Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Spike Milligan
Compassionate Comic Genius
Home
Poems
More Pictures of Spike
Drawings of Spike Milligan
Drawings by Spike
The Life and Times of Spike Milligan
Duirt me leat go raibh me breoite
Spike Tudor-Pole
Everything Goes Back To Spike
OK Again, After Spike Of Success
For One Week Only
Monkenhurst
The Ugliest House In The World
Comedian, Campaigner and Philosopher
Pythons' Tribute To Goon Legend Spike
Did You Hear The One About...
Comic Genius
Spike: An Intimate Memoir
Me and My Dad, Spike
Fry's Milligan memories
Parsons Toasts A 'Comic Icon'
The Prince And The Comic
Stars Pay Tribute...
Gospel According To St Matthew
Sonnet XXX
Here's That Rainy Day
Guide Me
A Truly Remarkable Interview
Simply Spike
Slan Leat, Lance Corporal Milligan
Goon But Not Forgotten
Goon But Not Forgotten...Take 2
In Memoriam
Ever The Old Flatterer!
Crystal Palace Bulletin Board Messages
Danny Bakers Message Board
Spike Milligan Messages
Rename The Thames...
Medics Win Spike Milligan Trophy
His Part In Our Lives
Compassionate Comic Genius
Australian Reviews - Three Books On Spike Milligan
The Spoof
London Statue
Woy Woy Peninsula
Draining The Mirror
Spike Milligans Great Grandfather?
The Ex Nanny
Q&A
The War
On The Stage
It's Behind You! Mother Goose
Mukkinese Battle Horn
Down Among The Z Men
Watch Your Stern
Invasion Quartet 1961
What A Whopper 1961
Postman's Knock
The Bed Sitting Room
The Magic Christian
The Three Musketeers
Ghost In The Noonday Sun
Great McGonagall
Beau Geste
Digby - The Biggest Dog In The World
Scene 17
Misc Spike Stuff
On Music
78 Not Out
Bill Hall Trio
The Goon Show
Goon Images
The Telegoons
Goonreel
Under The Influence...
The World Of Beachcomber
Curry And Chips
Q
An Apple A Day
The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine
Cure For The Common Cold
On The Muppet Show
An Evening With Spike Milligan
Multimedia And Downloads
My Brief Encounter With A Genius
Spike and Milligan
Poke A Penguin
Contact Us & Related Links
Spikefest UK 2004
Buy Limited Edition Prints
And Finally

Spike Milligan has gone at 83

Glyn Williams recalls meeting him at an East London hotel, and a telephone call out of the blue.

SPIKE MILLIGAN was staying at Osners on the Esplanade, East London. He could see me only for 15 minutes, he said. I was still with him an hour and a half later, though several times I had offered to leave, bearing in mind the time pressures on him -- but, no, he wanted to talk.

The woman with him was Shelagh Sinclair, who was to become his third wife.

Her eyes filled with tears when he waved a hand at her and said: "I owe my sanity to this woman." She made him some toasted sandwiches while we were talking.

In the background Delius was playing on a cassette. He loved classical music -- "it enters you". He was particularly touched when a poster arrived, drawn by the East London artist Claire Baker, welcoming him to the city.

He was friendly, even solicitous. He asked what was I doing in East London, and when I said I was with the Daily Dispatch he wanted to know if they were paying me enough money.

Spike Milligan upbraided me once when I said his friend and Goons colleague Harry Secombe was a Welshman. "How can you say he's a Welshman?" he asked. I said he was Welsh because he was born in Swansea.

"No, no, no," he said. "No real Welshman would allow his daughter to get married in London on the day when Wales were playing France at rugby and going for the grand slam, having beaten England, Ireland, and Scotland, and furthermore persuade me to attend it.

"Mind you, it was one of the funniest wedding receptions I have even been to. We were in this swank reception room, but off on the side was another room full of Welshman watching the game on a portable TV.

"Every so often a door would open quietly, and a little Welshman in a blue serge suit would poke his head through the gap and whisper Wales 3 France 0.

"A few minutes later another Welshman appeared to give the latest score -- and so it went on all afternoon, but it was always a different Welshman and they all wore blue serge suits."

Milligan was a great rugby fan and, being Irish, naturally supported the Old Country. "Mind you, they need support," he said. Munster, a rough, tough Irish provincial side had just beaten the All Blacks, when not many teams notched victories against them.

Spike said: "All their forwards go in hard tackling and fiery, but bunched up. They don't hang back in case they get lost. Some of the Munster forwards are good but when they get the ball you have to point them in the right direction."

He had another Welsh rugby story: "There was this Welsh scrumhalf shouting instructions to his forwards in a game against the Alll Blacks. 'Hold the ball, hold the ball' he was saying, in Welsh. One of the All Blacks became exasperated and shouted back at him -- 'Speak English, you pommy bastard'."

Milligan was 61 then but a good 61. He looked fit, his eyes a sparkling blue. He had found squash. "Lost a stone and a half," he said (about 10 kilos). "Great exercise though it's not all that good for getting the tum down. I wasn't getting any exercise at all and I was worried about it. In a busy life of show business squash is great because you get to sharpen up in a short period of time."

Even when he was serious, humour lurked: "Squash sharpens the mind and reflexes -- and you don't have to walk a long way to fetch the ball."

He loved animals, and fought for their protection. In one of his books, Open Heart University, he railed at vivisection, particularly as practised on the BBC TV show Open University, where live rabbits were dissected -- rabbit after rabbit.

"The least they can do is use one rabbit for one complete filming, but my protests had no effect. Rabbits, cats and dogs are, after all, our brothers and sisters."

The day after he died I listened to one of the Goon Shows -- very funny, even decades after it was written, the humour sharp and eternal. But Milligan told me that the period of writing the shows and performing in them week after week was one of the unhappiest in his life.

"There was just too much pressure," he said. "It put me into hospital and led to the break-up of my marriage."

But he said he was happy when he was making people laugh, though he preferred writing to performing on stage, where he was often so nervous he felt sick. He talked too of his army years; he served through the world war.

He said they were happy times because there was freedom and no worries when they were not in action.

"If you were a good bluffer you could be happy," he said. "The greatest bluffer I knew was a man called Chalky White who went everywhere with a can of Vim. He pretended it was the poison DDT and whenever questioned by an officer he said he was delousing. No one ever found him out ..."

Spike Milligan came to South Africa again some time later for another short stay in East London. I tried to contact him by phone in (what was then) Natal beforehand but his aide, Patrick O'Neill, kept on putting me off, telling me he had a virus. The next day a Daily Dispatch assistant came into my office and asked me if I knew a Spike Milligan. It was the man himself, on the phone.

"Patrick was just trying to protect me," he said. "I'm a manic-depressive. I get these terrible depressions and when I get them, there's only one thing to do and that's to go to bed. I just had to phone you when I heard you were trying to contact me -- never neglect to help a journalist earn his crust of bread."

We chatted of various matters and of his classic hat routine; it has obscured his vision and he is attempting to take it off but cannot unscrew it as he is working against the thread.

"Quickest way to make an audience disappear," he said. "Jam the hat over your eyes."

He was a comic genius and a kindly, compassionate and lovely man.

mike@spikemilligan.co.uk