BROADCAST: 7 Feb 1956


Script by Spike Milligan[1]


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service, and here is a photograph of me saying it.
SEAGOON: Thank you Friese-Greene, or – as he came out of an icebox, deep-freeze Greene.[2]
GREENSLADE: I don't wish to know that.
SEAGOON: Stop those carefully rehearsed ad-written ad-libs and proceed with your task of announcing radio's answer to TV.
SELLERS: (Venerable) Namely the original lantern-slide type wireless Goon Show.
ORCHESTRA: Thin chord. Cymbal snap.
SEAGOON: Try and get that on a long player. All right – so much for melody! And now, segregate the sinful sexes…
SELLERS: Wait! How many sexes are there?
SELLERS: It's not enough I say! Go out and order some more.
SEAGOON: Mister Sellers, throw away that fur-lined chin strap and make a statement.
SELLERS: What is a jail break?
MILLIGAN: Answer: A brake used for stopping jails.
FX: Pistol shot. Body falls to ground.
SEAGOON: Wrong. A jail break has nothing to do with tonight's story, which is entitled – “Tales of Old Dartmoor".
ORCHESTRA: Police Detective introduction.
GREENSLADE: This is the story of a desperate man in prison.
SEAGOON: Yes, it was I. I was the governor. Question: Why was I desperate?
MILLIGAN: Answer: Because your record hasn't reached the hit parade.[3]
FX: Pistol shot. Body to floor.
SEAGOON: Wrong! I was desperate for a very different reason.
FX: Telephone rings: handset up.
SEAGOON: Hello, prison governor here.
SUPERINTENDENT:[4] (On phone) Oh yes, this is the superintendent of county jails. We're stock-taking.
SEAGOON: Oh really? How jolly for you.
SUPERINTENDENT: How many convicts have you got in?
SEAGOON: Well, let me see now – there's Jim the ‘crazy vicar’... Oh, no no! He escaped. There's ‘meat-axe’ George... Oh, no no no no no! He bought himself out. Then there's that confidence trickster... No, he became an MP. Hmm – number three-four-one-two-eight was released, Fred was transferred... You know, (laughs) ha ha! – I do believe we've run completely out of them.
SUPERINTENDENT: Do you know what this means, Seagoon?
SEAGOON: Yes – we're empty.
SUPERINTENDENT: Empty?! By the way Seagoon, are you standing at attention?
SUPERINTENDENT: Good. Now look here Seagoon, you can't walk around with an empty prison. Your job will be in jeopardy.
SEAGOON: In Jeopardy? I don't want to go abroad!
SUPERINTENDENT: Seagoon, I'm giving you a warning – get that prison filled with convicts or you're fired, underlined fired!
FX: Phone down.
SEAGOON: It's all very well for him to talk, but nobody's committing any crimes. Here I am working my fingers to the bone, sweeping out empty cells, oiling unused locks, polishing handcuffs and giving transfusions to blood hounds, and never a word of thanks.[5] Where can I get convicts?
MILLIGAN: (Chicken squawk.) Bwa-ark, bwark-bwark-bwark-bwark, bwa-ark, bwark-bwark-bwark-bwark.
SEAGOON: It's the front door. (Calls) Coming!!! I'll be there in a moment… (self fade) Don't get broody.
FX: Chains clanking. Heavy metal doors unbolted.
GRYTPYPE: May I come in?
SEAGOON: Have you committed any crime?.
GRYTPYPE: I'm afraid not.
SEAGOON: Then you can't come in.
GRYTPYPE: Take off your hat... Now!
FX: Blackjack on punching bag.
GRYTPYPE: Come in Moriarty.
MORIARTY: Ououooiiuiuou.
FX: Metal door being shut.
GRYTPYPE: Allow us to introduce ourselves. My card.
SEAGOON: But it's blank.
GRYTPYPE: Business is bad.
SEAGOON: That's funny – so's mine. I haven't got a convict in the place.
GRYTPYPE: Perhaps we can help you Neddie (for a consideration.) Moriarty, explain the plan.
MORIARTY: Ah, certainment. Oouioiuuuoiu! Listen, we will guarantee you a constant supply of convicts at our reduced summer rate of three shillings per head per day.
SEAGOON: Three shillings ehi?
SEAGOON: (Aside) The government give me five, that leaves two, take away the convicts you first thought of... (laughs) Ha ha ha ha... (Aloud) You're on! When do they come in?
GRYTPYPE: Open that door!
FX: Door opens smartly.
GRAMS: Men’s chorus singing Marching Song. Boots underneath. Speed it up slightly.

If I had the wings of a crow

O’er these prison walls I would fly.

I’d fly to…&c (Fade under.)[6]

GRYTPYPE: There you are Neddie – eleven hundred and eighty-two of them.
SEAGOON: Wonderful! Who said Britain was finished as a criminal nation. I'll address them in the mess hall.
MORIARTY: Where's the mess hall?
GRAMS: Sudden hubbub of men’s voices. Fade behind.

MORIARTY: Right! Address them.

MILLIGAN: (Distant raspberry) Pht!

MORIARTY: What do you mean they're not wanted? These men are wanted everywhere.
SEAGOON: (Normal) Really? Who the devil wants this lot?
MORIARTY: The police.
SEAGOON: Well they're safe here.

THROAT: Hooray!
GRAMS: Hubbub of voices.
GREENSLADE: Yes, once again Dartmoor prison was chock full as of old, and the prison yard rang to the happy sound of rock breaking, mailbag sewing and warder bashing.
SEAGOON: Yes, and as governor I was receiving congratulations from every corner of the circular globe. Look at this telegram here: "Good luck Seagoon. A full prison is a happy one. Signed, Home Secretary". And this here: "Good work Seagoon. Please find enclosed three OBEs. Try and get shot of the other two.[8] Signed, Minister of OBEs. P.S. How would you like to be a peer?" Yes. Yes! I'll be a Peer. (Calls) Moriarty?
SEAGOON: I've just made myself a Peer.
MORIARTY: Good, I'll get down the end of it and start a concert party.[9]
GRAMS: Single whoosh.

SEAGOON: Come back here! It's not that kind of peer.
MORIARTY: (Distant) What?
SEAGOON: P double E – R, not P – I – E – R.
GRAMS: Body into water.
MORIARTY: (Distant) Oh! – you swine!
SEAGOON: Good heavens! – he's fallen in the wet-type water.
GRYTPYPE: Yes, you're a very short Peer, Neddie. In fact hardly room for even a Max Geldray-type Max Geldray to play his nylon dog cardigan and plastic mule rest.[10]

MAX GELDRAY – “Who’s Sorry Now” [11]

GREENSLADE: That was Mister Max Geldray – and if I were he, I wouldn't let it generally be known.

MILLIGAN: (Raspberry) Pppht!

GREENSLADE: And now – ‘Tales of Old Dartmoor' part two.
ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link.
FX: Quill pen on paper.
SEAGOON: Entry in prison diary. January twenty second – convict Eccles fell into a bucket of wet cement and looks like becoming a hardened criminal. Hup!
ORCHESTRA: Corny chord.
SEAGOON: Thank you! Thank YOU! Second entry – convict Grytpype­-Thynne made a strange request today.
GRYTPYPE: Neddie, do you mind if I sit down?
SEAGOON: Pull up a bollard and sit down.[12]
GRYTPYPE: Thank you.
SEAGOON: Make yourself at home.
SEAGOON: Treat the cell as your own.
GRYTPYPE: I will – I will.
SEAGOON: Needle nardle noo.
GRYTPYPE: Have you any more brandy?
SEAGOON: All gone.
GRYTPYPE: Sorry. Do you mind if I have a strange request? It's this – I really want... (Stage whisper) &c
SEAGOON: Of course. I'll do it at once!
FX: Keys jangling. Chains. Lock being opened. Bolt being drawn back. Cell door opening.

GRAMS: Pair of boots walking smartly into the distance.

FX: Lock opening. Door opening and closing.

(Short silence)

FX: Door opening and closing.

GRAMS: Pair of boots returning.

FX: Lock being opened. Bolt being drawn back. Cell door being opened. 
SEAGOON: What was it you asked for?
GRYTPYPE: Never mind. I'll smoke one of my own. Now Neddie, the prisoners are getting restless.
SEAGOON: What-what-what-what-what?! They had Sabrina for the cabaret last night. I mean…[13]
GRYTPYPE: Yes I know, culture's all very well Neddie, but what the lads really need is a holiday.
SEAGOON: Holiday? – where?
MORIARTY: Well, well, well – I've er… I’ve spoken to the lads and they all had their hearts set on the south of France.
SEAGOON: But I can't let them out of prison.
GRYTPYPE: 'Course not Neddie. We'll take the prison with us.
SEAGOON: But, you can't move the prison. People will talk!
GRYTPYPE: Neddie, we're going to leave a cardboard replica. [14]
SEAGOON: Oh, I see, yes. Ah but wait a minute -- where are we going to stay in France?
GRYTPYPE: I've made arrangements with one of the French governments for our prison to be the guest of the Chateau d'If, the historic Gaelic penitentiary. [15]
SEAGOON: Well, I must say it all sounds very attractive indeed.
SEAGOON: I'll agree to it!
GRYTPYPE: Good! Then unchain our visas and we'll all be off.
MORIARTY: (Teamster) Get up there! Get up there!

FX: Whip.

GRAMS: Enormous dray on cobbled surface. Carthorse hooves, wheels etc. Continue under.
SEAGOON: It was a wonderful experience to be jogging along the Queen's highway in one of her Majesty's prisons on this fine morning. (Calls) Get up there!

(sings)          A gypsy am I,

I travel the road,

who cares?

(becoming hysterical) The lark in the sky

to bid you goodbye.

I travel the road,

alone! [16]

GRYTPYPE: You silly twisted governor you.
ORCHESTRA: French link.
SEAGOON: Entry in prison diary. February the second – at sea.

MILLIGAN: (Distant mal-de-mer)

GRAMS: Ocean sounds.

SEAGOON: Coast of France visible through the bars of F-block.
BLOODNOK: Oh, good morning Captain Seagoon.
SEAGOON: Good morn… Wait a minute! You are not one of my convicts.
BLOODNOK: No, no, no. I'm a stowaway.
SEAGOON: Well, you'll have to get off. You'll have to get off! (Calls out) STOP THE PRISON!!
FX: Ships bell signals ‘coming around’.
BLOODNOK: No, no! Look, don't stop it just for me. I'm not complaining, old man.  
SEAGOON: That's not the point! That's not the point, sir! We're full up. Look here, we’re full up. We've a maximum complement of convicts – two thousand one hundred and eighty-three.
BLOODNOK: What what what what what? Two thousand one hundred and eighty two if you don't mind. One was drowned this morning.
SEAGOON: Drowned? How?
BLOODNOK: Poor lad, he tried to tunnel his way out.
SEAGOON: Fool. Very well, you can have his cell. That will be three shillings please.
FX: Cash register.
BLOODNOK: There you are, three shillings in kosher margarine.  
SEAGOON: Good. I'll spread it on my chequebook at once. (Aside) I wonder why this man wants to join our prison.
BLOODNOK: (aside) Little does he know that I have reason to believe that the Chateau d'If contains the clue to the treasure of the Count of Monte Cristo.
MORIARTY: Finished?  
MORIARTY: Right. (Aside) Little does Bloodnok know that I also know that the Chateau D'If contains the clue to a treasure.
GRYTPYPE: Do you mind?
GRYTPYPE: Thank you. (Aside) Little do either of these Charlies know that I've planned this whole move to bring down our prison and bring it into direct contact with the Chateau D'If precisely to obtain the clue to the aforementioned treasure. Little do they know.
SEAGOON: Finished?
SEAGOON: (Aside) Great heavily whispered asides! Little do they know how little I know about the little that they know. If only I knew what the little that they know, I'd know a little. I'll have to keep my little ears open you know. Ahem. End of long, boring aside.
GRAMS: Ships colliding, enormous splashes.
ECCLES: I should have said that sooner, shouldn't I?  
GREENSLADE:[17] Ahh, messieurs les prisonniers Anglais – soyez le bienvenu. Welcome to the Chateau d'If.
SEAGOON: Ah what an honour! It is none other than Wallace Greenslade playing the part of the French prefect of police – and playing it very badly!
GREENSLADE: (Tears) Don't… don't give me away. It was this or making tea for John Snagg. [18]
SEAGOON: Thank you and good bye. And so began a happy day at the Chateau d'If. By evening each convict had dismantled his old cell, carried the bricks into the Chateau, wrapped in brown paper and labelled accordingly, donned the traditional French convict's red white and blue trousers, and waltzed the whole night though!
GRAMS: Piano accordion waltz. Continue under.

FX: Chains clanking behind.
GRYTPYPE: Neddie, you look divine. Might I have the next dance?
SEAGOON: I'm sorry I promised it to nine-two-four, three-seven-eight.
GRYTPYPE: Oh, but he's in solitary.
SEAGOON: Then he'll have to dance by himself.
GRYTPYPE: (Laughs) Ah ha ha ha!
MILLIGAN: (Approaching) Ah, good evening Mister Governor.
SEAGOON: 'Allo mate.
MILLIGAN: What! The prisoners want the band to play a special request.
MILLIGAN: “Unchained melody”. [19]
SEAGOON: Right! Convict Ellington, release your pianist and play those chains.

RAY ELLINGTON QUARTET – “Love is the Tender Trap” [20]

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link.
GREENSLADE: ‘Tales of Old Dartmoor’, part three. That night, in the deepest dungeon of the Chateau d'If, two figures are at work.
FX: Hammer and chisel on stone.
MORIARTY: (Effort) Huh… ho… huh… (&c)

FX: Chisel falls.

MORIARTY: Oh, dropped it. Sapristi look, here it is. A black box. The box noir!
GRYTPYPE: Yes. Lift it out and unroll it.
MORIARTY: (Effort) Urgh!...

FX: Heavy box on floor.
GRYTPYPE: Oh! Just as I anticipated.
GRYTPYPE: I don't know what it is.
MORIARTY: Wait! It's an old long playing wax cylinder gramophone record.
GRYTPYPE: Then play it!
MORIARTY: But there's no gramophone.
GRYTPYPE: Well we must dig for one.
FX: Digging sounds.
BOTH: (Effort) Urgh… huh… &c

GRYTPYPE: Put it on.
MORIARTY: (Effort) Huh! It doesn't fit me at all.
GRYTPYPE: Then play it.
MORIARTY: Very well. Here goes...
GRAMS: Hiss of needle on old gramophone record under.

(Pre-recording) GREENSLADE: “This record is a clue to the treasure of Monte Cristo. Go to the prison yard where you will find wrapped up in brown paper parcels, another prison. Re-assemble it and you will find the treasure buried under the floor of cell number six-two-six in the basement.” [21]

MORIARTY: Sapristi!
GRYTPYPE: Come on Moriarty and we'll get…
FX: Door opens suddenly.
SEAGOON: Grytpype – dreadful news!
SEAGOON: Our holiday is over and somebody’s stolen all the bricks of our prison! What's more, it was to have sailed home tomorrow with the tide.
MORIARTY: Ohr-hoihoihoihoi! We're homeless!
GRYTPYPE: Yes, and somebody's found out about the treasure.
SEAGOON: Come on now, who's hiding our prison? (Calls out) Hands up all those who know anything about this.
(Short pause)
BLUEBOTTLE: Me and Eccles know where it's gone, captain.
ECCLES: Yeah, they know.
SEAGOON: Splendid, lads. Tell me where it is and I'll reduce your sentence from two years to four.
BLUEBOTTLE: Well it – um… went – um... (Close) Thinks, “Where did it went?” (Aloud) It wented – um... Eccles?
BLUEBOTTLE: Do you remember Eccles?
ECCLES: Oh yeah, I remember Eccles.
BLUEBOTTLE: Well, does he know where it wented?
ECCLES: I'll ask him. Ha hum. Do you know where it wented?
(Short pause)
BLUEBOTTLE: What does he say, Eccles?
ECCLES: He hasn't answered yet. I think he's out.  
SEAGOON: CURSE! What bad luck.
BLUEBOTTLE: What bad luck.
ECCLES: What bad luck!
SEAGOON: Yes, what bad luck. Shut up Eccles!
ECCLES: Shut up Eccles!
BLUEBOTTLE: Shut up Eccles!
CAST: (Extended “shut ups”.)
SEAGOON: We can't wait for him to come back. We'll have to give chase in the Chateau d'If. (Shouts) All hands on deck! Cast off! Full speed ahead!
CAST: (Stage murmurs – “rhubarb” &c Continue over.)
FX: Ships bell.

GRAMS: Windlass turning.
SEAGOON: And Eccles…
SEAGOON: Shut up!
ECCLES: Shut up!

ECCLES: Shut up!
SEAGOON: Pin a message to the rock saying we've only borrowed the Chateau temporarily.
ECCLES: I thought it was the Chateau d'If.
SEAGOON: No, it's the Chateau Temporarily. We're in disguise.
ECCLES: O-ooh.
SEAGOON: Mister Christian…  
SEAGOON: … issue cheese to all hands, cast davits[22] to the wind and unlatch the keel!
MASTERS MATE:[23] (Ship call) Bernard Miles sirrah!
ORCHESTRA: Majestic naval link.
GRAMS: Ocean sounds - waves, seagulls, creaking of timbers.
SEAGOON: Log of the French prison Chateau d'If. At sea.

MILLIGAN: (Distant mal-de-mer)

SEAGOON: No sign yet of Her Majesty's prison Dartmoor.  
FX: Bosun’s whistle.
FORETOPMAN:[24] (Distant) Prison on the starboard bow-ah!
SEAGOON: Gad! – it might be the Dartmoor. Get my telescope out of it's cell. Thank you. By gad! – yes it is!
MORIARTY: Sapristi yes! Look at that flag – it's flying the skull and crossbone.
SEAGOON: Wrong. It's a photograph of David Nixon with his arms folded! [25]
MASTERS MATE: (Calls) Captain, he's heaving-to.
SEAGOON: Well, don't stand there! Heave two back at him.
GRAMS: Canon firing.
SEAGOON: He's opened fire. Duck!

SEAGOON: There's a cannonball coming.
MORIARTY: Right. I'll see you ‘after the ball is over.’[26]
GRAMS: Enormous explosion.
SEAGOON: OOOOOH, OOOH-OOOHA! (Stricken.) OHAOOO! I've been stricken. Grytpype, call the doctor.
GRYTPYPE: Not likely. I'm next in line for Admiral.
SEAGOON: Wait! This… this isn't blood…
MORIARTY: What is it?
SEAGOON: It's custard. The swine! – he's fired Christmas puddings.
GRYTPYPE: Yes. You know what this means, Neddie – it's the twenty-fifth of December.
SEAGOON: Really?
SEAGOON: Merry Christmas.
GRYTPYPE: Thank you.
SEAGOON: Gad, I'll teach them to fire the afters before we've fired the main course. (Calls out) Men, load all guns with roast turkey with the parson's nose outwards.
MORIARTY: Sapristi! – you devil, with the parson's nose outwards?! If you hit him with those he'll go to the bottom.[27]
GRAMS: Naval broadside. Cannonballs into water.
SEAGOON: Dash it! – missed. Load another salvo of turkeys...
MORIARTY: Aye aye!
SEAGOON: … this time with bread sauce.
GRYTPYPE: No. I’ve a better idea. (Calls) Eccles?
ECCLES: Shut up Eccles!
GRYTPYPE: I haven't said it yet. Eccles, put that big iron ball you’ve chained to your leg into that cannon.
FX: Chain clanking. Heavy iron ball dropped.
ECCLES: Right.
GRAMS: Salvo of cannon.

FX: Chain playing out.
ECCLES: Oh yep – there it goes with the ch… (Yanked) GWK!
SEAGOON: (Distant) Eccles, come back! After him – he's deserting!
GREENSLADE: Meanwhile, aboard Her Majesty's prison Dartmoor.
BLOODNOK: Ohohhoh! They're gaining on us. Curse these French frog-eating prisons! Much speedier than ours, I say.
GRAMS: Enormous explosion.
BLOODNOK: Ohhh! Struck by a…
ECCLES: Hallo!
BLOODNOK: Convict Eccles, just the man I'm looking for. I want you to take a message to the Chateau d'If. Tell them I shall never surrender.
ECCLES: But they're two miles away. I can't swim all that way.
BLOODNOK: Never you mind. Get in here.
ECCLES: Right.
GRAMS: Cannon fires.
BLOODNOK: There he goes! Let that be a lesson to them – they can't get rid of their surplus idiots on me you know. Great Scott! They're closing in! (Calls out) Stand by to repel boarders!
MILLIGAN: (Distant) How do you repel boarders?
BLOODNOK: Stop changing the bed linen! Look out – they're coming alongside.
SEAGOON: (Distant) Right men, cutlasses out! Board her!
GRAMS: Rifle fire. Shouting. Sword fighting.

OMNES: (Various shouts and cries – “Rhubarb” & “Custard” &c)
GRYTPYPE: Come on Moriarty. While they're all occupied let's go down and get the treasure. Now remember it's under the floor of cell number six-two-six. Quick, down these stairs.
GRAMS: Double whoosh – single bullet ricocheting.  
GRYTPYPE: (Panting) Here it is! – cell six-two-six.
MORIARTY: Yes. Sapristi nabolas! – whatever’s under this floor is all ours. Together…
BOTH: …lift! (Effort) Uhh!
FX: Flagstone clunks.
GRAMS: Ocean against hull of ship.
MORIARTY: It's water! Salt water.
GRYTPYPE: Let me taste it. (Tasting) You're right! – it's the Atlantic Ocean.
MORIARTY: We're rich! We're rich! Look, there's more of it there! Look! It's all coming in…
GRAMS: Swell sound of ocean.
GRYTPYPE: (Panicking) Stop you fool, we're sinking! HELLLP!
ORCHESTRA: Orchestral climax..
GREENSLADE: And that, dear listeners is why the Dartmoor we know today is only a cardboard replica.
ORCHESTRA: End theme.
GREENSLADE: That was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded programme featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan with the Ray Ellington Quartet and Max Geldray. The orchestra was conducted by Bruce Campbell, script by Spike Milligan, announcer Wallace Greenslade, the programme produced by Peter Eaton.
ORCHESTRA: Playout. [28]



[1] Milligan was a strange mixture of enlightened attitudes and reactionary conservatism. On one hand he felt enormous pity towards the mentally ill and  felons confined for heinous crimes caused by weak mindedness, (eg: Myra Hindley, who he passionately believed was only an “accessory” in the 1965 Moors Murders,) while on the other hand felt that some felons acted as if life in prison was a holiday camp.

In this episode, one of the very best scripts he ever wrote, he takes recent events in Dartmoor Prison and spins them into a yarn that extends this assumption to its illogical conclusion. The germ of this idea seems to have been a hunger strike in Dartmoor Prison that occurred in late January 1955, when 90 men refused food, complaining of its poor quality. Sporadic refusal of food continued for a week with a solid core of 42 felons refusing rations altogether for an extensive period. Questions were asked in the Commons about the incident, and in the course of questioning it came out that serious prison infractions were still dealt with by placing offending inmates  in solitary confinement and serving them a diet of bread and water, a punishment which was, in the words of one MP, medieval. In the back of the minds of many in government was the horror of the Dartmoor prison riot in January 1934 when the inmates took over the prison, burnt the administration block to the ground, destroyed prison records and were quelled with great difficulty by police from Exeter.

Milligan could have developed the story in many ways. The fact that he avoided social commentary (by and large) or political satire, but instead went down the path of surrealism and stream-of-consciousness, predates the writing of the Monty Python team and sets a genuinely new standard in comic fantasy that has probably never been surpassed.


[2] He is referring to William Friese-Greene (1855-1921), the British pioneer of motion pictures and arguably the inventor of cinematography. His personal difficulties with patents, his lack of success in exploiting his inventions and his public humiliation by rivals would have appealed to Milligan who carried a similar chip on his shoulder as regards the perceived  lack of recognition of his own talents. The story of Friese-Greene had recently been brought to the screen in time for The Festival of Britain (in 1951) in the warmly received film ‘The Magic Box’ starring Robert Donat, Margaret Rutherford, Bernard Miles, Richard Attenborough, Joyce Grenfell, with a dozen other doyens of the British theatrical world playing minor roles.

[3] Spike is referring to Harry Secombe’s recent record, 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. At the time of this broadcast, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s recording of ‘Sixteen Tons’ was the chart topper, following on from Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’. Secombe’s classical recording stood little chance against such wildly popular US imports.


[4] Sellers.


[5] In the 1950’s the headlines were increasingly captured by stories of non-therapeutic medical experiments taking place in state penitentiaries in the USA. Federal prisoners were enlisted in a broad range of clinical studies that included hepatitis, syphilis, dysentery, malaria and forms of cancer. Many of these medical initiatives were scientifically unsound, but some prisoners were given their freedom as exchange for taking part. I can only assume that Milligan had read of these cases, as the British Criminal Justice system did not allow for these experiments to be carried out in British prisons.


[6]The Prisoners Song” was recorded in 1924 by the Texan tenor, Vernon Dalhart (1883-1948). Dalhart purported that the song was written by his cousin Guy Massey, though enthusiasts argued that the tune and lyrics were an old cowboy melody that had been keened for decades on lonely cattle  ranches and by convicts in the adobe bullpens of Mexico and in the penitentiaries of  the east. Whatever the case, the Victor recording of Dalhart singing the number was a huge hit and begun the ‘country and western’ craze in gramophone recordings. Although Milligan uses the melody correctly – (it is his voice one can hear in the recording above the others), he seems to have mixed up the lyrics a little with the famous football song “If I had the Wings of a Dove.”

The lyrics of the original Dalhart song conclude,

“Now if I had the wings like an Angel
Over these prison walls I would fly
And I'd fly to the arms of my poor darling
And there I'd be willing to die.”

I suspect the recording was made by the men of the band singing Milligan’s polyglot text, and although it is not possible to be completely clear exactly what they are singing, it is not exactly Dalhart’s lyrics.


[7]Listen With Mother” was a BBC radio programme for children. It began with the phrase, “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” – a phrase which has become synonymous with all that was cosy, comforting and twee about the British Broadcasting Corporation.


[8]To get shot of’ means ‘to get rid of’- (Oxford Reference Dictionary.) The subject of worthless OBE’s had also arisen in the previous show (‘The House of Teeth’ (20/6th) when Seagoon had asked, “What’s the time by your OBE?” The reference to the OBE had been excised on that occasion by the BBC, (leaving the line as “What’s the time?”) but its restoration in the Goon Show Compendium clears up the meaning of the sentence and demonstrates that the subject of the yearly distribution of these yearly honours was on Spikes mind at the beginning of 1956.

[9] The fifties were the final decade in which one could enjoy the so-called “seaside Pierrots” – the “concert parties” Spike refers to, who sang, juggled, danced and joked on the piers of Brighton, Margate and Blackpool. Spike had been part of the British Armed Forces’ concert party known as ENSA, and later as part of the Combined Services Entertainment unit. (See War Memoirs vol. 6.)


[10] This line lodged in the memory of a young John Cleese – despite hearing the broadcast only once whilst at preparatory school. Years later he re-used it in ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ – second series, episode 19 – ‘Election Night Special’ when Cleese (as the news anchorman) says:

                              LINKMAN: What do you make of the nylon dot cardigan and plastic mule rest?

                              VOICE: (off) There’s no such thing.

                              LINKMAN: Thank you Spike.

The argument concerning whether Spike wrote dog or dot is problematic. To my ears Peter says ‘dog cardigan’. This expression has all the characteristics of Milligan’s writing. Milligan was fond of turning an unlikely noun into an adjective, but obviously John heard it as ‘dot’. 

Cleese’s homage to Spike passed almost entirely unnoticed by the listening audience. Broadcast in November 1970, Spike’s line was more than a decade old by then. The TS version of the Goon Show, broadcast regularly to listeners in the far flung reaches of the Commonwealth, does not contain it, as the line had been excised by the BBC.


[11]Who’s Sorry Now” by Snyder, Kalmar and Ruby, appeared first in the Marx Bros. 1946 film ‘A Night in Casablanca’, the send up of the Warner Bros. film ‘Casablanca’ (1942). Warner Bros. suspecting copyright infringement, inquired early on in the film’s production process concerning details of the script and plot, to which Groucho replied (publically) that he was suing Warner Bros. for infringing on copyright. The studio, he said, had with their new film ‘Night and Day’ infringed upon the titles of the comedy team’s early films ‘A Night at the Opera’ and ‘A Day at the Races’. 


[12] This reference to a bollard is almost the last usage of a Milliganesque catch-phrase from series five (‘The Mystery of the Marie-Celeste’ 8/5th.)  The Goon Shows are littered with attempts by Milligan to find witty sayings and catch-phrases that would become common parlance. He was to succeed in this in series 7 with “He’s fallen in the water!”


[13] Sabrina (born 1936 and originally named Norma Sykes), from Stockport, Cheshire, turns up again in a sixth series script.  Known for nothing else except her looks, figure and Miltonesque name given to her by Arthur Askey, she is referred to in episodes 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23 and 24 of the sixth series. By the next series, Spike had gone through some sort of sexual withdrawal, as she was mentioned only twice. The transcription Service version of this episode removes all references to her.


[14] Milligan returns to the notion of ‘cardboard replicas’ after last employing the device in ‘The Man Who Won the War’, (1/6th) the previous year.


[15] The Château d’If lies in the Bay of Marseille in the Mediterranean Sea. The island, 30,000 square meters in diameter, was heavily fortified by King Francis I in 1524-31, erecting a large defensive wall around the island with a château on the highest point flanked by three large gun embrasures.  Prisoners were kept here, and according to their rank in society were either kept in the airless underground dungeons, the ground floor cells or comfortably in the higher pistols, with windows, toilets and their own fireplaces. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) used it for the setting for his famous narrative ‘The Comte de Monte-Cristo’ (1844.)


[16]I Travel the Road: (who cares)” was written by Donovan Parsons and Pat Thayer in 1925, and famously recorded by Peter Dawson in 1932. The song of the open road was a significant genre in post war music, songs which celebrated freedom from restriction and responsibilities, lauding the fresh air and beauty of the countryside and highlighting the carefree life of a tramp, a key figure of interwar mythology, who could be a figure of menace—deracinated, light-fingered, potentially violent—but could also be a romanticized free soul in touch with the true heart of England. It was a significant element of the rural myth which was part of a powerful cultural reaction against industrialization and urbanization.

[17] Wallace uses his schoolboy French accent.


[18] Secombe replies (slightly off-mic) “I’ll have two lumps!” 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.


[19] Written by Hy Zaret and Alex North, it was first sung in the 1955 film ‘Unchained’ by Todd Duncan. Almost immediately cover versions appeared by Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, June Valli, Jimmy Young and Roy Hamilton. The Jimmy Young version hit the top of the UK charts in May of 1955, staying there for three weeks.


[20] Written for the film “The Tender Trap” (1955 – Sinatra, Reynolds, Holm) by Van Heusen and Cahn, the song became one of Sinatra’s most enduring hits and would sing for the remainder of his career.

[21] Cell 6-2-6. Almost nothing in the Goon Show appears by chance. This number is not random. It is the WWII RAF Squadron number of Michael Bentine (1922-1996), one of the original members of the Goon Show.

[22] A davit is the device for raising or lowering a boat – usually a lifeboat.


[23] Sellers. The reason he calls out the name of the noted British actor Bernard Miles (another great friend of Milligan’s) was that Miles’ name had become synonymous with the sea and pirates after starring in the series “Treasure Island” during the 50’s.


[24] Sellers.


[25] David Porter Nixon (1919-1978) was a well known British entertainer. A magician, musician, comedian and TV presenter, he was at this time appearing as a panellist on the BBC programme ‘What’s My Line?’ His lanky good looks, with his bald pate makes Spike’s description of him wickedly accurate.


[26] “After the Ball is Over” by the tin-pan alley composer and banjoist Charles K. Harris, was written in 1891 and became one of the most successful songs of its era.


[27] Milligan nearly corpses badly. The ‘parson’s nose’ is the fleshy protuberance at the posterior end of a fowl.

[28] Solos during the playout were for Alto Sax, Trombone, Piano and solo guitar.