There is a brief article about it on the site https://www.facebook.com/DublinStreetCharacters
There is a short video of people reminiscing about Thomas Dudley here - vimeo.com/24306728
Others mentioned in this song – Johnny Forty Coats and Skin the Goat – were well-known eccentric characters around Dublin for many years.
Slug Willard first rose to prominence as a cowboy in Flann O’Brien’s wonderful novel At-Swim-Two-Birds.
Thomas (Bang Bang) Dudley
As the stagecoach for Medicine Bow leaves the Liberties
Bang Bang takes aim with his trusty key
With John Wayne at the reins they hightail it through The Coombe
And all the baddies’ bullets - aw they can’t do nothin’ to ‘em
For fifty years he rides the range upholdin’ law ‘n’ order
With shoot outs from Clanbrassil Street to the Rio Liffey’s border
From the badlands of Stephen’s Green and the prairies in between
Bang Bang has the fastest draw that you have ever seen
“We’ll head ‘em off at the pass with Johnny Forty Coats
“Before they reach the Phoenix Park,” he says to Skin the Goat
Slug Willard’s gang are on the ridge silhouetted you can see
And tho’ they’ve blocked the Ha’penny Bridge Bang Bang holds the key
But even now when I leave the show I sometimes look both ways
Remembering that unique man from those simpler days
When Mr Thomas Dudley with his loaded key
Would come ridin' on his magic horse shootin’ you and me
And I recall with sadness all these long years after
How his gentle madness brought the gift of laughter
Times change and the insane may amaze me yet
But still I feel that way back then we had better craziness
When the last bus for Medicine Bow left the Liberties
Bang Bang held onto the bar, takin' aim with his key
And with his pardner big John Wayne hit the trail for the West
Where time’s silver bullet laid him down to rest
© Des Wade 2014