A sad day...
Spike Milligan dies at home
Spike Milligan has died at his home in Sussex.
He was 83.
The last remaining Goon died of liver failure surrounded by his family.
Milligan had suffered ill health for some time, and had been nursed by his third wife Shelagh in recent months.
Norma Farnes, his agent and manager, said: "For 35-years he has been the dynamo in my life and he was my dearest
friend and I will miss him terribly."
Milligan was given a special Outstanding Achievement award at the Chortle.co.uk live comedy awards held only yesterday.
Last Goon, not a Gooner
Gone to the Goon Show in the clouds
Really sad. He was a big hero of mine. A true comic genius and maverick (over used terms I know)
Brilliant comedian, poet and author and completely mental. All the Goons gone now. At least Heaven is now a funnier place.
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, but when Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his hair he wasn't fuzzy was he.
I'd better change my user name out of respect.(Spike)
A comic hero of mine..very sad
Very, very sad. Read loads of his stuff and I'm old enough to remember the radio shows.
His war memoirs were riotous and I found a copy of "Book of bits or a bit of a book" in the loft the other day
"Always remember that today is the tomorrow you yearned for yesterday"
Funniest sketch I saw was when he was shouting "OOO THOING", sitting with a pair of novelty eyeballs on springs
dangling into a bowl of whipped egg white. Then a copper turns up and carts him off.
I don't know what was so funny about that, but my guts were in agony laughing at it.
Anyone remember his "Pakistani Daleks"? They were a family of Daleks with turbans on arguing indoors and one
BUTLER : 'You rang' ?
SPIKE : 'No I didn't it was the bell' !!
"He's fallen in the water". A comic genius and an original. One of my all-time heros. Creased me up. Absolutely
Make 'em laugh up there Spike
Truly the Godfather of modern, and alternative, comedy. He had the last laugh - surviving Bentine, Sellars and Secombe,
when you wouldn't have bet him surviving the sixties.
Spike - a real mad genius.
Butler: I've brought your breakfast up, Sir
Spike: Serves you right for eating it.
A great loss. Genius is an overused word, but he really was. They still repeat clips of the Q series from time to time
(and certainly will show a few now - I just hope they let the man's art speak for itself rather than put on a tribute show
of talking heads who claimed to know him) and it is still very funny.
From "Wings Over Dagenham",written by Spike for the Goon Show, 1957:
Mr. Seagoon, I have got here the plans of my proposed portable aerodrome.
Ahh! Let's have a look.
Mmmm. What do you call it Mister Crun?
Erm. "Croydon Airport".
Oh. And where are you going to build it?
I say! How splendid. That'll save changing the name!
Some classic Milligan quotes:
"If you kill me, I promise you will never take me alive!" (The dreaded batter pudding hurler)
Moriarty: You have stolen my dentures! I challenge you to a duel! Choose your weapon!
Moriarty: Aaargh, I've lost!
Undertaker: Shut that door! The snow's blowing in over the body, and you know what a weak chest he has!
(Goon Show, "The Moriarty Murder Mystery")
Sgt Hope: "I am Sergeant Hope"
Spike: "What a good memory you've got"
Sgt Hope: "I'm the compere. You are the Royal Artillery Orchestra"
Sgt Hope: "Where's the rest of you"
Spike: "This is all there is of me, I'm considered complete by the MO"
Sgt Hope: "We had been expecting a full orchestra"
Spike: "We are full - we just had dinner"
Sgt Hope: "That'll do"
"Excuse my face, it won't go away."
"I suppose," said Suitcase, "you know you are three months late arriving for your call up?"
"I'll make up for it sir, I'll fight nights as well!"
(Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall)
Mick Looney: How much is two tins of beans?
Mick Looney:How much for one?
Mick Looney:Then I will take the other one then.
Steve Wright (Radio 2 DJ): You're looking very well, Spike.
Spike: Rubbish, I've been dead for years, and nobody's brave enough to tell me.
"These tents were made for dwarfs."
"I am dwarf, but I'm tall with it."
(Rommel? Gunner Who?)
'The RTO gave me a travel warrent, a white feather and a picture of Hitler marked "This is your enemy". I checked
every compartment, but he wasn't on the train'
Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall
"I finish, and have time on my hands, arms, legs and shins. There was a lot of it about."
Where Have All the Bullets Gone?
Major Chater Jack : I see Milligan is smoking a pipe.
Sgt Dawson : yes sir
Major Chater Jack : He looks very good smoking it.
Sgt Dawson : yes sir
Major Chater Jack : He looks manly.
Sgt Dawson : Very manly
Major Chater Jack : Unflappable?
Sgt Dawson : Definitely unflappable!
Major Chater Jack : What's he like as a soldier?
Sgt Dawson : Bloody awful sir.
"Education isn't everything"
"For a start it isn't an elephant."
The World Record holder for blowing a bugle whilst riding a bike up-hill, dragging 4 cwt. of pig-iron and holding his
breath at the same time is buried at Blue Lawns Cemetery, Sheffield North. (The Milligan Book of Records)
Major Chater-Jack: Milligan, we've just crossed the border into Tunisia.
Milligan: Fine, sir, I'll carve a statue at once.
Bluebottle: Eccles, I'm wearing this new cologne. They say it attracts women like flies.
Eccles: Oh, I wondered why all the women looked like flies!
("The Sleeping Prince")
A truly sad event. Spike was perhaps my all time comic hero and even nearly got me suspended from School.
I was meant to be reading something tedious but had slipped a copy of one of his war time memoirs inside ( I think it
was Monty: His Part in my downfall or something similar ). Anyways I read something and had to laugh out loud. The Teacher,
who was a grumpy old *******, came storming over and caught me red-handed and demanded an explanation but I could stop laughing
and it all ended up with me in front of my House Master, letters home to parents, dententions the lot.
He is the only Author ever to have caused me to laugh like that. His memoirs are absolute genius and the only things I
have re-read again and again over a 25 year period.
Must admit that I was never the greatest fan of the Goons but I loved his 'Q' stuff.
In his honour I intend to have double Egg and Chips today, washed down with a bottle of Chianti(sp?). It was the meal
he, and his chums, seemed to live on in Tunisa and Italy during the war
'What are we going to do now ? What are we going to do now ? What are we......... '
Slipping quietly away
The most inspirational of all British comic talent.
From his talent came Monty Python and the like.
One of his entries into Room 101 to be condemned to hell....was Portsmouth !
I loved that guy.
Rest in peace Spike.
A great loss. I wonder if they'll give him the inscription he wanted on his gravestone: 'I told you b*stards I was ill.'
He also wrote to Prince Charles after the 'grovelling b*stard' comment and in the letter asked 'I suppose a knighthood
is out of the question, then?'
It was only last night that we were at home reading some of his poems and having a good laugh, he was a fantastic character
who will be greatly missed
Maybe the BBC will finally get round to repeating some the 'Q' stuff now. Its criminal that they have not done so already
given the rubbish they are quite happy to show again and again.
A really sad day, I echo many of the comments gone before and to come again. I am walking backwards to Christmas.............
Very sad news. As many have said, he was the forerunner of Python and most of the alternative comedians that came through
in the 80s and 90s.
His book Puckoon, about the partition of Ireland, is very funny. Just like Matov, I found myself laughing at loud at his
The only quote I can remember now was from the Goon Show called "The MacReekie Rising of '74"
Scots clan chief: "Taenight, we march north tae England"
Secombe: "But England's south!"
Scots can chief: "Aye" We're gonna march right roond the world and creep up on them from behind! Forward the
I was rereading his wartime memoirs last week and posted on the "What are you reading at the moment" thread
about how they were not only hysterically funny, but incredibly poignant, insightful and beautifully written. I will be reading
them again soon.
There is a tribute programme on BBC1 tonight at 10.35, no details as yet.
Spike used some of the pubs in Burwash from time to time. Always a gentleman, and always willing to the public.
I will miss you, and your zany humour.
What are we going to do next, what are we going to do next, what are we going to do next, what are we going to do next.
Leave stage sideway's
A truly sad day and a great loss to comedy.
You told us to stay clear of the doctors, Spike!!!
Had Rumbling Bowles
That thundered in the night.
It shook the bedrooms all around
And gave the folks a fright.
The doctor called;
He was appalled
When through his stethoscope
He heard the sound of a baying hound,
And the acrid smell of smoke.
Was there a cure?
'The higher the fewer'
The learned doctor said,
Then turned poor Maveric inside out
And stood him on his head.
'Just as I thought
You've been and caught
An Asiatic flu -
You musn't go near dogs I fear
Unless they come near you.'
Poor Maveric cried.
He went cross-eyed,
His legs went green and blue.
The doctor hit him with a club
And charged him one and two.
And so my friend
This is the end,
A warning to the few:
Stay clear of doctors to the end
Or they'll get rid of you.
Spike Milligan RIP
A great man with a great (and bizarre!) sense of humour - a great loss.
'm gutted. The man is solely to blame for my sense of humour, and thus, lack of friends..
"That man is lying"
"No I'm not, I'm standing on my head"
Jehovah's Burglars Scene:
"We're being persecuted by the police for our beliefs"
"And what are your beliefs?"
"We believe you have a lot of valuables in your house"
The BBC will now release his back catolog on video/DVD and cash in on his death....
I'll sadly miss him.
The best sketch I remember was taking the rise out of David Attenborough.
"Good evening and expenses"
Spike was Attenborough. He was surrounded by a bunch topless women on a sun drenched beach.
After spending over 4 hours in A&E yesterday, the first thing i did was play a goon show tape when I got home. When
I awoke this morning the first thing I heard was that another of my heroes had passed on. Very sad. Can't really say anymore.
Seagoon; Eccles, what are you doing in there?
Eccles; I wasn't doing anything in there.
Eccles: Have you ever seen your Daddys legs?
Bluebottle: No! He always takes them to work with him.
Eccles: Why does he do that?
Bluebottle: He uses them to stop his trousers from bending!
Unique and truely bizzare. A very sad day
Spike Milligan was a comic genius and I for one was extremely saddened to hear the news of his death.
I have been reminiscing about some of his masterpieces and how they have caused me great merriment over the years.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to to all his family and friends on this very sad day.
Spike Milligan - We shall miss you dearly. RIP
I feel really sad - he was one of my comic heroes. I loved the Q series and agree with everyone else, it's criminal that
the BBC repeat cr@p but not this wonderful series.
I love his books too, specially the excellent Puckoon with Count Fritz Von Krappenhauser who had gold straining handles
by his bog and the faces of his enemies drawn down the lavatory pan - looking up in apprehension! His version of the Bible
is great too.
RIP Spike - you'll be missed.
Very, very sad. A true original comic genius. What he wrote and performed was so far ahead of its time that, as many have
said, it set the standard for the following generations of comedians.
Forgive a personal reminiscence, but I once spent a night in a hotel room at a skiing resort with an absolutely stunning
girl - so stunning she went on to split a rock star up from his wife and eventually married him - we were only sharing out
of expediency rather than any attraction on either of our parts (honest !), I hasten to add. We were both very drunk and spent
several hours in the middle of the night reading a book she had of his scripts to each other, thus keeping several Eurotrash
neighbours awake, resulting in several knocks on the door to complain. I can say no more than I was so utterly absorbed by
his comedy that I never thought about her as an object of attraction at all (which would have been academic anyway given her
Champions League looks, relative to my hungover Sunday Morning Pub league).
Roland Rat got divorced & remarried?
But seriously, as Spike would have put it -
What are we going to do now? what are we going to do now? what are we going to do now?,,,,,
There was a young man named Wyatt
Whose voice was incredibly quiet
And then one day
It just faded away
I've just finished reading a couple of his books. They were donated to a book fair that I'm organising to raise funds
(donations gladly accepted) for an overseas trip for some of my pupils but I "misappropriated" them.
When I was at school, one of my teachers wrote a play based on his poem "The land of the bumbly boo."
In the land of the bumbly boo
The people are red, white and blue. (Was he a closet Palace fan?)
They never wear clotheses
Or ever blow noses
What a sensible thing to do.
It goes on for a few more stanzas but I can't remember them off hand. Anyway, they wrote to Spike for permission and he
sent us a telegram on opening night apologising for not being there.
Humour in the last three decades owes as much to Spike as to anyone else. But wouldn't he have a piece of us for all this
I'm not afraid of pussy cats.
They only eat up mice and rats.
But a hippopotamus
Could eat the lot of us.
Is this the greatest rhyming couplet in our language
It's sad - makes my Dad officially the maddest guy alive, but I'm sure Spike only held on so long so that he would win
at coming last in the dead race.
Little tiny puppy dog
sleeping soundly as a log
better wake him for his dinner
else he'll start to sleep much thinner.
Normally I hate these condolence type threads but today something has gone forever from my life
Spike RIP (Rigor mortis In Sussex )
There was a young gunner called Edser
Whom, whenever wanted was in bed sir
Til one morning at one
They fired the gun
And Edser, in bed sir, was dead sir.
The man stood on the burning deck when all but he had fled - TWIT !
There was a man called Wyatt, whose voice was awfully quiet,
And one day it faded away,
Terence Alan Milligan - Comic genius extraordinaire RIP.
I remember seeing an edition of 'Wogan' in the 1980s with Spike as a guest. All of a sudden, a random bloke runs in front
of the camera to protest at something or other (undoubtedly a very worthy cause). Bloke then gets hustled off camera, and
as Wogan tries to settle things down a bit, Spike says (as if to the protester) in a kindly and understanding voice, 'Come
and see me in my dressing room after the show ... I'll kick the **** out of you.'
From the Torygraph Obit:
SPIKE MILLIGAN, who has died aged 83, created through the Goon Show a new form of British humour - zany, surrealist, inconsequential,
chaotic; a mixture of inspired fantasy and unmitigated bathos.
Spike Milligan: 'All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy'
"Milligan is the great god of us all," said John Cleese, who readily acknowledged the master's influence on
Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Yet if the Goon Show, which flourished between 1951 and 1960, pointed the way to the future, it also drew heavily upon
nostalgia for the Victorian past, as though Kipling had somehow become mixed up with Salvador Dali.
Milligan's roots were in India, and all the Goons were ex-Servicemen. The starting point of Goon humour, Milligan once
explained, "is one man shouting gibberish in the face of authority, and proving by fabricated insanity that nothing could
be as mad as what passes for ordinary living".
Milligan himself played many of the characters that tumbled out of his mind: Eccles, the loveable, toothless dimwit; Spriggs,
given to nasal objections from the back of the hall during meetings; Abdul, the twittering bearer or dragoman; the vague,
hen-like Minnie Bannister, spinster of the parish; and Count Toulouse-Moriarty of the House of Roland, an impoverished cosmopolitan
of the 1920s.
The parts assigned to the other Goons were equally of Milligan's invention. Peter Sellers acted the smooth villain Hercules
Grytpype-Thynne and the shameless ex-Indian Army Major Bloodknok.
He also took on Henry Crun, Minnie Bannister's equally poultry-like associate; Willium "Mate" Cobblersliam,
a despairing, croaking Cockney; and Bluebottle, a ludicrous personification of schoolboy dreams of glory.
Harry Secombe was Neddy Seagoon, forever involved in some crazy enterprise - laying a telephone line to "17a, Africa"
or taking part in a drum race from John O'Groats to Land's End.
In the Goon Show, Alan Brien wrote, "the non-sequitur, the paradox, the pun, the cliche, the sick joke were released
like starving rats in a henhouse. Situations and characters which formerly would only have cropped up in a psychiatrist's
case-book, were unveiled with deadpan bravado."
By no means everyone found the Goons irresistible; nevertheless the show attracted some seven million listeners, and made
Milligan a national figure. But the triumph eventually became a source of grievance. " 'Wrote the Goon Show - died' :
that's how people think of me," Milligan complained when Channel 4 ran a spoof obituary in 1991.
As the author of more than 50 books he had reason to complain. Among them were six volumes about his war experiences -
Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1971); Rommel: Gunner Who? (1974); Monty: My Part in His Victory (1976); Mussolini:
My Part in His Downfall (1978); Where have all the bullets gone? (1985) and Goodbye Soldier (1986). These were a strange mixture
of touching description, acute insight and total lunacy.
In addition he turned out children's books, collections of nonsense, a novel (in fact, a set of gags set against an Irish
background) entitled Puckoon (1963) and several volumes of verse, not to mention his own versions of The Bible, Lady Chatterley's
Lover, Wuthering Heights and Black Beauty.
Invariably the critics acknowledged the talent - genius, as some saw it - while deploring Milligan's lack of discipline.
But it was hardly possible to combine such riotous invention with measured order. The most remarkable thing about Milligan
was that he maintained his rate of output despite being, in his own phrase, "a full-time professional neurotic".
Periods of frantic energy alternated with bleak and prolonged periods of withdrawal.
Several times he underwent ECT treatment, until it was discovered that lithium was the most effective treatment. In appointing
himself patron of the Manic-Depression Fellowship, and in publishing, with Anthony Clare, The Survivor's Guide to Depression
(1993), Milligan knew what he was about.
Milligan had a dangerous predilection for biting the hand that fed him. The Royal Family, in particular, suffered. On
her 39th birthday in 1965 the Queen went to see Milligan in Son of Oblomov; afterwards he dined with her and Prince Philip.
This did not prevent Milligan from observing, in 1988, that the Prince was "f***ing lucky to marry the Queen. He
was nothing when he met her. His arse was hanging out of his trousers."
Prince Charles also became a butt. Having for years expressed his admiration for Milligan, he found himself described
in 1994 as "a grovelling little *******".
Such outbursts were bubbles bursting on the surface of a deep misanthropy. "Most people bore me to death," Milligan
would say. "I have no time for stupid people."
The same point of view was expressed more wittily and succinctly in a gag he wrote about a Japanese man: "Why does
everyone dislike me?" "Saves time."
Milligan readily involved himself in good works - financing a farm for children in Finchley, helping battered women, crusading
against cruelty to animals (he was a determined foe of hunting). He also dedicated himself to conservation projects, notably
Victorian lamp-posts and the Elfin Oak in Kensington Gardens.
Yet he was also something of a faddist - about noise, about smoking, about punctuality - and was always eager to tell
other people what they were doing wrong. Invariably at odds with authority, he gave way to mocking incredulity that anyone
could disagree when he laid down the law.
In particular Milligan would express bitter astonishment at the foolishness of mankind in tolerating overpopulation. Though
he had been born a Roman Catholic, and continued to hang a crucifix above his bed, he perpetrated a sketch against the Catholic
doctrine of birth control, in which he pulled a picture of the Pope from his flies while singing Ave Maria.
His outrage, however, did not prevent him fathering two illegitimate children in the 1970s, along within four children
The condition of Milligan's talent was that he never grew up. On the negative side, he remained all his life liable to
give way to sudden, uncontrollable rage when confronted with authority. On the positive side, he retained a clear, fresh and
essentially innocent vision that enabled him to draw infinite humour from the inanities of conventional existence.
Terence Alan Milligan was born in India on April 16 1918 at Ahmednagar military hospital in the province of Bombay. The
Milligans were of Irish ancestry - Terence's great-grandfather Michael had been born in Donegal in 1816 - and dedicated both
to the Army and the theatre.
Michael Milligan had joined the Royal Artillery; his son William established the family in London and became scenery manager
at the Queen's Palace of Variety in Poplar; and Leo, Terence's father, was an RSM in the Indian Army.
Terence's mother, nee Florence Kettleband, came from a family which had a pronounced theatrical - and a musical - tradition;
with her husband she put on an act at the Bombay Palace of Varieties.
Terence's infancy was spent at Poona in a household liberally supplied with Indian servants. As a pupil at the Convent
of Jesus and Mary, Poona, he had the first of his brushes with authority, when the Mother Superior presumed to call him out
before the entire school. "I wish nothing better for her," he wrote as an adult, "than to be have been raped
and murdered by a crazed terrorist."
In 1924 the Milligans moved to Rangoon where, the next year, Terence's brother Desmond was born. Among those who visited
their house, in the shadow of the Golden Pagoda, was Eric Blair, alias George Orwell. Terence was exposed to further Roman
Catholic education at St Paul's High School.
In 1933 Leo Milligan, through no fault of his own, was discharged from the Indian Army, and the family's life dramatically
changed. Leaving the relative luxury of Burma, they found themselves, as Terence later put it, "entombed in south-east
London" - specifically in two rooms in Riseldine Road, Catford.
Terence's dreams of becoming a pilot were swiftly snuffed out by the entrance exam to the RAF training school. He was
condemned to a series of soul-destroying jobs in local firms and, worst of all, at the local laundry.
Working as a packer in Deptford, he flogged cigarettes he had stolen and found himself in court for his pains. Thanks
to an impassioned speech from his father - "he's a good worker, Sir, and gives all his paltry wages to his mother"
- he was let off.
Milligan's only hope of escape was through music; indeed it had been to raise funds to buy a trumpet that he had resorted
to crime. Entirely self-taught until he wangled himself in an evening course in orchestral practice at Goldsmith's College,
he also played the drums, guitar and double bass, and became a leading light in Tommy Brittell's New Ritz Revellers at Brockley.
The other positive feature in his life was that women found him highly attractive. Moreover he knew how to capitalise
on the fact, alternating between ardour and indifference. One of his early girlfriends bought him his first trumpet - not
that it did her much good.
It was the outbreak of the Second World War that took Milligan out of his rut. He joined D Battery of the 56th Heavy Regiment
Royal Artillery, which was stationed at Bexhill-on-Sea.
As the leading member of the Battery band he not only found an outlet for his musical talents - "honestly, we were
the Beatles of Bexhill" - but also began to develop a reputation as a comedian. It was at this point that the name Spike
began to take hold.
A girlfriend called Beryl Southby, a singer with the BBC, encouraged him to enter a BBC instrumentalists' competition
at Maida Vale. He won, and as a prize made a record with the band, accompanied by the blind pianist George Shearing.
Music remained to the fore even after the Battery moved to North Africa in January 1943 and engaged in the siege of Tunis
(Milligan was a signaller). Milligan particularly recalled a military concert in the vast French theatre at Fort de l'eau:
"that night the ego got its first taste of honey."
In September 1943 the Battery - with Milligan still clutching his trumpet - crossed the Mediterranean to Salerno and marched
north towards Naples. Exhausted and suffering from piles, Milligan was wounded in the left leg by mortar fire, and reduced
to a shaken, incoherent and lachrymose wreck. "I ran out of courage," he later explained.
The sense of failure never left him. Later in life he would express admiration for Telegraph obituaries - "all those
war heroes. Makes me wish I had done a bit more."
After several months in rehabilitation camps at Afrigola and Banio he was given jobs as a wine waiter and a driver. Music
once more came to his rescue, until the doctor told him to stop playing the trumpet in order to relieve a chest pain.
Milligan the comedian now came into his own, writing and acting in two entertainments: Black Baggage, a parody of Leon
Gordon's White Cargo, and Men in Gitis, a satirical sequel to Mary Hayley Bell's Men in Shadows.
Both were huge successes. Only the brigadier remained unamused, and therefore willing to see Milligan transferred to the
Central Pool of Artists in Naples.
There he appeared in Over the Page, with Harry Secombe, and formed a trio with Bill Hall (violin) and Johnny Mulgrew (double
bass). He also embarked on a passionate affair with an Italian woman, Toni Pontani.
Discharged from the Army in October 1946, Milligan returned to live with his parents at Deptford, and played at night
clubs with the Bill Hall trio. In 1947 the trio played on television and toured Switzerland and Italy, but then split up.
Despite Harry Secombe's recommendation, Milligan failed an audition for a job at the Windmill theatre.
He found his true metier at the Grafton Arms, Victoria, a pub run by a scriptwriter called Jimmy Grafton. There in 1948
he joined forces with Michael Bentine, Peter Sellers, and Harry Secombe, to delight the customers with riotous and anarchic
persiflage directed against bureaucracy and officialdom. Before long Milligan was living in an attic at the Grafton.
In 1948 and 1949 he had some success as a comedian at the Nuffield Centre, central London; one reviewer called him "the
British answer to Danny Kaye - and how". He also appeared in a radio series, Hip Hip Hoo Roy.
But the beginning of the 1950s found him touring Army bases in East Anglia as a comedian with the Frank Weir Orchestra.
Morale was not improved when a pilot Goon Show was rejected - sparking in Milligan a lasting paranoia about the BBC.
Better counsels eventually prevailed, and on May 28 1951 the first Goon Show, billed as Those Crazy People, The Goons,
was broadcast. Within six weeks it was popular enough to be moved from 6.45 pm on Mondays to a peak time (7.45 pm) on Thursdays.
All the same, three producers had already fallen by the wayside before the eventual arrival of Dennis Main Wilson. The
strain of providing weekly scripts was intensified by the demands of paternity (Milligan's first child was born in November
1952), and by continuing rows with the BBC.
Milligan was particularly irked by their refusal to allow him to impersonate Sir Winston Churchill. "We could have
beaten the Fringe by ten years," he later complained.
When the BBC complained about the late delivery of his scripts, something snapped. Milligan seized a knife and ran into
Peter Sellers's adjoining flat. "I was so mad," he recalled, "I thought that if I killed Peter it would come
right. I think I just wanted them to lock me up. I was totally demented."
Fortunately Milligan's wife warned Sellers not to open the door. Milligan was removed to an isolation ward at Muswell
Hill, where he was kept for a time in a straitjacket. Though back with the Goon Show by March 1953, he had several breakdowns
over the next few years.
Yet this was also a time of great achievement. The Goon Show went from strength to strength, and was hardly less successful
in Australia (where Milligan's parents had emigrated and which he himself frequently visited), New Zealand, Rhodesia and the
At the same time Milligan tried his hand at various television scripts for independent television. Wolf Mankowitz greeted
The Idiot Weekly Price 2d (1956) with delight: "At last here is humour which is intelligent, pointed, skilful, professionally
conducted, specifically television and very, very funny."
This was followed by A Show Called Fred, which heralded the arrival of surrealist comedy on television. Thirteen years
later Milligan reverted to the same kind of humour in a series called Q5 (later followed by Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9), but it was
still ahead of its time.
Only the cognoscenti were impressed. "When we first saw Q5," John Cleese has observed, "we were very depressed
because we thought it was what we wanted to do and Milligan was doing it brilliantly."
From 1956 Milligan also made a series of records, many of them related to the Goons. I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas,
issued in 1957 with the Ying Tong Song, went to the top of the charts.
When the show ended he published his first book, A Dustbin of Milligan (1961), which, alongside assorted burlesques and
graffiti, contained some original verse:
There are holes in the sky
Where the rain gets in,
But they're ever so small
That's why the rain is thin.
In 1961 Milligan combined with John Antrobus to write The Bed-Sitting Room, first staged as a one-act play at Canterbury
in 1962 by Tomorrow's Audience, a repertory company with which Richard Ingrams was involved. By the next year the piece had
expanded and transferred to the Mermaid and Duke of York's.
The play postulated a Third World War which has just finished after two minutes 28 seconds (including the peace treaty).
Buried underneath the nonsense, puns and clowning was a serious desire to bring home the horrors of nuclear radiation.
In 1964 Milligan appeared at the Lyric, Hammersmith in the name part of Obolomov, a dramatisation of Ivan Goncharov's
novel about a young nobleman so overcome by ennui that he never leaves his bed
. Milligan guyed the text unmercifully, ad-libbing at will. Many critics gave him short shrift, but the show was such
a success that it moved to the West End as Son of Oblomov.
Meanwhile in 1957 Milligan had featured in a short film by Richard Lester called The Case of the Mukkinese Battlehorn.
This was a success, but was eclipsed by The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960), an 11-minute entertainment made
on a shoestring and consisting of assorted crazy scenes - including a man rushing into a field to scrub the grass, and another
character who places a gramophone record on a tree stump and runs madly around it with the recording arm.
Milligan had parts in more grandiose, if poorer, films such as The Magic Christian (1970), The Devils (1971) and The Last
Remake of Beau Geste (1977). Better were Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972), with Milligan as the Gryphon, Monty Python's
Life of Brian (1979) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1980).
In 1987 Milligan left his house in Potter's Bar for a modern rambling house in Sussex, which he was soon professing to
hate. Yet, though he attached a nameplate reading "The Blind Architect", he did not move. The books continued to
flow, and so did his complaints about not being properly appreciated by the BBC.
Of his later books, the most interesting was a collection of his correspondence with Robert Graves, Dear Robert, Dear
In 1992 Milligan was appointed an honorary CBE - honorary, because he had adopted Irish nationality after a brush with
the Passport Office in the 1960s. He joked that he would rather be a member of the Hackney Empire than the crumbling British
one. Even so, he was appointed an honorary KBE in 2001.
To the end, Milligan remained incapable of failing to crack a joke when the opportunity presented itself, professing relief
at the death of Harry Secombe last year with the declaration: "Now I won't have to have him singing at my funeral."
Spike Milligan married first, in 1952 (dissolved 1961) June Marlowe; they had a son and two daughters. He married secondly,
in 1962, Patricia ("Paddy") Ridgeway, who died in 1978; they had a daughter. He married thirdly, in 1983, Shelagh