Dan Donnelly’s Mummified Arm

Blast from boxing’s past makes waves at steak house

NEW YORK (July 5, 2006) I made my way to the press conference at Gallagher’s Steak House this afternoon where Ireland’s 19th century bare-knuckle sensation Dan Donnelly’s mummified arm was introduced to New York.

As boxing press conferences at Gallagher’s go, this one was sparsely attended, unusually sparsely attended; while waiting for the mummified arm to make an appearance, I wondered where my boxing brethren had gone.

The unveiling of the mummified arm was done with the requisite hoopla, surrounded as it was by its owner and closest friends, but when the mummified arm was removed from its box, those of us not already familiar with the mummified arm were surprised how little like an arm the mummified arm actually looked.

I expected something transformed by taxidermy to within an inch of its life, like one of those stuffed heads of extinct animals that adorn my trophy room. But Dan Donnelly’s mummified arm was nothing like that. Dan Donnelly’s mummified arm looked like a mummified arm, all hard, shrunken flesh, petrified bone, muscle and sinew, a discolored hologram from a hoary morgue.

A man in a pilot’s uniform was looking at the mummified arm with good-natured skepticism. His name was Henry Donohue, Chief Pilot in Aer Lingus, and he wanted to talk.

Aer Lingus kindly flew this, this artifact over this afternoon, he told TSS. We put it in the cockpit along with us an extra hand in the cockpit, so to speak we were only serving finger food but we got it safely here.

Because the mummified arm and I were still getting to know each other, I asked the gent from Aer Lingus if he knew the mummified arm before he flew it from Ireland to the U.S.

I’ve grown up with it as a child looking at it, said Donohue with some pride. I’ve known this arm for a long time.

I didn’t want get too personal with the pilot about his relationship with the mummified arm, so I asked how it went with customs at Kennedy.

We notified customs on both sides and we had licenses from the Museum of Ireland to export it as an artifact. But we had some fun with the customs guys here in New York, who got a little bit squeamish and a bit spooky about the idea. I said, Do you want me to open the box?’ and they said, No, no, we’re fine. We can believe you. It’s okay.’

The customs guys were right. Dan Donnelly’s mummified right arm is okay. I just wonder about the rest of Dan Donnelly.