BROADCAST: 13 Dec 1955 [1]


Script by Spike Milligan


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service. Giddup!

GRAMS: Horse galloping into distance.

SECOMBE: He'll be back.

GRAMS: Horse galloping back again.

GREENSLADE: Woah! Woah, woah, woah, woah. (Gasping for breath) I'm… I'm awfully sorry. I omitted to say this is the highly esteemed Goon Show. Giddup there! Giddup!

GRAMS: Horse galloping into distance. Speed up and fade.

SECOMBE: There he goes, riding the Minister of Transport’s Horse.[2] (Laughs) Ha, ha! Crazy Walter Greenslade – the only BBC announcer the ITA won't take, and after all those presents he sent them! (Laughs) Ha, ha, ha, ha! Still, mine apparently did the trick. (Laughs) Ha, ha! Ahem.

MILLIGAN: Stop! Stop this sinful talk you crazy people and let me tell you the story of "The Lost Year.” Ho, ho, ho, ho.

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

HERN: Yes, "The Lost Year" – the greatest motion-picture of all time. You will want to see this film the moment you see the X certificate.[3]

ECCLES: Fine, fine.

HERN: Yes, "The Lost Year" – made at a cost of thirty-three billion dollars and filmed on the very spot in Spain-Madrid-Africa, Jersey, Guernsey and socks. A cast of thousands, ten years in the making. See handsome midget Harry Secombe with the singing voice of Mario Lanza and the body of Owen Bowels. See the voluptuous Minnie Bannister dance the sensuous, sinful "Knees Up Mother Brown". See the famous Eccles in his greatest role to date – his only role to date. See it all on the new insanitary-stethoscope four-sided screen, made in glorious three-dimensional, hysterical, gorilla colour, with the new explodable multi-gringe sound process. You saw them in “Dustbins at Dawn”, you saw “The Son of Lassie’s Owner,” you saw “They Died with their Boots Reversed”, then see them in "The Lost Year" and prove you're still an idiot when it comes to pictures. Here then like all the other holly wood is "The Lost Year!" [4]

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link. Harp arpeggios.

GRAMS: Big Ben striking three – vary the speed wildly. Horses hooves approaching.

GREENSLADE: (Pulling up.) Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. (Gasp for breath.) London, nineteen fifty-five.

GRAMS: Distant city noises.

GREENSLADE: The scene – Pebble Lane, off Fleet Street. Giddup there! Giddup!

GRAMS: Horses hooves into distance.

SEAGOON: Ah, here we are. "Crun and Company – Stationers at Large."

FX: Door opens. Door bell tinkle. Door closes.

GRAMS: City noise stops.


FX: Customer service bell ringing.

SEAGOON: Come, come good shop keeper where are you? I'm in a hurry you understand. I'm in a hurry. This delay will go hard with you – ho, ho, ho, hoo! I tell you I'm an MP and an honest citizen who desires a purchase. I have certain monies in my belt, and I...

FX: Door opens. Door bell tinkle. Door closes.

ECCLES: Hullo.

SEAGOON: Good morning.

ECCLES: You can't fool me with them big words.

SEAGOON: Stand to both sides man. Now – (Calls out) Come! Come along! Anybody about?

ECCLES: Yeah – me!

SEAGOON: Shut up!

ECCLES: Shut up! Hey, you goin' to buy somethin'?


ECCLES: Mind if I watch?

SEAGOON: Certainly. Here, sit in this photograph of a chair.

ECCLES: Oh, thanks. I'll just put this photograph of me on it.

SEAGOON: Good. Now, where's the proprietor? I want service, you understand!  This is no way to run a shop! I tell you…

FX: Door opens.

CRUN: (Approaching) Dear, dear, dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Oh, dear, dear, dear, dear.

ORCHESTRA: Distant bugle call.

CRUN: (Calls off) Minnie! Stop playing your ear trumpet.

BANNISTER: I always play by ear, Henry.

SEAGOON: I say, how about some service here? I've been here five minutes.

CRUN: I've been here fifty two years.

SEAGOON: Congratulations. Now then, do you keep stationery? 

CRUN: Only when I'm tired.

GRAMS: Football crowd cheering.

CRUN: Thank you! Now then, what, er… what do you, um, ... Oh, dear, dear… um… What do you, er...

SEAGOON: I want to buy a calendar.

CRUN: (Furious) Let me finish what I was going to say, do you mind! Um, now, um, what do you want sir?

SEAGOON: I want a calendar.

CRUN: You said that before.

SEAGOON: I know.

CRUN: You haven't changed you mind?

SEAGOON: No. I'm a man of iron will and wooden knees.

ECCLES: Fine, fine.

SEAGOON: Shut up Eccles!

ECCLES: Shut up Eccles!

SEAGOON: Now look, here's a map of the North Pole.


SEAGOON: Go and find it.

ECCLES: Ohh, thanks. Goodbye.

GRAMS: Massed boots running off into distance.

FX: Door closes.

SEAGOON: There goes the only man in the world to win a three legged race... alone.

CRUN: Yes. Now sir, um... what year calendar do you want?

SEAGOON: What's the cheapest?

CRUN: Oh, the year before last. One penny each.

SEAGOON: A penny each? (Laughs) Ha, ha, ha. There's some catch in it somewhere. (Laughs) Ha, ha, ha, ha, hoo! No, no, no. I want next year’s.

CRUN: I see – yes. (Calls) Min! Minnie.

BANNISTER: (Distant) Ahhh owwwl. (Approaching) Don't keep me long Henry. I've got to put the cat out.[5]

CRUN: Why?

BANNISTER: It's on fire.

CRUN: Have we got any nineteen fifty-six calendars, Min?

BANNISTER: No, you can't get them Henry.

CRUN: You can't get them, you know. (Extended)

SEAGOON: What nonsense I thought. But after many efforts, I discovered that in the lingth, length and longth of England there were no calendars for the year nineteen fifty-six.[6] Absolutely none at all. The whole of England was puzzled. Then, late one midnight morning at seven in the afternoon, a statement on the radio from our own Prime Minister, Sir Anthony. [7]

GRAMS: (Recording) ELLINGA: Folks, I tell you the year nineteen fifty-six is

 missing. Mmm – mnn!

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link.

GRAMS: Galloping horse approaching. Slow recording down at end.

GREENSLADE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa there. "The Lost Year" part two. Parliament is assembled.

GRAMS: Drunken mess singing “Pack up your Troubles in your Old Kit Bag.” [8] Screams and the smashing of broken glass behind.

SEAGOON: (over) Silence, honourable members! Silence please.

GRAMS: Singing stops abruptly.

SEAGOON: SILENCE! Oh! Thank you. I must say though sir – it's time you stopped celebrating your birthday.[9] (Yes, quite sir.) Now gentlemen, as you now know, England is without a year nineteen fifty-six. It is missing. We'll start by blaming the Russians.

MP 1:[10] Blame the Russians? What for?

SEAGOON: It's all the rage.

MP 2:[11] It's all very well talking about this simulation rage, but where are we going to start looking for this year nineteen fifty-six? That's what I want to know.

SEAGOON: Let me see, it's nineteen fifty-six AD. 'A' and 'D' are the first and fourth letters of the alphabet. One, four ...

MP 1: Ahh. One for the road.

SEAGOON: There are many roads…

MP 2: Cecil Rhodes. [12]

MP 1: He lives in Africa.

SEAGOON: That's where I'll look for it – Africa! I'll leave at once.

ORCHESTRA: Nautical link.

GREENSLADE: “The Lost Year” – part three. The scene is a four shilling a week, bed sitter, covered tap, with low ceiling and string bath at Kilburn.

FX: The splashing of bath water. (Continue under.)

MORIARTY: Hoihohoyio! (sings) Round and round went the dirty great wheel…[13] (Shouts) Grytpype! Grytpype!

GRYTPYPE: What is it, reeking frog eater?

MORIARTY: Light another candle under this sink. This bath water is getting cold.

GRYTPYPE: Never you mind that, my heavily oiled French Eiffel Tower champion.[14]  Listen to this in the heavily oiled English Times. “Believed stolen, the year nineteen fifty six. Reward for recovery, ten thousand pounds. Apply Ned Seagoon onboard the S.S. Venus.” [15]

MORIARTY: Hoihohhahahou! Ten thousand pounds. Follow that ship!

GRAMS: Three bodies diving into water.

GREENSLADE: The third splash is of course Max Geldray.


MAX GELDRAY - "Blue Star" [16]


ORCHESTRA: Nautical introduction.

GREENSLADE: Part four – on board the S.S. Venus.

SEAGOON: I hung over the ship’s rail – I'm a very poor sailor. In fact most of the sailors on board were very poor. It was on the third day out that I noticed approaching on 'B' deck, a man in cardboard furs with a sledge drawn by ten mongrels, two elephants and a tiger and surrounded by his own private blizzard.

GRAMS: Distant blizzard. Barking of dog teams.

ECCLES: (Approaching) Moosh! Moosh! (&c) [17]

SEAGOON: Good heavens, Eccles, Eccles!

ECCLES: Eccles! Oh that's me, hullo!

SEAGOON: (Shouts) Turn off that blizzard!


GRAMS: Blizzard and dog team recording winds down slowly to a stop.

SEAGOON: That's better. Now, what are you doing on board this ship?

ECCLES: Like you said, I'm looking for the North Pole.

SEAGOON: You silly man, you're going the wrong way. The North Pole is back there.

ECCLES: Oh, sorry. (Calls) Moosh, moosh!

GRAMS: Blizzard and barking dog teams. Fade into distance. Large splash.

SEAGOON: It was a grand sight to know that the spirit of this second Elizabethan age was being kept alive by men like Eccles... from the first Elizabethan age. [18]

MORIARTY: (Distant) Heeeelp!

GRYTPYPE: (Distant) Likewise.

SEAGOON: Captain! Did you hear that?

GREENSLADE: Yes, it's two men drowning.


GREENSLADE: In the sea.

SEAGOON: Gad! That's the worst place to drown.

GREENSLADE: Can you see them?

SEAGOON: Yes! Yes! There they are, clinging for dear life to that gramophone record of Harry Secombe singing "On with the Motley".[19]

MORIARTY: (Distant) Heeelp! Throw us a gramophone, or it'll be too late.

SEAGOON: Here! Catch this rope, you brave patrons of a great singer.

GRAMS: Multiple splashes.

GRYTPYPE: Oh, thank you, thank you.

SEAGOON: Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Neddie Seagoon.

GRYTPYPE: Oh yes, the well known danger to shipping.

MORIARTY: Neddie, you saved our lives. How can we repay you?

SEAGOON: Simple, just tell your friends to buy Harry Secombe’s record of "On with the Motley" and...

GRYTPYPE: Yes, yes. "On with the Motzas" – we know all about that now.[20]

GREENSLADE: As Captain of the good ship Venus, may I ask what you two were doing so far out at sea?

GRYTPYPE: We are following the trail of a man we believe to have stolen the year nineteen fifty-six.

SEAGOON: What a coincidonce! So am I. You shall help me.

MORIARTY: We shall need a cash advance, Neddie.

SEAGOON: Right, here's a photograph of advancing cash, (taken under fire of course.)

GRYTPYPE: Of course!

SEAGOON: Well done. Tell me Grytpype, as man to mon – what do you think the missing year is shaped like?

GRYTPYPE: Well, er – they do say the years roll by. It's in the shape of a roller.

SEAGOON: By Zeus, Jupiter and needle nardle noo! I must say it sounds a most plausible deduction.

GRYTPYPE: You mean, you… you really believe me?

SEAGOON: Of course.

GRYTPYPE: Oh, I…er – I'll tear these other ideas up then. (Aside) Moriarty?


GRYTPYPE: This is a real Charlie.

MORIARTY: (Aloud) Before we start work we must have some money. Money, you understand? Aioughioai...

SEAGOON: Calm down you French type frog eating gentleman. If it's money you're after, here's a photograph of the Bank of England. Go in and help yourself.

MORIARTY: Thank you. Ooiooioohiooiooie... (self fade)

GRAMS: One set running boots. Pause. Large splash.

SEAGOON: Good shot.  He landed right in the sea. Ahem. Now Grytpype, to business. You must come down to my cabin at once.


SEAGOON: I want you to hear a record of Harry Secombe singing...

SEAGOON & GRYTPYPE: ..."On with the Motley" obtainable at all good…

ORCHESTRA: Nautical theme.

GREENSLADE: After three weeks at sea and four weeks at land, the S.S. Venus docked in Africa at the military port of Tarms. But then, you've all heard of port-arms.[21]

SEAGOON: As we stepped ashore, we were greeted by fierce, dancing Zulu warriors.[22]

GRAMS: Massed tribal drumming and yelling natives. Hold under.[23]

GRYTPYPE: Say Neddie ...


GRYTPYPE: Here comes the chief.

ELLINGA: (Approaching) Stop!

GRAMS: Stops abruptly.

ELLINGA: Clear the floor. Next dance, excuse-me-Zulu fox trot.

SEAGOON: Greeting noble Zulu chieftain.

ELLINGA: Greetings cor-blimey. Me chief Catalula. Me got five hundred wives. [24]

SEAGOON: Good luck! (Suddenly slow and deliberate) We come here looking for lost year nineteen fifty-six. Tell me noble Zulu chief – played by Ray Ellington in Savile Row loin cloth,[25] have you seen man pushing roller go this way?

ELLINGA: No, no. Me no see anything. Me busy.

SEAGOON: Busy? Why?

ELLINGA: Me told you – me got five hundred wives.

SEAGOON: Here. You'd better sit down.

ELLINGA: Thank you, cor-blimey.

SEAGOON: Well, did any of your wives see a man pushing a roller?

ELLINGA: No. My wives always busy.


ELLINGA: Yes. When they are not on duty, they all sit on the coollalumba and listen to Meegar-tagoo on peela-madoo.

SEAGOON:  What's that?

ELLINGA: Record of Harry Secombe, singing "On with the Motley” obtainable at all good stores...

SEAGOON: Well done! Well done! Ahem…

GRYTPYPE: Yes, yes, yes! Neddie, come, let's press forward.


ORCHESTRA: Safari trekking theme. Fade under.

SEAGOON: On reaching the interior we spotted for the first time the trail of a roller.

GRYTPYPE: Yes, it's true then Neddie. Nineteen fifty six is shaped like a roller.

FX: Coconut shells advancing.

SEAGOON: Well... WAIT! Listen…

FX: Coconut shells growing louder.


FX: Coconut shells very close.

SEAGOON: Here comes a man riding a pair of coconut shells.

FX: Coconut shells slowing down.

MORIARTY: Woah! Woah back.

FX: Coconut shells stop.

MORIARTY: Ah, Secombe – you swine.

SEAGOON: What's up you, ragged gigolo.

MORIARTY: That photograph of the Bank of England that you gave me – it was taken on a Wednesday.


MORIARTY: The bank was closed! Half day early closing.

SEAGOON: I'm terribly sorry Moriarty.

MORIARTY: I should think so.

SEAGOON: Here, here's a photograph of the bank taken on a Thursday.  Go in and help yourself.

MORIARTY: (Fiscal orgasm) Oohohhh! Thank you. Ooo-eee-arrr...

FX: Door closes.

SEAGOON: Huh! That's got rid of him. (Clears throat) Well Grytpype, it's getting late. Ellinga?

ELLINGA: What do you want bwana?

SEAGOON: Pitch my tent.


SEAGOON: There – by that record of Harry Secombe singing "On with the Motley". (Laughs) Ha ha!

ELLINGA: Oh cor-blimey, again?

SEAGOON: Silence Ellinga, or I'll report you to Ardit.

ELLINGA: Who's Ardit?

SEAGOON: You have if you don't belt up. Now play me your next tribal dance.

ELLINGA: Ok, cor-blimey. (Goes off shouting) Oh jelloman!


RAY ELLINGTON QUARTET  - "Believe It, Beloved" & "Got a Bran' New Suit" [26]


GREENSLADE: That was the Ray Ellington Quartet. I suppose that the BBC do know what they're doing. And now to “The Lost Year”, part scrampson scree. A hundred mile inland, Grytpype relieves Neddie of all his loose cash and leaves him with no water. Alone he staggers on.

SEAGOON: Gad! Water! Water! Aarghh... If only I had water... water, or a record of Harry Secombe singing "On with the Motley". (Going off) Water ...

BLUEBOTTLE: I have got one my captain. Enter Bluebottle, points to cardboard record of capitan.

SEAGOON: Who are you? Better still, what are you?

BLUEBOTTLE: I am Tarzan Bluebottles of the jungle. (Beating his chest like ‘Cheeta’.) Mnyam, nikki-nakki-noo. (Extended)[27]

SEAGOON: Well said.

BLUEBOTTLE: Yes. Do you know that for three weeks I have worn nothing but these fijs leaf.


BLUEBOTTLE: Some rotten strine’s stolen my trousers! (...and my false teeth).[28] It isn't half cold when you sit down in these things, I tell you. Harm can come to a young lad like that.

SEAGOON: No, you must be a mirage. Yes that's it, you're a mirage! (Raves) Ha ha ha. (Nervous collapse) A mirage.

BLUEBOTTLE: No, no, no, no.  Do not frighten me. I'm not a miringe.

SEAGOON: Yes you are. Naught but a mirage!

BLUEBOTTLE: You mean that I'm not really here?

SEAGOON: Yes, you're nothing.

BLUEBOTTLE: I don't like this game. I don't like being a nothing, nowhere. What's my little Frieda going to say when I tell her I'm a nothing?

GRAMS: Distand blizzard. Sounds of dog team.

ECCLES: (Approaching. Over) Moosh, moosh, moosh, moosh, moosh! Hullo!

GRAMS: Sound stops abruptly.

ECCLES: You seen the North Pole go this way?

BLUEBOTTLE: Do not talk to me Eccles. I'm a miringe. I'm not here.

ECCLES: You're not here?


ECCLES: Well you tell me where you are and I'll go and see you.

BLUEBOTTLE: I'm not anywhere. I'm a fidge of the imagination.

ECCLES: Oh, you must think I'm mad.


ECCLES: Ain't got an answer to that.

SEAGOON: Eccles help me. I'm a sick man.

ECCLES: Oh, Mr Seagoon! I've got a carrot to pick with you.

SEAGOON: You mean a bone.

ECCLES: No, I'm a vegetarian.

SEAGOON: Shut up Eccles.

ECCLES: Shut up Eccles.

BLUEBOTTLE: Shut up Eccles.

SEAGOON: Shut up Bluebottle.

CAST: (Extended)

SEAGOON: Oh, shut up! So help me – I'm ill. “Ham”. (Overacting.) All the stuffing I've undergone looking for the lost year, has made me a weak, old man.

BLUEBOTTLE: Oh, you hear that Eccles?


BLUEBOTTLE: He's only a week old.

ECCLES: Little didums!

SEAGOON: Stop that advanced type goon humour! Lift me onto your sledge. I'm too ill to move.

ECCLES & SEAGOON: (straining)

ECCLES: (Straining) I'll get you up. ... That’s got you on.

SEAGOON: (Straining) Watch out for the tenors friend.

ECCLES: (straining) Ooooo. That’s got you on.

SEAGOON: Thank heavens. On the sledge at last, I was too weak to move myself. Now, I'll just put this record of Harry Secombe...

ECCLES & BLUEBOTTLE: (Going off) Moosh! Moosh! Moosh! Moosh!

GRAMS: Bring up sounds of blizzard and dogs.

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic explorers link.

BLUEBOTTLE: (Reading labouriously) The Lost Year, part C. On and on we plodded.

GREENSLADE: Do you mind – that's my job.

BLUEBOTTLE: I'll get you at playtime, you rotten swine you. I'll clout that big fat steaming nut of yours.

GREENSLADE: Get out of it. (Clears throat) Ahem.

GREENSLADE/BLUEBOTTLE: (Bluebottle shadowing his lines) On and on they plodded in search of the elusive lost year. Finally they reached ...

GREENSLADE: Will you shut up![29]

BLUEBOTTLE: Will you shut up.... Nooo!!

GREENSLADE/BLUEBOTTLE: (Bluebottle shadowing his lines) Finally they reached a British outpost.

ORCHESTRA: Bloodnok theme.

BLOODNOK: Ohhhhh! Arghhhh! Owwwwahhh, and other naughty noises.

SEAGOON: Ah! You're Bloodnok of the river, yes?

BLOODNOK: Wrong, I'm Bloodnok of the river no. Spelt G N O U H – ‘no’.

SEAGOON: You're Bloodnok of the river gnouh, yes?

BLOODNOK: Yes, " Gnouh”.

SEAGOON: “Gnouh”.


SEAGOON: Make up your mind.

BLOODNOK: By the great measurements of Sabrina, who... who the devil are you?  You're not Mount Everest?


BLOODNOK: Thank heavens! I... I can't stand heights.

SEAGOON: No, I'm son of Mount Everest, Ned Seagoon.

BLOODNOK: Then what are you doing so far from your base?

SEAGOON: Are you kidding? No man can be nearer his base than me without being a midget.

BLOODNOK: I don't wish to know that.

SEAGOON: We're in Africa, looking for the year nineteen fifty six – which is in the shape of a roller.

BLOODNOK: Great dollops of steaming thund! Do you really believe that?


BLOODNOK: You must be mad, mad.

SEAGOON: And there's a reward of ten thousand pounds for its return.

BLOODNOK: (Straining) Hih, ah, er ... Be with you in a jiffy! Just get on this straight jacket. Ahh, there. Forward!

ELLINGA: Bwana, bwana, bwana. Good news, me see two people pushing roller over other side of river.

SEAGOON: Great work Ellinga. Here, have a centrally heated loin cloth.

ELLINGA: Ohhh, me put it on.

GRAMS: Electrical fuse shorting out.

ELLINGA: Ahhhhhhh!

SEAGOON: Curse, short circuit. Now Eccles, put this basket on your head.

ECCLES: Right.

SEAGOON: Now, everybody climb in.


SEAGOON: Right. Off you go Eccles.


SEAGOON: Come along.

GRAMS: A single pair of boots running on loose gravel. Start labouriously as if acrrying something heavy, then gradually speed up.

ECCLES: (singing to himself) Oh, the man from Laramie...[30]


GRAMS: Footsteps stop.

BLOODNOK: Oh, look Neddie. Here's the trail of the roller and two pairs of foot steps.

ECCLES: My daddy.

SEAGOON: Shut up.

ECCLES: Shut up.

SEAGOON: Shut up. Look there, behind that bush.

BLOODNOK: The roller.

SEAGOON: Yes, that's nineteen fifty six alright – and it's the same colour as the suit.

BLOODNOK: What suit?

SEAGOON: The suit Harry Secombe was wearing when he recorded "On with the Motley". [31]

BLOODNOK: You mean that you're not Mount Everest?


BLOODNOK: Your disguise is perfect sir.

SEAGOON: I don't wish to know that. Now, let's examine this roller. Yes, yes, it's nineteen fifty six alright. But, look!... The devils! They've disguised it as eighteen ninety seven.

BLOODNOK: So that's how they got it past the customs.

SEAGOON: Bloodnok, there are more things in heaven and earth than man dreamed of.[32]




SEAGOON: Shut up.

ECCLES: Shut up.

BLOODNOK: Yah yah ...

SEAGOON: Now, action!

ECCLES: Shut up.

SEAGOON: Action.


SEAGOON: Who ever brought this roller here must be nearby. They might be dangerous, so we'll keep these sticks of dynamite handy. Now, who'll look after them?

BLUEBOTTLE: Can I go home, my captain? I’ve got my homework to do.

SEAGOON: No, no. Quick into the bush! We’ll wait here behind this record of Harry Secombe.... &c (Self fade)

GREENSLADE: So they waited in the bush for a year and by then of course the year had gone. Good night.

ORCHESTRA: Signature tune.

GREENSLADE: That was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded program, featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, with the Ray Ellington Quartet and Max Geldray. The orchestra was conducted by Wally Stott, script by Spike Milligan, announcer Wallace Greenslade. The program produced by Peter Eton.










[1] One of the poorest quality shows of the entire Goon canon, this script – although obviously Milligan’s and  competently enough written, is neither funny nor contains any of the flights of slapstick fantasy that usually characterised Milligan’s creations. When Spike couldn’t find a contemporary humorous situation, he would indulge himself in travel plots, sending his casts to Himalayan Buddhist lamaseries; on African expeditions; or trap them in the Argentinean Presidential Headquarters, all populated by the same bunch of characters, their usual antics made even more hilarious when played out against foreign peoples and exotic climes.

But the script does contain three ideas which would become fruitful later on, ideas which would provide the basis for the extremely funny “The Burning Embassy” (3/8th), “The Treasure in the Tower” (5/8th) and “World War One” (22/8th) all eighth series scripts. Milligan’s notion of the transference of utility meant that he had developed a fluid idea about how time worked. If, he reasoned, time passes to the tick of a clock, therefore it is also true to say that the tick of a clock passes the time. Why not have a clock push time along? Why not jump over hours, days, weeks just by changing the clock? (eg: “The Telephone” 11/7th) And if a clock, then why not a calendar? Why not dispense with 1956 entirely by jumping over it in the calendar? This is the premise of this show, weakly developed here, but later better developed in “World War One” at the beginning of 1958, in an hilarious script that involves dropping calendars on advancing armies to alter events.

The third idea he reused was the idea of Eccles driving a dog sled, accompanied by a blizzard. His idea here was that just as weather conditions dictate social conditions, then social conditions dictate weather. This is enlarged in “The Burning Embassy” into a bizarre episode involving a lorry with a blazing British Embassy on the back colliding with a cold storage van containing twenty-three sunburnt and frost bitten men who have been fighting off sub-Saharan tribesmen and a pack of timber wolves, due to their fiddling with the thermostat.


[2] The position of Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation had been held for the past year by John Boyd-Carpenter. A reshuffle has seen him moved on to Minister of Pensions and National Insurance this same month, replaced by Harold Watkinson. Boyd-Carpenter’s actions while minister had set in motion the modernisation of the British motorway system, but his public image was unfortunately not that of a moderniser. A large grassroots campaign of car owners (a quickly growing number of peoples in modern Britain) urgently campaigned for the Government to fast track the modernisation of Britain’s roads system, thoroughly convinced that Minister Boyd-Carpenter was way behind the times.


[3] During the 1930’s the British Board of Film Censors introduced wide ranging restrictions in response to the widespread concern that children were seeing too many horror movies. The ‘H’ (for Horror) classification had a minimum age allowance of 16, however following the war – in a generation whose tastes had changed, the ‘H’ certificate was replaced by the ‘X’ certificate, following a government re-examination of the system. The emphasis was no longer on horror, but on sex and violence.


[4] This speech, given by Sellers in his best National Screen Service voice-over style, is an extraordinary hodge-podge of allusions to genuine films and cinematic history. Spoofing such films as “Rage at Dawn” (1955: Randolph Scott/Tucker/Powers): “Son of Lassie” (1945: Lawford/Crisp/Lockhardt): “They Died with Their Boots On” (1941: Flynn/de Havilland), Milligan also spoofs the increasing tendency of the studios to boast about peripheral concerns, such as the cost of the film, the location, and the quality of new technology used. ‘Stethoscope’ spoofs ‘stereoscopic’, as in ‘stereoscopic 3D’, a technique of movie making which reached its golden years between 1950 – 55, ‘gorilla-colour’ spoofs ‘technicolour’, the standard system of shooting colour films until 1955. Mario Lanza, the star of ‘The Student Prince’ (1952), was an up and coming operatic tenor of the 40’s, who, after being discovered by Louis B. Mayer, was enticed to come to Hollywood where he made a series of commercially successful films based round his extraordinary tenor voice. The actor ‘Owen Bowels’ is untraceable, but may well have been a Milliganese pseudonym for Orson Welles.


[5] There is a very faint ‘meow’ from further back on the stage.


[6] Similar plot device to “World War One” (22/8th).


[7] Sir Anthony Eden (1897 – 1977) , Churchill’s successor, Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957. His forte was foreign affairs and diplomacy, leaving the domestic economy largely in the hands of Rab Butler. As events would reveal, it would have been better for Eden if the year 1956 had remained missing. It was the year of the Suez crisis, and would see the destruction of both Britain’s foreign credibility and his own career.


[8] World War I marching song, penned by Asaf and Powell in 1915.


[9] The MP this was addressed to was Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874 – 1965). His birthday, which fell on the 7th April, was that year an occasion for national celebration, as it coincided with his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party, ending a parliamentary career of over 50 years. To celebrate, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh dined with the Churchill’s at Downing St, there were congratulatory adulations from international leaders, and his career was profiled in many of the national newspapers.


[10] Milligan.


[11] Sellers.


[12] Cecil John Rhodes (1853 – 1902), English businessman, mining magnate and politician, an ardent believer in colonialism and imperialism, and the founder of the state of Rhodesia.


[13] A reference to the traditional bawdy ballad “The Great Big Wheel”. It concerns a blacksmith who invents an enormous steam-driven dildo to satisfy his wife.


[14] The previous week Moriarty had been dressed in an Eiffel Tower disguise. One of the rare times that Milligan continued a gag from one week to the next.


[15] A reference to the bawdy ballad “T’was On the Good Ship Venus”, one of the most filthy maritime songs ever penned. In an effort to get round the BBC censors, Spike often used oblique references to songs or jokes he had heard and which were known to many people, especially the men in the band. The good ship Venus is referred to again in “The Treasure in the Tower” (5/8th), “The Stolen Postman” (11/8th), “The Giant Bombardon” (4/Vin) and “The Call of the West” (12/9th) .


[16]Blue Star”, was the theme of the television series ‘Medic”, an American medical drama. Originally written by Victor Young, it was given a set of lyrics by Edward Heyman, and was recorded by Felicia Saunders in 1955.


[17] This was the idea that fuelled Spike’s later script ‘The Burning Embassy’ (3/8th) in which an ice storage van containing both an arctic blizzard and a North African sirocco collides with a lorry carrying the remains of a blazing British Embassy in downtown Addis Ababa.


[18] It is possible that this line is the source of the idea for the show “The Treasure in the Tower” (5/8th). In that show also, Eccles swims between the two Elizabethan ages trying to bury treasure,


[19] Philips B26205H: (78r.p.m.) ‘On with the Motley’ (Vesti la Giubba – from the Opera “Pagliacci” by Leoncavallo). Harry Secombe with Orchestra directed by Walter Stott. The aria is sung by the carnival clown Pagliacci as he dresses for a performance, crying over his wife’s recently discovered infidelity. ‘Motley’ means the particoloured costume of a jester. Secombe’s recording went to number 16 on the billboard charts.


[20] A Yiddish word, motza apparently means ‘a large amount of cash, either earned, won or stolen.’

[21] A drill command, basically meaning ‘the key position assumed when moving arms from one position to another’. The command to move the arms back to the position of attention is called ‘order arms’. This type of gag would have been a hit in Milligan’s regiment, but by the sound of it, leaves the audience a little bewildered. Gradually throughout the Goon decade, one can hear the military gags wearing increasingly thin.


[22] This was a contemporary reference. The Mau Mau Uprising of 1951 – 1960 was tearing the British colony of Kenya apart, with the national newspapers full of its grisly details.


[23] My ear suggests that this recording of tribal drumming is the same GRAMS used towards the end of ‘The Great International Christmas Pudding’ (9/6th).


[24] There are suggestions that Chief Catalula is based on Jomo Kenyatta (c1894 – 1978) one of the most outspoken Mau Mau leaders, and the eventual first president of Kenya. He had recently married for the fifth time.


[25] Savile Row is a street in Mayfair, central London, that became the epitome of the ‘bespoke’ tailoring industry during the 19th century.  Despite changes in fashion and tastes, Savile Row continues to maintain its reputation as a mecca for men who desire the most elegant tailoring.

[26]Believe it, Beloved” (1934) by Johnson, Whiting and Schwartz was first recorded by Fats Waller and his Rhythm on Nov 7th of that year in New York. Within a year the number had been added to the repertoire of ‘Le Quintette du Hot Club de France’, one the earliest and most important continental jazz groups in Europe, featuring Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt.’ “Got a Bran’ New Suit”, by Dietz and Schwartz was first sung by Ethel Waters in the 1935 revue ‘At Home Abroad’, and was often performed by Fats Waller. It was almost exactly 10 years to the day since Waller’s death on December 17th 1945.


[27] The young American drifter, rancher, soldier and sometime pencil sharpener salesman, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875 – 1950) created the character Tarzan in 1912. Immediately successful, Burroughs went on to pen more than 70 novels, over 20 of which concerned this drop-out ape-man and his side kick chimpanze, cheeta.

The character was so popular it appeared on screen within a year of its first published story, “Tarzan the Ape Man”, and was played by Elmo Lincoln. By Milligan’s day, the part was played by Gordon Scott (“Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle” – 1955 being his first film). That Milligan could have been attracted to this character as a boy is of no surprise. Tarzan is adventurous, indestructible, and lives the life of an exiled savage amongst wild animals and jungle terrain, using his native wit and a powerful gauge rifle to right wrongs, his heart noble and pure. Even his relationship with his consort ‘Jane’ is tinged with purity. Their son ‘Boy’ is found – not born.

As far as this goes, it all would have suited the Terrance Milligan very well, growing up in Pune, India and then Rangoon, Burma. In both places the jungle and wild animals were just outside his door, and rifle practice was something Leo Milligan encouraged. But Milligan’s creative engagement with this character never goes beyond the briefest mention. I can only assume the problem was the ‘Americanism’ at the heart of the story, as opposed to the tales of the British Empire inherently at the heart of all of Spikes favourite characters.


[28] What was probably written was: “Some rotten swine’s stolen my trousers!”, but due to a slip up on Peter’s part he has added a comment of his own.

[29] This is the first time Bluebottle shadows Greenslade’s lines. It became quite a regular feature of the shows, and even led to a slight stage friendship developing between the two. Greenslade had been promoted to the position of television newsreader for the BBC the previous month (Nov. 1955) filling the ranks of vetted newsreaders, depleted due to the poaching of experienced men by the newly formed ITV. I wonder also if there is some truth to the notion that Spike had become concerned that Greenslade would eventually ‘jump ship’ to ITV within the next year, (notice the first line of the show concerning Greenslade’s apparent departure,) and was toying with the idea of replacing him with Bluebottle.


[30]The Man From Laramie (1955) was a hugely popular western film starring James Stewart. The song from the film was written by Lee & Washington and was a current hit on the UK charts for Jimmy Young.

[31] The seventh and final plug for Harry Secombe’s new release by Milligan. Spike and Harry had been friends ever since meeting each other in the Central Pool of Artists, Italy, during the final months of the War. Both were suffering from battle trauma, but both went on to begin their professional careers in the travelling shows CPA mounted, touring Italy and Austria entertaining the troops. Harry, the more bankable artist, eventually secured London contracts even before demobilisation, while Spike had to struggle to be accepted as a writer and comedian for another decade until the Goon Show propelled him into the public eye.


[32] A bowdlerised quote from Hamlets speech to Horatio in “Hamlet” scene V. Spike had been displaying somewhat of a ‘Shakespearianisation’ of tone all through the scripts of the sixth series. Laurence Olivier and Janet Leigh had played a very successful season of Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon that year, and Larry’s film of ‘Richard III’ had premiered that year to universal acclaim. It is likely that Spike had been influenced by this.