BROADCAST: 20 Dec 1955


Script by Spike Milligan


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service.

GRAMS: Massive gasp: wild applause.

OMNES: (Variously) Encore! &c

GREENSLADE: Encore? Certainly. (Clears throat.) Ahem. This is the BBC Home Service.

GRAMS: Tremendous applause. Slightly faster. Slowly fade behind.

SEAGOON: Hear that applause, dear listener? It was not for Danny Kaye, not for Fred Laine. No, it was all for a common or garden BBC announcer, Wallace Greenslade.[1] How did he come by this rapturous applause? It is with heavy heart and light kidneys that we tell you…[2]

GREENSLADE: “The Greenslade Story” or...

SELLERS: “Winds Light to Variable”.

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

SNAGGE: My name is Snagge, John Snagge.[3]

FX: Penny in mug.

SNAGGE: Thank you civilian. It was June nineteen quifty-quaw that the lad Wallace Greenslade first came to the BBC, seeking refuge from hard work.

GRAMS: Typewriters – office noises.

FX: Door opens.

GREENSLADE: Good morning, Miss. I'm Mister W. Greenslade.

SECRETARY: [4] Oh yes, you've come for the vacant post of announcer?

GREENSLADE: Yes, I have.

SECRETARY: Do take a seat with the other applicants.

GREENSLADE: Thank you. I sat down next to a man wearing a brass deerstalker, white cricket boots and a shredded cardboard wig.

ECCLES: Hullo!

GREENSLADE: Good morning.

ECCLES: (To himself) “Winds light to variable.”


ECCLES: I said, "Winds light to variable."

GREENSLADE: Oh, really.

ECCLES: Yeah. “Winds light to variable.” I'm practicing, you know.

GREENSLADE: Don't tell me you're applying for the post of announcer?

ECCLES: Oh, yeah! And I'll get it too, you see. I'm wearing a Cambridge tie.

GREENSLADE: You? You were at Cambridge!


GREENSLADE: What were you doing there?

ECCLES: Buying a tie.

FX: Door opens.
: Mister Lidell will see you now, Mister Eccles.[5]

ECCLES: Fine, fine, my good woman. Well, this is it... (self fade) two thousand pounds a year and a pension.

FX: Door closes. Door opens again violently.

SELLERS: Get out, you idiot!

ECCLES: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You ain't even heard me speak yet.

SELLERS: We'll write to you.

ECCLES: Well, that's no good – I can't read.

FX: Door shuts.

ECCLES: Did you see that? He threw me out! Threw me out, the famous Eccles! He got no respect for the dead, that man. You can all laugh, but he never even let me say "winds light to variant." (Self fade) I'm going to tell my electrocution teacher about that man.

FX: Door opens.

SECRETARY: Will you come in now, Mister Greenslade?

GREENSLADE: Thank you, madam. (Narrator) I was lead into the presence of a BBC official. I took off my shoes and knelt down.

FX: Gong.

BBC OFFICIAL:[6] Now, Mister Greensleeves, can I... can I hear you say something?

GREENSLADE: Certainly. Um... "Winds light to variable."

BBC OFFICIAL: By Jove, you couldn't have picked a more appropriate phrase.

GREENSLADE: Oh, it was nothing.

BBC OFFICIAL: Come, come! Say it again. Say it again with a smile in the word.

GREENSLADE: Of course. (Clears throat) Ahem. (Cheerfully) "Winds light to variable."

BBC OFFICIAL: Delicious! Quite enchanting. Now say it as though it were a national catastrophe.

GREENSLADE: (Mournfully) Ohhhh! Winds light to variable. Ohhhhhh!

BBC OFFICIAL: (Weeping) Very touching. Quite, quite touching. Yes, I think you have it Mister Greenslade. You can start work at once.

GREENSLADE: Gad! Me, a BBC announcer!

ORCHESTRA: Triumphant link.

SEAGOON: Dear listeners, how could my private school for announcers, with its fifty-six thousand trainees, succeed if the BBC kept turning down my ace pupils like Eccles? [7]

OMNES: (Variously) We want bread! Bread! &c

SEAGOON: (Over) SILENCE PLEASE! THANK YOU – SETTLE DOWN! Please, gentlemen, keep up your spirits, lads. I mean, say after me; "Winds light to variable."

OMNES: "Winds light to variable."

SEAGOON: There you are, lads. Good! Doesn't that make you feel better?

OMNES: (Variously – dissent.)

BLOODNOK: Ooh! No, no, no!

SEAGOON: What’s that? Bloodnok, please...

BLOODNOK: Listen! Listen, Neddie!

SEAGOON: Mister Bloodnok, please! I mean...

BLOODNOK: Never mind these naughty “winds light to variable”. What about some earthquakes in East Acton?

SEAGOON: What about earthquakes in East Acton?

BLOODNOK: [8] I've been training at this school for six years to say "earthquakes in East Acton."

SEAGOON: So what?

BLOODNOK: Well, they’ve never had one!

SEAGOON: Ahh! Ah yes! But at the slightest tremor, I'll write to the BBC. I will indeed! Now then, keep up your morale man. Say after me – “earthquakes in East Acton."

BLOODNOK: "Earthquakes in East Acton."

SEAGOON: There you are. (Warmly) How about that, ehi?

BLOODNOK: I feel better already.

SEAGOON: Of course you do! Now here's a model of Sir Ian Jacob.[9] Let's stick pins in it!

BLOODNOK: Right...

FX: Telephone rings. Hand piece picked up.

ELLINGTON: (Other end of phone) Awwwwwwh! Man, don't you dare do that again!

FX: Hand piece down.

SEAGOON: Thank you Fred Jacobs. No, it's no good dear listener. I can't deceive my pupils as to the seriousness of the situation. While Greenslade grew in popularity, I decided to strike!

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic chords.

MORIARTY & GRYTPYPE:  (Low laughter.)

GRYTPYPE: So Neddie, you want us to kidnap the entire BBC announcing staff?

SEAGOON: Yesyesyesyesyesyes! I've got to create vacancies for my own men. You'll be well paid.

MORIARTY: Paid? Money? Money? How much? How much?

SEAGOON: For every announcer removed I'll pay one simulation lead florin – and you can have that in writing.

GRYTPYPE: We'd rather have it in cash if you don't mind.

SEAGOON: Very well. Here's a photograph of a pound.

GRYTPYPE: Thank you. Moriarty, see if this is a forgery.

MORIARTY: Ooh! At once.

SEAGOON: Now, gentlemen, when do you start work?

GRYTPYPE: When? Switch on the talking wireless.

FX: Radio turned on.

GRAMS: (Recording) ANNOUNCER: [10] Here is the neen o’clock noise. The President Scrampson page two deposit to Blackenham Kloose...

                              FX: Blackjack on head.

                              ANNOUNCER: (In pain – speed it up) Arghh ooh ah, ooh ooh ohh...

GRYTPYPE: You see, Neddie – we've started already! Now excuse me while...

GRAMS: Single woosh.

MORIARTY: Don't switch off! Listen to this.

GRAMS: (Recording) ANNOUNCER 2: [11] We must apologize for the break in the news. In the meantime, here is a record...

                              GRAMS: Background radio interference. Continue behind.

ECCLES: (On radio) Hello, folks! Winds light to variable. Further outlook - fine, fine, fine.

SEAGOON: Wonderful! Or if you’re French, wunderbar! At last Mister Eccles was being heard on the radio. One by one the BBC announcers were kidnapped, or, if they were over twenty-one, adult-napped! Get it? (Laughs) Ha, ha, ha! Adult-napped! (Calms down.)  Ahem. Max Geldray, pull up a bollard! [12]


MAX GELDRAY -  'One, Two Button Your Shoe' [13]


SEAGOON: I still maintain it's all wrong! I can understand it at all. (Frets)

GRYTPYPE: Relax Neddie, relax!  Your record's selling well – you've nothing to worry about. [14]

SEAGOON: Relax, you say? By heaven, it's three months since you promised to kidnap Greenslade, but still no result!

MORIARTY: Oeowwieieieow! I tell you, don't worry Neddie! At last we've found a chink in his armour.

BLOODNOK: These Chinese get everywhere!

GRYTPYPE: Greenslade has a huge public – they want to see him in the flesh.

SEAGOON: What, all of it?


SEAGOON: He's a danger to shipping.

GRYTPYPE: Neddie, we’re going to offer him a contract to appear on the stage.

SEAGOON: Gad, yes! If he leaves the BBC, the way will be clear for Mister Eccles. Excellent plan. We'll do it!

GREENSLADE: And do it they did. But the BBC didn't give me up without a fight, in fact they even sent John Snagge round to my private abode.

FX: Knock on door; door opens

CHIEF ELLINGA: Thou knocked – oh shivering white infidel, cor blimey?

JOHN SNAGGE: Yes. Is Wallace in?

CHIEF ELLINGA: "Wall – ace"? Does thou mean “The Great Greenslade”? He whose voice drips like honey ‘pon the ears of the waiting world? He of the velvet petal tongue?

SNAGGE: Yes, that's Wal.

CHIEF ELLINGA: Whom shall I say craves audience?

SNAGGE: Tell him it's John Snagge. No, no, no – no, wait. Tell him it's “Snaggers”.

He whose voice once-yearly rings out from the Thames motor launch (that usually fails.) He whose voice tells the masses of a watery combat twixt men in two slender willow slim craft that race on the bosom of our river and race past Mortlake Brewery towards their Olympic goal.[15]

CHIEF ELLINGA: Cor blimey, man – follow me.

SNAGGE: Dear listeners, I was lead across some marble courtyard of solid wood, and here and there silver fountains gushed claret, and there – there lying in a silken hammock suspended between two former television toppers was Wallace Greenslade.[16]

GREENSLADE: Ah John, dear John! You couldn't have arrived at a better moment. I was just about to unveil a small, bronze statue of myself.

SNAGGE: Now look here, Wallace. There's a rumour going around the Corporation that you're thinking of leaving.

GREENSLADE: Well John, I have been getting offers.

SNAGGE: But Wallace, you're not going to leave us. Remember, you're British.

GREENSLADE: Dear John – what can I say?

SNAGGE: What's the matter Wallace? Aren't you happy with us – isn't three pounds ten a week enough?

GREENSLADE: Not quite John.

SNAGGE: But, man alive – you've a free copy of the Radio Times every week.

GREENSLADE: Yes, there is that.

SNAGGE: Well... Now look, Wallace.


SNAGGE: I've been given authority to offer you four pounds a week, and you can read the nine o'clock news at half past if you want to, and take your own time about it...

SEAGOON: Not so fast, Mister John "Boat-race" Snagge!

SNAGGE: That voice came out of a little ball of fat that sprang from behind a piano stool.

SEAGOON: My name is Neddie Seagoon.

SNAGGE: What a memory you have!

SEAGOON: Not so fast!

SNAGGE: I said it as slowly as possible.

SEAGOON: So! You're the famous John Snagge ehi, known as the male Sabrina of Portland Place? [17]

SNAGGE: Now steady Seagoon or I'll ban your record on “Housewife's Choice”. [18]

SEAGOON: Ahem. Never mind, I still have my shaving turn.[19]

GRAMS: Whoosh.

GRYTPYPE: Mister Snagge, I fear you have arrived too late to save Mister Greenslade. He has already signed a theatrical contract at five pounds a week.

SNAGGE: Five pounds? There isn't that much!

GRYTPYPE: Yes there is – and here it is in used stamps.

SNAGGE: Alas – I cannot offer him more. So this then, is the end of the once-great BBC announcing staff.

ORCHESTRA: Bring in muted trumpet playing the "Last Post."

SNAGGE: Where are they now, that noble band? Andrew Timothy – missing; Alvar Lidell – went down with his lift; Richard Dimbleby – overweight, and finally Ronald Fletcher – gone to the dogs.[20]

SEAGOON: (Weeping) Stop! Stop! You're breaking my heart. I can help you. I have a man here to take their place. Speak lad, speak!

ECCLES: “Winds light to variable”. Wait a minute Mister Nagg, you're very lucky to get me.

SNAGGE: I have no choice. Put him in a sack.

SEAGOON: So saying, Mister Snagge took the famous Eccles off on his tricycle. Next day we took Greenslade off on his triumphal stage tour. Everywhere he went – success! Then the first opening night at the London Palladium. What a night that was, what a night! His merest whim was catered for.

GREENSLADE: Neddie, bring me a merest whim.

SEAGOON: At once! At once, Wallace – in cellophane! Gad, there's a packed house out there waiting for you.

GREENSLADE: How they love me!

FX: Knock on door

GREENSLADE: Neddie? Say “come in” for me.

SEAGOON: Of course Wal, of course. (Shouts out) Come in! Who is it?

LEW: (Off) It's Lew. I've come to say good evening.[21]

SEAGOON: It’s your agent. (Shouts out) Come in!

FX: Door opens

LEW: Ooh, my lovely little Wallace! Ooh, you're gonna kill ‘em tonight. You're a lovely boy! Ooh, you're lovely. Make a lot of lovely money for me – make a fortune. Ooh, that lovely talking voice. I’ll get you Ed Sullivan TV next I promise you.[22]

SEAGOON: I'm his manager, you understand...

LEW: Out the way, Secombe – you're finished. All that shaving and singing, it's all finished. “On with the motzas” – it's all washed up.[23] Now then... Here Wallace, Wallace, Wallace, Wallace – Val Parnell's out front tonight so do your best.[24] I'll see you get a nice, big bonus. Goodbye, my lovely boy! (Self fade) The gelt he's making for me...

FX: Door closes.

SEAGOON: You'd never think that man's father was a duke, would you?


SEAGOON: Well, don't – because he wasn't .

FX: Knock on door.

SEAGOON: Who's there?

BANNISTER: (Off) Autograph hunters, buddy

SEAGOON: What do you want, Buddy?

CRUN: (Off) Um... autographs.

BANNISTER: (etc) We’re modern-style bobbysoxers, buddy. (Sings) Yim-bund-biddle-oh! We want Wal’s autograph, buddy.

SEAGOON: I'm very sorry, Mister Greenslade left his autograph at home.

FX: Heavy blows on door.

SEAGOON: Stop that knocking-type knocking!

CRUN: Who are you to stop us doing knocking-type knocking?

FX: Heavy blows on door.

SEAGOON: I'm Neddie Seagoon-type Neddie Seagoon.

CRUN: Never heard of you-type, sir. Go away, sir.

SEAGOON: Go away?! Never heard of me?! I won't stand for this! Go away?! Never heard of me?! Open this door at once!

FX: Heavy blows on door.

SEAGOON: Come along... Who’s there?

CRUN: Open the door!

SEAGOON: I can't. Some fool's taken the bolt off. Can you open it your side?

BANNISTER: No, no, no... Don't come in – I'm in the bath.

SEAGOON: What are you doing in the bath?

BANNISTER: I'm not doing anything in the bath!

SEAGOON: Miss Bannister, explain what Mister Henry Crum is doing in your bathroom, you sinful woman!

BANNISTER: He's washing a savage tiger.

SEAGOON: A tiger? A sinful savage tiger? I've had enough of this! [25]

FX: Door opens.



GREENSLADE: Obviously time for Mister Ray Ellington.


RAY ELLINGTON  QUARTET  -  'Jingle Bells' [26]


GREENSLADE: Ray Ellington is now appearing at the Battersea Dog's Home. “The Wallace Greenslade Story”, part three. As this scene opens, I am found in the star dressing room at the Palladium with my manager. I have five minutes to finish my black Russian cigarette before I'm on.

FX: Door opens

LEW: (Distraught) Oh, my life – ruined! My business, my wife and children, my whale – ruined! I’ll never be able to look Val in the face again. Oh dear! Oooh!!

SEAGOON: Something wrong Lew?

LEW: Something wrong, he says? The audience, they've gone! The momsers![27] Five to nine, they got up and left.

SEAGOON: Five to nine? What! Wait – I've got a hunch.

GRYTPYPE: It suits you.

SEAGOON: Switch on the electric-type wireless.

ECCLES: (On wireless) Hello folks! Here's the old weather ‘dere. The old “winds light to variable.” Going to have the sun in the day and going to get dark at night. (Sings)  That man from Coventry[28]

SEAGOON: So, that's where the audience are, back home listening to Eccles. He's the new idol. Greenslade, I fear he's stolen your public.

GREENSLADE: Oh, I feel faint! Pour some brandy down my throat.

SEAGOON: Gad Grytpype, you've got to kidnap Eccles or Greenslade is finished!

GRYTPYPE: Right. Moriarty, have you got a black jack?

MORIARTY: No, mine's red.

GRYTPYPE: Never mind, Eccles is colour-blind anyway. Let's go!

GRAMS: Coconut shells galloping into distance.

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic scene change music.

SEAGOON: Next morning, we read the terrible news.

GREENSLADE: Listen; “Ace BBC announcer Eccles signed by Grytpype-Thynne for stage tour.”

SEAGOON: The swine single crossed us.

GREENSLADE: You mean, "double".

SEAGOON: No – this is the first time.

GREENSLADE: This means… ruin? No more luxury? I'll have to stop eating in the canteen? Give up my subscription to ‘The Nursing Mother’?

SEAGOON: And so we became vagrants.

ORCHESTRA: Solo violin – “Hearts and Flowers.”

SEAGOON: We wandered the streets. A bitter wind blew up from the east and I cursed the fact I was wearing a kilt. One Christmas we were trying to make a living by diving for coins in the gutter from passing ships, when we found ourselves outside the London Palladium.

GRAMS: Street noises. Distant traffic.

FX: Penny in mug.

SEAGOON: Thank you...

SEAGOON & GREENSLADE: (Singing) Comrades, comrades,

ever since we were boys... [29]

FX: Penny in mug.

SEAGOON: Thank you, lady.

THROAT: A pleasure.

SEAGOON & GREENSLADE: (Singing) … sharing each other's sorrows…

GREENSLADE: Here comes a rich customer.

SEAGOON: A hansom cab drew up and out stepped a ugly passenger.

ECCLES: Stand aside, my good man. My public awaits for me.

SEAGOON: Spare a copper for the guy.

ECCLES: What guy?

SEAGOON: This guy here – he's starving.

ECCLES: You see my secretary, my good man. (Self fade) I've got my public...

SEAGOON: He brushed me aside with his brush. The north wind blew, flakes of white settled on my shoulder. To cap it all – I've got dandruff!

SEAGOON & GREENSLADE: (Singing) Comrades – (sadly,)

Comrades – (sadly,)

ever since we/you were boys…[30]

FX: Penny in mug.

SEAGOON: Oh, thank you kind sir.

SNAGGE: It's nothing – I've plenty more buttons. Aren't you Jewel & Warris, or Morecambe & Wise?[31]

SEAGOON: No, it's Seagoon & Greenslade.

SNAGGE: Oh, horrors! How the mighty have fallen.

SEAGOON: You too?

SNAGGE: Here! Here's a photograph of a bowl of soup.

SEAGOON: Thank you.

SNAGGE: And when you've finished it, come and see me at the BBC – in six weeks time.

GREENSLADE: And so, six weeks went by.

SEAGOON: Good heavens Wal, six weeks have gone by!

GREENSLADE: At the same time, inside the London Palladium six weeks had also passed at the same speed. [32]

ECCLES: “Winds light to variable.” That's what I'll say to them out there...

FX: Knock on door.

ECCLES: Oh! (Calls out) Who is it?

LEW: (Distant) It's Lew. I've come to say good evening to you.

ECCLES: Come in my good fellow.

FX: Door opens.

LEW: Oh Eccles, schmeccles my lovely boy. You're going to make a lot of money for me. We sold every seat in the place!

ECCLES: What are they going to sit on?

LEW: (Laughs)  Ahhhahaha! What a sense of humour he's got, he's funny! Witty, yes. Here, do your best, my little Eccles. Val Parnell’s out front. (Self fade) Oh, think of the gelt…

FX: Door shuts.

ECCLES: What a nice fellow... That's a nice... I like that fellow! Oh hello – I didn't see you standing there...

GRYTPYPE: Eccles, don't forget now, you do well tonight and we'll give you a five-shilling rise.

ECCLES: Oh! That will bring my money up to six shillings a month. I'm rich! I'm rich! Oh, it's good to be alive!

GRYTPYPE: Yes, yes, steady, lad, steady, don't let it go to your head.

FX: Door opens

MORIARTY: (Low) Grytpype! Here's his paycheck just arrived.

GRYTPYPE: (Low) What? Let's see, two-thousand pounds.[33] Right Moriarty, take six shillings out and give it to our Charlie.

ECCLES: (Distant) I heard that. Don't you dare give that six bob to Charlie. That's my money!

FX: Door opens.

LEW: (Distraught) Oh my life, it's happened again!


LEW: The audience got up and gone home. Someone's took ‘em away!

ECCLES: I'm going home then.

GRYTPYPE: No, no, no, no – wait, wait. Switch on the radio.

FX: Click.

GRAMS: Big Ben strikes.[34]

BLUEBOTTLE: This is the BBC Home Service, and here is Bluebottle with the news!

ECCLES: You swine, Bluebottle! You...

ORCHESTRA: Theme music.

GREENSLADE: And that was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded program featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan and John Snagge, 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] The self effacing tones of Wallace Greenslade (1912 – 1961) are an integral part of the Goons’ soundscape.  Addressed as ‘Wal’ by Neddie Seagoon, but designated ‘Bill’ in the scripts, he was a highly experienced microphone performer, one of the few announcers who were allowed to read the fifteen-minute Home Service news bulletins. Peter Eton said of him...

Greenslade was an amiable bum. He was a lovely man – he was a great, fat, sozzled announcer, a sweet boy, but he had nothing up there at all, bless his heart.”

This was unfair. Andrew Timothy had put a sardonic edge on his Goon Show performances, but from the moment Greenslade took over during the fourth series, he read his announcements utterly straight, a feat which required a considerable sense of comedy. As time passed, Spike made him adopt foreign accents, sing and undergo various indignities. On one occasion during a recording, Peter Sellers suddenly said: “Stop the show, it’s time to auction Bill Greenslade’s bum.” Spike remembers: “In no time at all, bids were coming in, even from the audience.”  (‘Spike Milligan – The Biography’ Carpenter. 2003)

The commencement of the new commercial British Television Network ITV in 1955 brought about the creation of a new central news bureau named ITN (Independent Television News) and with it the need for experienced announcers, newsreaders and journalists to man the new programmes. Already haemorrhaging technicians and experienced television personnel, the BBC reacted swiftly to maintain both its staff and its audiences, promoting identities like Greenslade from announcer to newsreader, and going to great lengths to ‘write up’ its serials and programming in an effort to keep its audience from wandering to greener pastures.

Milligan must have been aware of this continental shift in allegiances, involved as he was in negotiations with ITV for his own new TV show “The Idiot Weekly Price 2d,” the contracts for which were settled sometime around the beginning of 1956 and announced publically in February. Although there was no talk of Greenslade leaving the corporation as yet, with at least a dozen performers in his immediate circle now under contract to Associated-Rediffusion, Spike must have been growing worried what would happen to the show if their fat, amiable announcer was successfully wooed over.

I propose the theory that Spike tried to pre-empt the possibility of Greenslade’s resignation. In the previous show (‘The Lost Year’) he began to develop a new gag for Bluebottle, a gag where Bluebottle shadowed Greenslade’s lines as if he too wanted to announce the Goon Show. I am not certain if Milligan saw this effect as a long-term solution to the possible departure of Greenslade, but it was a very characteristic Milligan touch to ‘close ranks’ against the eventuality of his show being threatened – threatened for instance by the Head of Variety insisting maybe on a new, totally unsuitable announcer to take Greenslade’s place, were he to leave. It would put Spike in a strong bargaining position to be able to say that the announcements could in future be done by a member of cast, thereby saving money and manpower.

It would also explain why Bluebottle becomes the announcer on the last page of this script and why he triumphs in ‘Tales of Montmartre (18/6th) – Spike thought that Bluebottle could be the one to save the day.


[2] Danny Kaye (1913-1987) versatile American actor, singer, dancer and comedian, was then at the peak of his career, having recently starred in the films “Hans Christian Anderson” and “White Christmas”.

Frankie Laine (1913-2007) is the real identity behind ‘Fred Laine,’ an immensely successful American singer, songwriter and actor, whose popularity, longevity and vocal appeal made him the darling of millions. In 1953 alone he had three number one hits in the UK, in 1954 – six hits in the top ten, in 1955 – three.


[3] John Derrick Mordaunt Snagge OBE (1904-1996), a long time BBC newsreader and commentator. He played a major role in persuading the Corporation to take an interest in the Goon Show, and was an ardent – and very necessary supporter of the show behind the scenes during Milligan’s frequent clashes with the Broadcaster. Peter Eton goes as far as saying that Snagge put his career on the line defending Milligan on many occasions. In his old age he actually contributed to a Sex Pistols B-side recording, such was his enjoyment of self parody.


[4] Sellers. His vocal portrayal of an efficient BBC secretary is flawless.

[5] Born in England of Swedish parents, Tord Alvar Quan Lidell (1908 – 1981) was one of the pre-eminent newsreaders of his generation. Trained in music and acting, he became chief announcer for BBC Birmingham before joining BBC London in 1936. He made many historic broadcasts, including the announcement of Edward VIII’s abdication, read the ultimatum to Germany, (3 September, 1939), and introduced Chamberlain when he broadcast the declaration of war from 10 Downing St. During the war, his reading of the news became standard listening for the nation, with his calm measured tones, his high standard of pronunciation and phrasing, and the regularity with which he performed his duties (despite a 12 month stint at Bletchley Park with the RAF) distinguishing him and making him a household name throughout Britain. After the reorganisation of the BBC’s news service in 1952, he continued on as newsreader, even doing a little television work. He retired from the corporation in 1969.


[6] Sellers. The voice he uses is a variant of the ‘Flowerdew’ voice, though slightly less over-the-top. Sellers loved performing high ranking officials as closet queens. In ‘The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn’ (Joseph Sterling – 1956), Sellers plays Assistant Commissioner Sir Gervase Fruit. He voices him in a similar lisping vein to the BBC Official, reclining on a couch, daintily eating chocolates while questioning Superintendent Quilt over the telephone.


[7] Despite the manners, it was war between the BBC and the newly established ITV, (see ‘1985’ – 15/5th).  As the Guardian put it,

               Now civil war has started on TV

               Two sides dispute the kingdom of the air.

               They sound no propaganda battle-cries

               All underhand advantage they ignore.

               Although the air of Britain is the prize

               It’s going to be a very civil war.


[8] Sellers mistakenly attempts to read Seagoon’s previous line. He stops and corrects himself.


[9] Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Ian Claud Jacob (1899 – 1993) was at that time Director-General of the BBC.  An enthusiast for impartial news and current affairs programming, he oversaw the diversification of the BBC into television, campaigned for the abolition of the 14-day rule and the ‘toddlers truce’ close down period, and managed to keep Whitehall from savaging the corporation after its news coverage of the Suez crisis reflected unfavourably on Eden’s government. He is widely remembered as the man responsible for the successful transition of the BBC from being a radio-based medium, to being a visual medium.


[10] Milligan.

[11] Sellers, who appears to crack up with laughter during the recording.


[12] A quotation from “The Mystery of the Marie-Celeste – Solved!” (8/5th). Milligan’s addiction to catch-phrases was part and parcel of his writing style, but sometimes bewildering for his audience. This particular one had not been heard of since November 1954.


[13] A jazz standard famously often associated with Billie Holliday. No two references can agree on the writers, but the names include Charles Tobias, Johnny Burke, Paul Rusincky while the music was composed by Arthur Johnston.  The number first appeared in the film “Pennies From Heaven” (1936) starring Bing Crosby, Madge Evans and Louis Armstrong, and was subsequently recorded by many of the greatest artists of the time, including an early 1937 version by Henry Hall conducting the BBC Dance Orchestra.


[14] 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. Secombe’s recording went to number 16 on the billboard charts, staying there for about 3 weeks.

[15] Milligan is referring to the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race, a fiercely contested race rowed by two teams of eights from Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Conducted on the river Thames, starting at Putney Bridge and finishing near Chiswick Bridge, a distance of 6.77 kms, it was begun in 1829 and first broadcast by the BBC in 1927. For many of those years the race was called by John Snagge (see ref.#3). It was during the 1949 race that Snagge uttered the unforgettable line, “I can’t see who’s in the lead, but it’s either Oxford or Cambridge.” The brewery at Mortlake Spike refers to, closed in 2010 after brewing beer on that spot since 1487.


[16] The Television Toppers, were a group of professional dancers who first appeared on BBC television in the early 50’s. Later they appeared regularly on “The Black and White Minstrel Show”, a weekly light entertainment and variety show, performed in blackface with lavish costumes and versatile choreography. With viewing figures at 18 million by the mid-sixties, the show ran until 1978, when changing British attitudes to racial equality forced its cancellation.


[17] Sabrina was the professional name of Norma Ann Sykes (1936 - ). Blonde, self-promoting, shameless, talentless but with a 42½ inch bust, 17 inch waist and 36 inch hips, she fascinated a generation of heterosexual British males despite her inability to do anything remotely entertaining.  Portland Place was and remains, the headquarters of the BBC.


[18] One of the most identifiable BBC radio programmes ever made (from 1946 until 1967) was the record request programme “Housewives Choice”, compèred by a different identity every week and designed to appeal to women in the home. Its morning broadcast spot ensured that it had a massive listening audience, (this was still the era when housework was hard, physical, time-consuming labour ,) and the appearance on its line up of a new recording by some star like Harry Secombe almost guaranteed the recording’s success.


[19] Harry gained notoriety in his early career for his singing, his impersonations, and for a solo sketch he developed called ‘The Shaving Turn’.  Secombe came on,” recalled Spike “…like a dynamo, carrying a table and his shaving kit and was hypnotically funny – the energy could light a city.” At the end of the act Secombe would drink the shaving water.


[20] Andrew Timothy (1912-1990) BBC announcer and Anglican priest. He remained loyal to the BBC, eventually compèring ‘The Last Goon Show of All’ in 1972.                                                                                               Alvar Lidell (see reference #3.)                                                                                                                          Richard Dimbleby (1913-1965) was one of the heavyweights in British broadcasting history. One of the first BBC broadcasters not to have been a university graduate, he joined the corporation in 1936 and thereafter fashioned a remarkable career as a news correspondent, flying missions over Berlin during the war as an observer, narrating the D-Day landings, broadcasting from the liberated Belsen concentration camp, reporting from inside the Reich Chancellery, commentating the coronation of Elizabeth II, the funerals of George VI and John F. Kennedy, and taking part in the first television broadcast from Russia in the midst of the cold war. Dimbleby’s exhaustive research, his ability to describe events clearly and evocatively, and the sense of occasion in his commentaries, marked him out as a fine correspondent and a remarkable journalist.                                                                                                                                        Ronald Fletcher (1910-1996) on the other hand, was Cambridge educated  and embarked on a career with the BBC after his demob in 1946, soon proving himself capable of the whole range of announcing duties, from reading the news to appearances on ‘Breakfast with Braden.’ With debonair looks and a personality to match, he ‘never ceased to give off an air of the racetrack and the golf-club’, two places he continued to frequent, even on the meager pickings of a BBC salary and where he was more likely to feel at ease than in a broadcasting studio. He was known as a gambling man, and this line about him was undoubtedly an in-joke. As Eric Nicol used to recall,

“…at one stage Fletcher was in debt for several thousand pounds and the bookmaker in question offered to write off the debt if Fletcher promised never to back another horse; that night he went to the dog track.”

On another occasion, it is said, he offered a bank manager his BBC salary as collateral for a loan, but when Fletcher revealed what the salary was, the manager replied, "Would a pound be all right?"

[21] The “Lew” is a spoof on Lew Grade,  (born Laszlo Winogradsky, 1906-1998) theatrical and television impresario. During the 50’s he established himself as a powerful player in the lucrative new British commercial TV networks, forming  ATV in 1955 and making a huge impact on the light entertainment/variety market. His extensive career opened up the world to British film makers, commissioning and financing such series as “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “The Saint”, “Thunderbirds”, “The Persuaders” and later “The Muppet Show”, along with such films as “The Return of the Pink Panther”, “The Boys From Brazil” and various Ingmar Berman films.


[22] Ed Sullivan (1901-1974) was the host of the variety show “Toast of the Town” (later named “The Ed Sullivan Show”) which was broadcast every Sunday night on CBS from 1950 to 1971. Essentially a vaudeville show, Sullivan’s magnetism and canny business sense enabled him to secure top acts and book the latest sensations, well ahead of other commercial broadcasters. The phenomenal popularity of the show during the 50’s and 60’s made Sullivan into a kingmaker, and an appearance on his programme was seen as a guarantee of stardom. Four months prior to this script being performed, Sullivan had invited ‘Bill Haley and His Comets’ to perform their then-current hit “Rock Around the Clock” (see “World War I” /8th) later recognised as the first performance of a rock and roll song on national television.


[23] Like all Yiddish slang, the meaning is extremely variable depending on which country and which city the term originates in. Motza according to some dictionaries means “a large amount of cash, either earned, won or stolen.” Lew is making a pun of course on the title of Secombe’s hit record.


[24] Val Parnell (1892-1972), one of the great theatrical impresarios of his time, was managing director of Moss Empires which ran the London Palladium. He was managing director of Associated TeleVision, and from 1955 – 1967 broadcast a weekly live revue from the theatre called ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium.’ Eventually he was replaced on the board of ATV by Lew Grade. Val’s father was not a Duke. Indeed he was the noted ventriloquist Fred Russell (1862-1957).

[25] Milligan eventually developed an obsession with tigers. This small prequel anticipates the reoccurring appearance of tigers in later series.


[26] Jazz versions of ‘Jingle Bells’ had become quite common since Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters released their swing version of the 1857 song by James Lord Pierpoint in 1943. What makes this performance interesting is that Ray is imitating a recent recording by the Danish recording engineer Carl Weismann (1955), which featured dogs barking the melody of this carol. Produced by Don Charles and released by RCA as #6344, this novelty version went on to sell over a million copies. The reference to Battersea by Ellington during the song and by Greenslade after the song, is due to the fact that it is the location of a famous ‘Lost Dogs and Cats Home’ established in 1860.


[27] What he says in Yiddish is “The bastards!” I wonder if there was something biographical about this.


[28] The tune is “The Man From Laramie”, (Lee/Washington) from the film of the same name. It is probable that Spike is referring to himself – ‘Being sent to Coventry was the standard theatre expression for a flop. See “The Mighty Wurlitzer” (15/6th) for the story of what had happened to Spike the previous year in Coventry.

[29] A drawing room ballad, it was written by Felix McGlennon in 1887 and tells the story of friends enlisting together in the army. One of history’s forgotten facts is the fate that lay in store for returning soldiers. Unemployed the moment they landed back in Britain, they frequently were disabled, disturbed, drunken and disorderly, thieving or begging just to get by, often lacking the wherewithal to return to their native counties. The decades after every one of Britain’s wars are notorious for the escalation of mendicancy, brigandage and violent robbery on the highways of England.

The full text goes: 
                   We were comrades, comrades ever since we were boys,

                   Sharing each other's sorrows, sharing each other's joys,

                   Comrades when manhood was dawning,

                   Faithful whatev'er might betide,

               When danger threatened my darling old comrade was there by my side.


[30] While Greenslade sings ‘we’, Secombe sings ‘you’, apparently intentionally.


[31] Jewel and Warris were cousins, born in Sheffield. They teamed up in 1934 and formed a double act using the cross-talking style, adopting the classic double persona of the smart ‘know-it-all’ against the loveable ‘daft’ one. Their radio series ‘Up the Pole’ made them huge stars from 1947 until 1952.

Morecambe and Wise, the “most illustrious and the best loved double-act that Britain has ever produced” , were successful in variety, radio, film and later in television, from the early ‘40s until Morecambe’s death in 1984. Their transfer to television in 1954 was a major blunder, but a second appearance on the ‘Winifred Atwell Show’ in 1956 was a great success and led to regular appearances culminating in the long running ‘Morecambe and Wise’ show first on the BBC (1968-1977) then on Thames television (1978-1983).


[32] This faint joke is part of Milligan’s strange attitude to time.

[33] In Great Britain in 1955, £2,000 was the average price of a new home.


[34] Since 1923, the BBC has played Big Ben’s chimes before the 6pm and 10pm news live, via a permanently installed microphone inside the tower of Big Ben at Westminster.