BROADCAST: 27 Sep 1955 [1]


By: Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service. Now there’s a service for you!

SEAGOON: Mister Groonslade – no advertising!

GREENSLADE: Hahaha! You should talk.

SEAGOON: (Clears throat) Ahem. Kindly stand to one side (or to both sides,) as I announce the extraordinary talking-type wireless Goon Show!

GRAMS: Old fashioned gramophone recording.

OSCAR WILDE:[2] Oh, ho, ho there, dear patrons. Oh, ho, ho! We offer for your delection [3] a three and a half act dream entitled, "The Secret Escritoire." (Goes off laughing) Oh, ho, ho, lads…

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

GREENSLADE: The same afternoon, three weeks later.

GRYTPYPE: Let's see – Harris tweed, Birdseye… Ah, here's a lovely mohair twill.[4]

MORIARTY: Sapristi, yakkakakkakoo! What's the matter with you, Grytpype? Every cupboard in this house is full of these cielo pattern books.

GRYTPYPE: My dear heavily pomaded frog-eating friend, do you not realize that each of these patterns would make a complete suit for a man three inches tall? All we have to do is to find hundreds of such men, and then we make a fortune.

MORIARTY: But where in the world are we going to find men so small?



GRYTPYPE: I'll show you. Look in this matchbox.

FX: Box of matches sliding open.

MORIARTY: Awww! Sapristi nyuckles! Who is this man?

GRYTPYPE: Maurìce Ponk.[5] Only last week he was six foot three.

MORIARTY: Six foot trois?


MORIARTY: How did you ever manage to get him so sm...

GRYTPYPE: Well, I know a fiend in Malaya who is in possession of a serum that can shrink the human body – he gave me some. Doctor Fred Fu Manchu.[6]

MORIARTY: So much for the plot. Now for a few laughs.


MORIARTY: I say! I say! I say! Why did Sir Winston Churchill wear red, white and blue braces?

WILLIUM: I don’t know. Why does Sir Winston Churchill wear red, white and blue braces?

MORIARTY: To hold up his trousers! [7]

ORCHESTRA: Chord in C.

GRYTPYPE: Now Moriarty…


GRYTPYPE: Who can we shrink for one of our suits?

MORIARTY: I have a plan – or if you're French, la plan. Let's go out and find a Charlie! We'll soon find one.

GRAMS: Traffic sounds. Hold under.

SEAGOON: My name is Neddie Seagoon. I was in London one day in a gay, laughing mood. You see, I'd just seen my mother-in-law safely under a steamroller, and was about to tip the driver, when...

MORIARTY: (Distant) Read ze news! Read all about ze English type news-reading, cor-blimey stone-a-crow mate!

SEAGOON: Here there, Cockney news lad!

MORIARTY: (Suddenly very close) Dear listeners, I am not a Cockney news lad, but a master of the English-type voices. (Distant) Coming mate, cor-ze-blimey!

SEAGOON: A paper! A paper, lad. And here's my copper coin of the realm.

FX: Coin in till.

MORIARTY: Thanks! (Close to mic) Little does he know, this is the start of a great plan to lure him to Malaya where he'll be shrunk for a suit. Ze exit! [8]

GRAMS: Single whoosh.

SEAGOON: Wait! This paper is a day old. Ha! Never mind, dear listeners – that penny I gave him was last year's. (Laughs) Ha ha ha ha! I've been passing old coins for some time now. Needle-nardle-noo, to name but a few!

GRYTPYPE: Well said, little Nurk!

SEAGOON: Thank you, or if you're French – murky.

GRYTPYPE: Yes. Could I borrow your newspaper?

SEAGOON: I'm sorry, I left it in my other coat. Fortunately, I'm wearing it.

GRYTPYPE: Oh. Could you read it to me?

SEAGOON: I never read my other coat to strangers. However, I'll read you the paper of news.


SEAGOON: Now, er – where are my reading glasses? Oh yes, I left them in the escritoire.

GRYTPYPE: Disgusting!

SEAGOON: Have a care, thin sir! I’ll have you know that according to the new Oxford dictionary, (and I quote) – l’escritoire means, "writing table with tiroirs and pigeonholes, as distinct from a writing desk which usually has a sloping front" – therefore what you see before you on the pavement is my escritoire, or – if you're French, WRITING DESK.

GRAMS: Enthusiastic cheering and scattered applause.

SEAGOON: Thank you, Seagoon fans. Now...

GREENSLADE: Dear listeners, you are no doubt puzzled at the picture of a full-sized escritoire in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. The truth is that by Royal Charter Neddie Seagoon is a Freeman of Bolton, and as such he is allowed to keep an unchained escritoire on Hampstead Heath or Piccadilly Circus.[9] He chose the latter for reasons best known to himself. I thought you'd like to know. Me – I couldn't care less.

GRAMS: Corny chord.

SEAGOON: (Idiot) Thank you. (Normal) Now dear sir, I'll read you the headlines. HAH! Good heavens, just as I thought: "Man found dead in matchbox."

GRYTPYPE: Yes, and I know where he is. Quick, follow me inside the escritoire.

GRAMS: Two whooshes. Roll top shutting quickly.

SEAGOON: Inside my escritoire all was dark. I was lead to a clearing in the blotting paper. There, lit only by lights was a matchbox. I tiptoed forward on my hands and k-nees. And there inside the matchbox, lying face-downwards on his back, was a dead contortionist.

GRYTPYPE: Need-die! Need-die! You must go to the police – or if you're French, la polise.

SEAGOON: Yes – or if you're French, oui.

GRAMS: Single whoosh.

FX: Door opens.

SEAGOON: Inspector?


SEAGOON: I want to report a murder. Man dead in matchbox!

FRENCH INSPECTOR: Sacré Bleu! (Rapid cod-French - extended) … Or if you're French – (blows raspberry) PHPHPHPHPHPHPH!

FX: Door closes.

SEAGOON: I never saw him again. (I wasn't sorry either.) No, so the police didn't believe me, eh? (Laughs) Very well – I would bring the evidence back to them. Taxi!

GRAMS: Car approaching fast. Squeal of brakes.

CABBIE:[11] Where to, sir?

SEAGOON: Piccadilly.

CABBIE: This is Piccadilly.

SEAGOON: How much shall that be?

CABBIE: Five bob.

FX: Penny in till.

CABBIE: Thank you.

GRAMS: Car drives off at speed.  

SEAGOON: I returned to my escritoire, to discover that it was gone!

MORIARTY: Do not worry, my little friend.

SEAGOON: I wasn't worrying your little friend. The man I addressed was a tall, perpendicular cretin, reclining on a loaded pogo stick, and carrying a stringless banjo for protection.[12] Aloud. (Clears throat) Who are you?

MORIARTY: My card.

SEAGOON: The ace of spades!

MORIARTY: Yes. I’m a man of many parts.

SEAGOON: They don't seem to be working very well.

MORIARTY: Please Neddie, no ad-libbing. So, your escritoire has been stolen! I can help you recover it.

SEAGOON: It doesn't need recovering, it's brand-new. (Cheerful burst of laughter.) Ha ha ha! ( Embarrassment sets in.) Ahem.


SEAGOON: I don't like the look of you.

MORIARTY: Name of a dog!


MORIARTY: Correct! Now, follow me. Meantime – Max Geldray!


MAX GELDRAY:  "Someone to Watch Over Me.” [13]


ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

GREENSLADE: "The Secret Escritoire," part the two. If listeners will put up their binoculars and look towards Tilbury, they'll observe that Moriarty has lured Neddie to the docks.

GRAMS: Distant sounds of shipping.

SEAGOON: Tell me, salty old seaman – you say my escritoire was put on board a ship by Grytpype?

WILLIUM: Yes mate, yes. They put it aboard the S. S. Clarence.

SEAGOON: Is that a mail boat?

WILLIUM: With a name like that, we’re not sure mate. Needle-nardle noo!

SEAGOON: Yakka bakkaka!. When did the ship set sail, mate?

WILLIUM: Two days and eight nights ago, mate.  

SEAGOON: Good heavens, mate. By now it must be more than three hundred k-nots away.

MORIARTY: Neddie, we must follow her.

SEAGOON: Right, follow me.

MORIARTY: No, I'll follow you.

SEAGOON: Right, lead on.

MORIARTY: After you!

GRAMS: A series of six large splashes. Vary the size.

GREENSLADE: The first splash was Moriarty. The other five were Mister Secombe. Now, if listeners will stand on Mount Blanc and train their telescopes towards the strits of Johor,[14] they will see the S. S. Clarence. We take you over now to the passenger deck.

GRAMS: Lounge orchestra in background. Fade in melee in foreground, bottles smashing, tables overturned, yells and shouts. [15]

BLOODNOK: (Yelling) STOP! STOP!! STOP IT, I SAY!!!! Next dance please! Next dance. Everybody back to their own beds. Ahh!

ABDUL: Pardon me, sir.

BLOODNOK: Abdul you naughty-type wog, how dare you burst into my cabin on ladies night! Untie these nice women. Oh, I'm in condition tonight. (Shouting off) Ohhh, ohhh, you naughty type man.

ABDUL: Sir, sir![16] There are two sahibs swimming behind the ship in the water.

BLOODNOK: Mesh me thudder, you’re right! (Calls out) I say, you two in the water – what do you want?

SEAGOON: (Drowning) He-elp! Have you an escritoire on board?

BLOODNOK: (Shouting off) Two on B deck and one in the lounge. Stand aside and full speed ahead!

SEAGOON: (Desperately) Wait! We have money.

GRAMS: Fifteen ton lorry applying its brakes.

BLOODNOK: Give us your hands, dear lads. Come along, you naughty... [17]

GRAMS: Splashing.

BLOODNOK & SEAGOON: (Straining sounds)

SEAGOON: Thank you sir.

MORIARTY: Murky, murky.

BLOODNOK: Yes. Now, I must first examine your documents.

SEAGOON: Mine are in this wallet, darling.

BLOODNOK: Allow me to see them, darling. Umm, forty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty pounds. Yes, these papers appear to be in order.

SEAGOON: Major, are you responsible for berths on board this ship?

BLOODNOK: Not all of them, dear boy. No.

SEAGOON: Well, we want a separate door with adjoining cabins.

BLOODNOK: Ohh! Well, that will be fifty pounds exactly, Mister Smith. [18]

SEAGOON: What luck, Mister Jones. I've just got the right amount, darling.

FX: Penny in till.

BLOODNOK: Thank you, darling.

SEAGOON: Now, where are you going to put us?

BLOODNOK: Here! (Heaves) HUH…

GRAMS: Two large splashes.

SEAGOON: (Distant) You scoundrel! We've just given you fifty pounds!

BLOODNOK: (Shouting off) D’you think I'm not grateful? Full speed ahead – follow that sea! ARGHH...

ORCHESTRA: Nautical Fanfare. Segue into oriental link.

SEAGOON: Moriarty and I struck out for a foreign shore, and soon waded ashore on a foreign land.

GRYTPYPE: Welcome ashore to Malaya – a foreign land.[19]

SEAGOON: Great goose sticks! Grytpype-Thynne, you devil – where's my escritoire?

GRYTPYPE: Put on these bamboo boots and follow me!

GRAMS: Boots gradually speeding up and running into the distance.

GREENSLADE: If listeners will now stand on the top of Tower Bridge and look nor'-nor'-east, they will see that at this very moment Major Bloodnok has also arrived at Malaya, and is passing through the Malayan customs.

CUSTOMS OFFICER:[20] Please, what have you got in this eighty ton clase?

BLOODNOK: Nothing, little Malayan customs officer, played very badly by Harry Secombe. You don't think I carry it around full, do you?

CUSTOMS OFFICER: Please open, or I clout ear-hole with stick.

BLOODNOK: Oh, that's different. Very well.

GRAMS: Large packing crate being opened; splintering of wooden slats etc.  

ECCLES: Hallo!

CUSTOMS OFFICER: Explain please presence of white idiot in case.

BLOODNOK: You white idiot – what are you doing in my case?

ECCLES: Case? You told me this was a first-class cabin.

BLOODNOK: It's lies, all lies I tell you. I never took eighty-pounds-off-him-for-letting-him-travel-in-this-case-believing-it-to-be-a-first-class-cabin-thus-hoping-to-defraud-the-steamship-company-of-the-eighty-pounds-I-took-off-him. It's all lies. Arrest him!

ECCLES: Wait! I'm as innocent as you are.

BLOODNOK: There you are. Arrest him!

CUSTOMS OFFICER: Please, tell why you come to Malaya.

ECCLES: Yeah, I want to buy some rubber.


ECCLES: I made a mistake in my homework.

CUSTOMS OFFICER: Sorry – you must pay duty on this idiot.

BLOODNOK: Pay duty on an idiot!?

CUSTOMS OFFICER: Yes. Twenty dollars alive or three dollars dead.

BLOODNOK: Eccles, here's a pistol. Do the decent thing.  

ECCLES: Ok. Goodbye.

FX: Pistol shot.

ECCLES: Got him!

BLOODNOK: Good shot, Eccles!

SEAGOON: (Approaching) Stop, stop! That's the man who threw me off the S. S. Clarence!

BLOODNOK: (Spluttering) I don't recognize you.

SEAGOON: Of course not – I've still got my Malayan customs set on. [21]

ECCLES: (Laughing) Ha ha ha ha hum. Ha ha ha ha hum!

SEAGOON: Eccles!


SEAGOON: Mister Eccles – my old headmaster! [22]

ECCLES: I've got my old head on too.

GREENSLADE: Dear listeners, this will give you some idea of the drastic shortage of schoolteachers.

ECCLES: And that speech will give you some idea of the drastic shortage of announcers.

SEAGOON: Mister Eccles!

ECCLES: Yes, my good man?

SEAGOON: Mister Eccles, you were on board the S. S. Clarence, weren't you?

ECCLES: Ah-hum.

SEAGOON: Did you see a roll-top desk on board?

ECCLES: Nope. The only thing I saw was an escritoire.

SEAGOON: An escritoire?


SEAGOON: Is an escritoire a French word from the Latin meaning "to scrite?"

ECCLES: Ah-hum.

SEAGOON: And does it mean all in all, “a writing table with tiroirs and pigeonholes”, as distinct from a writing desk which has a sloping front?


SEAGOON: Huzzah! That's the very thing I'm looking for!

ECCLES: What is?

SEAGOON: An escritoire.

ECCLES: What's an escritoire?

SEAGOON: Needle nardle noo! In that escritoire is a man dead in a matchbox, and I want him as evidence to show to the police.

BLOODNOK: Ah! Wrench me thudder and larrup me knid! If a murder is involved I can remain silent no longer. Your escritoire was sent to this address.

SEAGOON: Quick! Follow that address!

GRAMS: Old gramophone recording.

FX: Various drawers opening and closing. Continue under.

CRUN & BANNISTER: (Aged improvisation.)

UNCLE OSCAR: Have you seen my teeth, Minnie?

CRUN & BANNISTER: Oh dear, dear, dear, dear. &c

BANNISTER: Uncle Oscar's lost his choppers.

CRUN: Lost his choppers, Min?


UNCLE OSCAR: I had them when I started.

BANNISTER: You spend too long in there every day, Henry.

FX: Series of padlocks snapping shut.

BANNISTER: Are you locking up, Henry?

CRUN: Yes, I'm locking up.

BANNISTER: I'm worried about the Malayan bandits, you know. [23]

CRUN: Don't you worry, Min. Every door is locked from the inside.

BANNISTER: Oh. I'm… I'm still very worried, Hen.

CRUN: Why?

BANNISTER: I'm outside.


BANNISTER: It's not my fault. I was potting the rubber tree, and you told me...

UNCLE OSCAR: I can't find my teeth, you know. I er… I er… I had pudding on them last night.

FX: Door opening.

CRUN: Now, come in Min and stay in.

FX: Door closing.

BANNISTER: Oh, oh. You locked me out when my back was...

UNCLE OSCAR: My choppers have gone you know. Perhaps they're in the pie crust.  

CRUN: Ellinga?

BANNISTER: He's lost his teeth.

CRUN: Ellinga, can you reach the top bolt? I can't...

ELLINGA: Me reach – me got long arms. Strong arms.

CRUN: Just put the bolt…

ELLINGA: Me reach. Very strong.

CRUN: You're strong?


CRUN: You’re getting married soon, aren’t you Ellinga?

ELLINGA: Yes, cor blimey.

CRUN: Good luck.

BANNISTER: Good luck buddy.

ELLINGA: Got bolt. Strong, very strong indeed. [24]

UNCLE OSCAR: He's got teeth and everything. [25]

CAST: (Improv. Continue under.)

GREENSLADE: Listeners, if you raise your ear trumpets you will hear Mister Ray Ellington and his quartet.




CRUN & BANNISTER: (Aged improv. continues.)

FX: Knocking.

BANNISTER: Ooh! Oohee! Oh, we'll all be murdered in our beds. What's that?

FX: Door opens.

SEAGOON: Pardon me, old steaming couple.

CRUN: What do you want, little ball of lard?

SEAGOON: Have no fear, old colonial couple – all I seek is that escritoire.

BANNISTER: How did you get into our blung-bungalow?

SEAGOON: Through the bead curtain.

BANNISTER: We haven't got any.

SEAGOON: I carry my own.

CRUN: We have not got the escritoire, sir. Mister Grytpype-Thynne took it through the beaded curtain.

SEAGOON: You said you hadn't got any.

CRUN: He carries his own.

SEAGOON: Quick, men – follow that Grytpype!

GRAMS: Massive whoosh. Regiment at quick march. French military band over. Speeded up.

GRAMS: Huge splash.

SEAGOON: (Exhausted panting)

GRAMS: Machete hacking at jungle foliage. Continue under.

SEAGOON: For weeks we cut our way through the dense jungle that ran along the side of the arterial road. Gladys?

GLADYS: Yes, darling?

SEAGOON: Gladys, I have a feeling we're lost.

GLADYS: Do not worry. Me come from old tracking family. Me come this way many times before.

SEAGOON: Good. Where does it lead to?

GLADYS: Me don't know. Me always get lost, cor blimey.

BLOODNOK: (Distant) Oh! Oh oh... Oh dear…

SEAGOON: Shh! There's someone approaching.

BLOODNOK: (Approaching) Oh – Seagoon, Seagoon!

SEAGOON: Why are you following me?

BLOODNOK: You're so attractive.

SEAGOON: Thank heavens. For a moment, I thought you were going to lie.

BLOODNOK: Seagoon, I… I… I feel I must tell you. You're being led into a terrible plot. Grytpype-Thynne has a thousand suits ready for midgets. He intends to shrink you to the right size and make you his first customer.

SEAGOON: Great yakka bakakka koos!

BLOODNOK: Yes, he could shrink you to three inches.

SEAGOON: Half my present height.

BLOODNOK: Yes. Look lad, for a thousand pounds I'll sell you this anti-shrink pill.

SEAGOON: A thousand pounds – my life savings. Well, come into the office.

FX: Door opens.

GRAMS: Distant typing pool.

MISS PILLS:[27] Morning, Mister Seagoon.

SEAGOON: Morning Miss Pills. Miss Pills, get a thousand pounds from the safe.

MISS PILLS: Yes sir.

SEAGOON: Bloodnok, I'm very grateful to you.

MISS PILLS: Here you are, sir.

SEAGOON: Thank you. There, Bloodnok – a thousand pounds in money.

MISS PILLS: Mister Seagoon, when you will you be back?

SEAGOON: (Brave panic) I don't know. You see I'm lost in the Malayan jungle. For heaven's sake send help. Goodbye!

FX: Door closes smartly.

SEAGOON: Right men – I must find that body in the matchbox as evidence. Reverse kneecaps and we'll head north. Follow me!

GRAMS: Splash.

GREENSLADE: There are many lakes in Malaya.

SEAGOON: I struck out for the far side of the mango-infested swamp.

ECCLES: Grab my hand – I'll pull you out.

SEAGOON: Eccles! How did you get across the swamp without getting wet?

ECCLES: I jumped on that log.

SEAGOON: That? Log? That's an alligator![28]

ECCLES: Ooo. I wondered why my legs kept getting shorter.

SEAGOON: Gad – we're in a pretty mess. What's going to happen next?

BLUEBOTTLE: Hands up in Malayan! Do not move or these cardboard guns will spit death! Enter Bluenbotton. Signals applause.

GRAMS: Cheers, shouts, and clapping.

BLUEBOTTLE: Enough, enough, enough! I have drunk my fill.

SEAGOON: Great hoary swimmers! It's a… What is it?

BLUEBOTTLE: Silence white stringe. I am Jungjl Jim Blunebottom, Kinge of the junj-gle. I have been hiding in the jungle for three weeks. [29]


BLUEBOTTLE: I got a hole in my trousers.

SEAGOON: Tell me little stranger, why do you bar our way?

BLUEBOTTLE: I have been sented here to lead you to Grytpype-Thynne and Doctor Syn, the mad Malayan biologic chemisterarian.

SEAGOON: Is that difficult?

BLUEBOTTLE: You try saying it.

SEAGOON: Very well, lead on.

BLUEBOTTLE: Yes, but first we must cross the dreaded river Bagochips.

ELLINGA: I warn you, river Bagochips very cold.

SEAGOON: There's nothing worse than a cold bag-o-chips!

GREENSLADE: If listeners will now stand on their heads in a bowl of lukewarm porridge, they'll be able to hear the last part of ‘The Secret Escritoire.’ If you haven't got porridge, bread pudding is an excellent substitute. Good luck!

ORCHESTRA: Corny chord in C.

GRAMS: Native singing.

SEAGOON: For days we travelled deep into the interior. There we met a tribe called the Darkaraters. They were of course the famous interior Darkaraters.

BLUEBOTTLE: Stop! We have arrived. This is the place and there is your escrintoire. I have done-ed my duty. Sinks exhausted to ground, does hands-clutching and unclutching act as done by Cary Grant in ‘To Catch A Thief.’[30] (Here, that Grace Kelly is a nice tart, isn’t she? Thinks – “I must be growing up!”  Tee hee hee!)

SEAGOON: Good work, Bluebottle! Here's a match – go find yourself a petrol dump. Now to locate the dead man in the matchbox.

GRYTPYPE: Neddie, drop that gun, or I shall play this record.

GRAMS: Recording of ‘Cara Mia’ by David Whitfield.[31]

SEAGOON: STOP! STOP! STOP! You win. What do you want?

GRYTPYPE: Roll up your sleeve.


GRYTPYPE: Just as I thought – an arm!

SEAGOON: Suddenly he took out a yi-tong-tiddle-I-po-dermic needle and… (agony) Ahh-ooo-arrgghhh-eeahh…&c

GRYTPYPE: Have you finished?  


GRYTPYPE: Good. Now I'll give you the injection.

SEAGOON: (Agony) Ahhh!... Ooh! I hurriedly swallowed my anti-shrink tablet.

GRYTPYPE: There. In a few moments you'll be the right size for a suit. Now, in here Neddie.

SEAGOON: (Laughs) He thinks I'm going to shrink.

FX: Door opens then closes.


FX: Door opens.

SEAGOON: (Falsetto) How do you like my new suit, fellas – eh?

ORCHESTRA: End theme.

GREENSLADE: That was the Goon Show, a recorded BBC programme 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 and Eric Sykes, announcer Wallace Greenslade, the programme produced by Peter Eton.

ORCHESTRA: Theme up and out.

GREENSLADE: Harry Secombe is now appearing in ‘Flotsam's Midgets’ on Bognor Pier.[32]




[1] The second episode of the sixth series concerns itself with one of the strangest subject matters that Spike ever addressed. The escritoire – described almost verbatim from a furniture dictionary by Secombe, appears in this episode as both an article of furniture and a metaphor for the plot itself. Like the ‘trunk of silence’ in ‘The End’ (26/5th), Spike seemed to be engaging the audience in an almost existential dialogue concerning what is interior and what is exterior; what is in the mind and what is not; what is imagination and what is not. His use of an escritoire is easily explained by his burgeoning interest in antiques. Spike finally had pocket money in the 50’s; he was learning about old furniture and his tastes were widespread and individual. But this doesn’t necessarily explain why the escritoire is ‘secret’.

A more interesting source could be that during his reading, Spike had come across a book by the existential Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, entitled ‘Either/Or.’ First published in 1843 in German and translated into English in 1944, the book dealt with two opposing moral perspectives of existence – the aesthetic life view, and the ethical.

It begins with the narrator discovering an escritoire in a second hand shop. He becomes obsessed with owning it. After obtaining the article of furniture, he one day takes an axe to it in fury at being unable to open a stuck drawer.

 “With it I dealt the escritoire a tremendous blow. Whether in my wrath I missed or the drawer was as obstinate as I, the drawer was closed and the drawer remained closed. But something else happened. Whether my blow fell just on that point, or the overall shock to the whole framework of the escritoire was what did it, I don’t know; but what I do know is that there sprang open a secret door which I had never noticed before. This enclosed a recess which naturally I hadn’t discovered either. Here to my great surprise I found a mass of papers…”

The papers found in the secret escritoire by the narrator form the basis for the first chapter. Here the aesthetic life view is discussed, addressing such topics as music, seduction, drama and beauty. Kierkegaard’s narrator concludes his preface by saying;

“In my heart I begged the escritoire forgiveness for the harsh treatment, while my mind found its doubt corroborated – that the outward after all is not the inward…”

Once again, Spike was continuing his personal creative dialogue within the Goon Show format, musing on the conflict between his inner self and his outer self; between his inner man and his larger than life exterior.


[2] Milligan, in the voice of an Irish theatre spruiker.


[3] (Sic!) The word ‘delectation’ seems to be mispronounced intentionally.


[4] All three are types of tweed suiting; the first a commercial hand-woven Scottish tweed; the second, tweed woven in a diamond pattern; the third, tweed made from mohair yarn.


[5] Maurice Ponk appears briefly on film. See ‘The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn’ (1956). There he is played by Dick Emery.


[6] There is a burst of activity in series 5 & 6 concerning the character Doctor Fred Fu-Manchu. The Sax Rohmer character was a famous identity well before Milligan made use of him, appearing in cinema, books, radio and comic strips ever since 1913. In the Goon Shows he is variously described as a fiend (see above), a sinister oriental saxophonist (‘China Story’ – 18/5th), a Chinese tattooing artist (‘The Lost Emperor’ – 3/6th) and again an oriental saxophonist in ‘The Terrible Revenge of Fred Fu-Manchu.’ (12/6th) The final oblique mention of his name is in ‘The Burning Embassy’ (3/8th) when Crun warns Bannister about the dangers of the ‘dreaded Manchu knee-cramp’. However this was not the end of the character. Sellers’ final movie, released one month after his death, was ‘The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu-Manchu’ (1980) and concerned this same oriental gentleman and his attempts to obtain the ingredients to the elixir vitae. It is widely considered a glamorous flop.

In the TS (transcription series) version, the two words ‘in Malaya’ are excised.


[7] Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) resigned as Prime Minister of Britain the previous April, due to his failing health. Already an old man, his career as a soldier, a diplomat, an MP and a Minister, had been intertwined almost exactly with the nadir and decline of the fortunes of the British Empire. As a soldier he had been stationed in Cuba (1895), Bombay (1896), the North West Frontier (1897), Egypt (1898), the Sudan (1898) and South Africa (1899) before returning to England to stand for the seat of Oldham.

These names are all locations Spike wrote about in the Goon Shows, places where the fighting was thickest, soldiers like Bloodnok were aplenty, and daft privates like Eccles and Bluebottle thick in the trenches.

The hero Churchill was to the last a symbol of Britain’s Imperial greatness, and as his health declined, so did his mental alertness and his grasp of the changing world. By the time of his resignation he had suffered a series of strokes affecting both his speech and his ability to walk. At times his braces may have seemed to be the only thing holding him up.

[8] Another excision of ‘to Malaya’ happens here in the TS version. The Malayan emergency at the time was forcing the BBC to take extraordinary precautions with its overseas broadcasts, in an effort to avoid unduly antagonising Commonwealth listeners.


[9] A ‘freeman’ is a civic honour, occasionally granted to citizens who have performed heroic service on behalf of their communities. The US equivalent is the ‘keys to the city’. The feudal nature of this honour is reflected in the fact that it grants the citizen concerned some rights and personal freedoms above that of the common men. A freeman of London for example, if found drunk and incapacitated, would be bundled into a taxi and sent home by the arresting Policeman without a criminal charge, and if the freeman’s later misadventures condemned him to the gallows, would entitle him to be hanged by a silken rope.


[10] Milligan in an aggressive French accent.


[11] Milligan, in an approximate East End accent.

[12] Milligan’s youth spent in the company of parents who were addicted to the stage and musical entertainments, meant that he knew a lot about music and musical instruments. His father’s great love of performing so-called ‘coon music’ introduced Spike to the banjo, which often featured in his performances. In the Goon Shows, Seagoon professes a love of banjo music in ‘The Spanish Suitcase’ (11/5th); the Hybrid Spahi’s Banjo Society are mentioned in ‘The Tuscan Salami Scandal’ (23/6th); Bluebottle uses a hair and fibre banjo in ‘Foiled by President Fred’ (2/6th); while Seagoon secretly repairs a granite version of one in Hyde Park in ‘The International Christmas Pudding’ (9/6th).


[13] Written by George and Ira Gershwin, for their 1926 musical, “Oh, Kay!” it is considered one of the top ten numbers of the jazz repertoire, and has been recorded by all the great names. Although made into a silent movie in 1928, it was one of the few great Broadway successes which never became a big budget Musical on the silver screen. Once again, the fine arrangement demonstrates the sort of sensitivity which 1950’s bands were capable.


[14] The Straits of Johor separate Singapore from Malaysia. In colonial times, the British had their Naval Base at Sembawang on the strait, and because of the great depth of the waterway used it as their principal stopover point for the central Pacific region.


[15] While others find it touching that the band went on playing as the Titanic floundered, Milligan found it terribly funny that his own battery band went on playing as a genteel war-time dance at Robin’s Post disintegrated into a riot. Arranged for Officers from the local British and Canadian units, the melee was started by a Canadian officer pouring beer into Spike’s saxophone, then fuelled by a lethal combination of alcohol, jazz and sugary food, grew into a drunken free-for-all. Nonetheless, Spike’s band played on, and later – when the fighting had finished, Edgington and Fildes dragged the intoxicated Milligan back to the billets, slung between them. This is the reason that occasionally you will hear in the Goon Show the sounds of a distant lounge band accompanying a brawl. It is Spike reliving his first and finest battle of the war.

[16] Sellers is rather enjoying being a cad, and Milligan (as Abdul) has trouble beginning his line.


[17] The line dissolves into catch-phrases.

                              BLOODNOK: Where’s me old photographs?

                              MORIARTY: Mind the tenor’s friend.

                              SEAGOON: Watch out for the baritone’s buddy. Ahh. Ahh…


[18] These lines were often used in the days before sexual liberation. If one conducted an affair, one took the obliging lady to a small Hotel, registered under a pseudonym such as Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and paid £50 pounds for adjoining rooms and a pretence of respectability. Mr Crun refers to the practice in ‘The Spanish Suitcase’ (11/5th) while the Brighton Chamber of Commerce laments the downturn in gentlemen visitors in ‘The Phantom Head Shaver’ (4/5th.)


[19] The country of Malaya was, at the time of this broadcast, in deep crisis. The Malayan emergency was reaching its peak, as the MNLA struggled to gain freedom from the long stranglehold of British Colonial domination. The story fought to find room in the London newspapers of the time, competing for national attention with the rapidly declining Suez crisis and the worsening cold war. Nonetheless, Milligan would have been aware of the situation. As a twelve year old he had lived in nearby Burma, and would have read these reports with more of a taste for the reality of the lives wrapped in those few, terse journalistic paragraphs, than the average man.

The fact that the local Malays deserved independence on their own terms seemed not to have deterred public opinion. On September the 8th, the British demanded that the local Malay communists surrender, and granted them an amnesty to lay down their arms and agree to be transported to the Chinese border.


[20] Secombe.

[21] A ‘set’ is a costume.  The term still exists in theatre but now refers to the scenery, rather than the clothing.


[22] Secombe tangles himself in the word ‘headmaster’ and repeats the line. This show has multiple small edits in the TS (transcription service) version and this mistake was one of the cuts made. The other cuts are references to race, (eg: ‘white,’ and ‘naughty-type wog’.)

[23] The Malayan bandits she speaks of were the communist guerrillas. The term ‘bandits’ was 1950’s media speak for ‘insurgents’.


[24] Ray Ellington had recently proposed to an actress, 20 years his junior. According to ‘Jet Magazine,’ (13 Oct 1955:)

Announcing their engagement in London, 20-year-old actress Ann Wuest and bandleader Ray Ellington, 39, reveal plans to marry in January. Miss Wuest is daughter of an English structural engineer, Ellington the son of Russian mother and an American Negro father.”

The girl’s real name was Anita West, and the engagement was broken off almost at once by Ellington.

‘Jet Magazine’ (8 Dec 1955)

“The two-month engagement of bandleader Ray Ellington and white British TV actress Ann Wuest was broken because, Ellington said, “We decided the engagement would not work as it would clash with both our careers.” But Miss Wuest declared tearfully: “It was not broken off by mutual arrangement…”

Ellington was living high off the hog at this time. He and his band were appearing at all the right places, doing broadcasts and recordings and Ray was beginning to write some of his own material. The income was good too. Ellington appeared that year in a Derbyshire newspaper posing with his new Mark VII M-Type Jaguar with a ballroom dancing starlet draped beside him on the bonnet. It was a single man’s career.


[25] The majority of this scene is improvised and from the amount of repetition of lines, seems not to have been scripted to any great extent.


[26] By Ellington and Katz.


[27] Sellers. From the few words Miss Pills speaks, one can almost tell which part of London she is from, and what is her age. It is a remarkable vignette. Compare Miss Pills with Sellers’ later performance of the BBC secretary in ‘The Greenslade Story’ (14/5th). His performances of prudish females were totally convincing. In a later episode (‘The Mountain Eaters’ – 5/9th) after one of Peters vignettes Greenslade announces that “Mr Sellers hastens to add that he is only doing an impression.”


[28] This is an imaginative piece of zoology. Alligators exist only in the Americas and in China.


[29] The US comic strip character ‘Jungle Jim’ was written by Don Moore and illustrated by Alex Raymond – originally as a topper for Raymond’s ‘Flash Gordon’ series. It ran from 1934 to 1954. Jungle Jim, a white hunter with a faithful native servant and a femme fatal somewhere in the background, was different from other jungle series (such as Tarzan) in that its locale was Southeast Asia. The character was featured in a screen series, and a television series – both starring Johnny Weissmuller.


[30]To Catch a Thief’ was a 1955 movie by Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) set in the French Riviera, and starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The scene Bluebottle refers to occurs in the middle of the film. Grace Kelly, driving a luxury sports car, speeds along a winding road with Grant in the passenger seat, avoiding a pursuing vehicle. She takes her sportster at such a speed that the corners on the precipitous mountain side, slide dangerously by as if on a rollercoaster ride. Hitchcock films her elegantly gloved hands caressing the steering wheel of the speeding sports car with easy grace, and follows up the shot with a view of Grants hands clenching and unclenching on his knees, desperately trying to keep his nerve.

Milligan became very fond of this hand clenching action. It became part and parcel of his stage persona, and he used it to express moments of great personal trauma – particularly sexual frustration. There are many examples of this emotional-tic in the Q Series. However some film examples are in ‘The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn’ (Joseph  Sterling – 1956) when he and Sellers examine the evidence of the theft and famously, as the ‘left-over’ disciple in ‘The Life of Brian’ (Python – 1979).


[31]Cara Mia’ was a big hit for the Scottish tenor David Whitfield in the early 1950’s. Accompanied by the Mantovani orchestra, with its lush cascading strings and angelic female chorus, the song reached number one in the UK charts in 1954. Whitfield and Secombe were in direct competition with each other, hoping to attract the same record buying public, whilst singing similar material. Although Secombe probably had no antagonism towards Whitfield, in the episode (‘The Choking Horror’22/6th ) Spike writes a scene where Grytpype and Seagoon actually smash Whitfield’s records onstage.


[32] Milligan was reaching into the professional history of Tony Hancock with this reference. ‘Flotsam’ was Bentley Collingwood Hilliam (1890-1968), who after a successful career as one side of the partnership ‘Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetson’ (in association with the Australian baritone Malcolm McEachern), managed a variety troop which often appeared at the Esplanade Pavilion, Bognor Regis, for the annual sixteen week summer season. In 1948, Hilliam added a brilliant, but unknown young comic, who had done a few weeks at ‘The Windmill’ and had toured in ‘Stars in Battledress’ but was finding it hard to find further work.

It was the young Tony Hancock.

Also appearing in ‘Flotsam’s Follies’ was Ernest Elliott. His act consisted of a variety of puppet characters. These were worked by operating a small puppet body below his own head that poked through a curtain. Elliot appeared at many different theatres around the country, on television in its early days and even once performed in front of Princess Margaret. With large heads and small dumpy bodies, these puppets were probably the pejorative ‘midgets’ that Spike alludes to when speaking of Secombe.