BROADCAST: 15 Nov 1955 [1]


Script by Spike Milligan


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service. Will anybody start the bidding?
SECOMBE: Ten shillings there!
SECOMBE: Good! Then we're off on another remarkable wireless talking-type Goon Show.
GRAMS: Old fashioned gramophone recording of fox-trot.
: STOP! (Gravely) Tonight – in honour of the occasion, we bring you, especially writted for the wireless, the classic tale of the Great International Christmas Pudding.

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.
ECCLES: Fine, fine, fine.
SPRIGGS: The Great International Christmas Pudding! (Shock) Huh!... Where is it?
SELLERS: (Venerable) Many years ago in the year five hundred and sixty-two BC the Great Monumental International Christmas Pudding was struck by lightning which also struck a tree, and the magnificent International Christmas Pudding, which had been erected by Sisygambis atop a temple tall,[2] was broken into two portions by the knock it received during the fall. And oh, these portions have been carried to a far corner of the earth, and this terrible disaster is not an occasion for mirth and ooh...
ORCHESTRA: Harp glissandos.
GREENSLADE: Yes, it was in 1843 that the discovery in the Sudan of a large fossilised fragment of this long forgotten pudding prompted a question in the House of Commons.[3]
CAST: (Snoring under)
MP:[4] (Ancient) … And the discovery of this portion of pudding prompts me to suggest that if all the portions of this emblem of international goodwill and understanding could be reassembled and set up in some appropriate spot, it might well be the turning point in the falling prestige of this wonderful country of ours.
SECOMBE: Hear hear! All right lads – tea up! Tea up! [5]
GREENSLADE: And so it was, one autumn evening, that a tall stranger approached a young man, secretly repairing a granite banjo in Hyde Park.
FX: Scratching.

GRYTPYPE: Good evening. Have a picture of Queen Victoria. [6]
SEAGOON: No thanks. I'm trying to give them up.
GRYTPYPE: I don't think you'll ever do it. I've tried and failed. May I come in?
SEAGOON: But I'm outside.
GRYTPYPE: Well you come in, then.
FX: Door opens and closes.
SEAGOON: (narrative) I found myself inside a twelve bob a week bed-sitting room in Temple Kilburn. [7]
GRYTPYPE: Moriarty, we have a guest.
MORIARTY: Good – at last we eat!
GRYTPYPE: Neddie, just step into the oven will you?
FX: Oven door opens.
GRYTPYPE: We'll soon dry those damp clothes for you.
SEAGOON: Ha ha ha! Thank you very much.

FX: Oven door shuts.
GRYTPYPE: D’you mind lying down in the baking tin?
SEAGOON: (off) Right.
GRYTPYPE: Right Moriarty, light the gas.[8]
MORIARTY: I can't. I've no money for the meter.
GRYTPYPE: What? What happened to that penny?
MORIARTY: I sold it for two ha'pennies.
SEAGOON: (off) I can lend you a penny.
FX: Oven door opens hurriedly.
GRYTPYPE: You have money?
SEAGOON: Oh, lots of it.
MORIARTY: Money! Ohahehihohehaheoiu… (extended)
GRYTPYPE: Steady Moriarty. Please hide those bones.
MORIARTY: I can't – they're mine.
GRYTPYPE: Well, put a brown paper towel around them. Now Neddie, come out of the oven and sit down on this orange box.
SEAGOON: Thank you very much.[9]
GRYTPYPE: Moriarty, put that cardboard chicken on the table and play the record of a champagne bottle being opened.
MORIARTY: Right, I'll do it.
GRYTPYPE: You say you're rich, Neddie.
SEAGOON: Yes. I'm an eccentric millionaire you know. Haha. I really don't know what to do with the money. I was thinking of giving it all to a fund for third rate music hall comedians.
MORIARTY: What? I say I say I say – what is it that has eight wheels and flies?
GRYTPYPE: I don't know. What is it that has eight wheels and flies?
MORIARTY: Two corporation dustcarts!
GRYTPYPE: I don't wish to know that!
SEAGOON: No, neither do I. (Clears throat) On second thoughts...
MORIARTY: Yesyesyesyes?
SEAGOON: I think I'll give it all to the next two men to swim the channel. [10]
GRAMS: Two splashes. Trudgeon stroke into distance. Speed up.
SEAGOON: (Calls) No, come back!
GRAMS: Trudgeon stroke coming closer at speed.
MORIARTY: What, what?
SEAGOON: I've changed my mind. No! No, I WILL give it all to the next two men to swim the channel.
GRAMS: Two splashes. Trudgeon stroke fading into distance. Speed up.
SEAGOON: (Calls) No no! No no no! (Continues over)

GRAMS: Trudgeon stroke coming closer at speed.
SEAGOON: I've changed my mind. I'll spend every penny on forming a new show band.
GRAMS: Old fashioned Jack Hylton charleston recording.
SEAGOON: No, I've got it. Yes, I've got it. I'll give it all to the man who runs a mile in three minutes. [11]
FX: Pistol shot.
GRAMS: Sound of feet running away then returning. Speeded up.
MORIARTY: (panting) There! Three minutes exactly.
SEAGOON: No – I've changed my mind.
MORIARTY: What what what what what?
SEAGOON: I don't know really. I tell you what, have you any ideas on how to spend my money?
MORIARTY: Oiehohohoho.
GRYTPYPE: Moriarty, please. Let me look in my book of suggestions. (Reading) A...B...C... Charlie. Neddie, have you ever heard of the Great International Christmas Pudding?
GRYTPYPE: Do have a picture of Queen Victoria.
SEAGOON: Well, just this once. (narrative) As I puffed my Queen Victoria, he told me the amazing story of the Great International Christmas Pudding originally built at Alexandria in BC two thousand, destroyed and sacked by the Carthaginians under Plato's republic and its fragments scattered the length and longth of the known world. [12]
GRYTPYPE: Thank you Neddie – you saved me telling you.[13] But think Neddie, if only all these fragments of the Great International Christmas Pudding could be found and reassembled under one roof, the whole magnificent structure could be completely restored. What an incentive to goodwill and understanding among men.
GRYTPYPE: How would… (and think carefully) – how would you like to join my Great International Christmas Pudding expedition?
SEAGOON: (Over excited) Yesyesyesyesyesyesyes!
GRYTPYPE: No, no, though. I doubt if you have the stamina.
SEAGOON: What? Hahaha! A test! A test! Give me a test!
GRYTPYPE: Lift me on your back.
SEAGOON: Child's play… (strains) Put your foot in… There!
GRYTPYPE: (off) Good! Now Moriarty.
SEAGOON: Easy! (strains) Watch out for the tenors friend there. Right up! Hup. (Pants) Huff! Now what?
GRYTPYPE: (off) Are you sure you’ve got money?
SEAGOON: Yes – of course I have.
GRYTPYPE: (off) Then the Ritz Carlton grill for lunch, and step on it please – do you mind.
MORIARTY: Yes! And at all costs avoid Max Geldray.

GELDRAY: (Quick chord).

MORIARTY: Too late!

MAX GELDRAY – “For Me an’ My Gal” [14]

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link.
GREENSLADE: The Great International Christmas Pudding, second helping. Deeply impressed by the magnificent luncheon he’d bought for Lord Grytpype, Neddie decided to equip a complete Christmas Pudding expedition.
ORCHESTRA: Brisk chords; segue into native singing accompanied by tribal drumming. [15]
SEAGOON: (narrative) Yes, within a week I had landed at Port Bakango.[16] Awaiting me on the quay was a resplendent figure wearing a tiger-skin busby, a scarlet duffel coat and khaki drill shorts[17] and smoking a picture of Queen Victoria.
BLOODNOK: Ohhh, white man. Allow me to introduce myself sir – Major Denis Bloodnok, International Christmas Pudding agent for the Sudan.
SEAGOON: Gad, what luck! The very man I'm looking for.
BLOODNOK: You mean you're interested?
SEAGOON: Of course.
BLOODNOK: You don't know what you're undertaking. Do you realise there are men here who’d be willing to drive you out of the country at any price?
SEAGOON: Who are they?
BLOODNOK: Native taxi drivers.
SEAGOON: I don't wish to know that.
BLOODNOK: Neither do I.
SEAGOON: Tell me more about the pudding. Is there a portion somewhere in the Sudan?
BLOODNOK: It's all here lad, in Africa. Three quarters of it is worshipped as a god by the savage Naringi Berbers,[18] and the other quarter has turned man-eater and is roaming the forest of Ying-Tong-Iddle-I-Po.[19]
SEAGOON: Gad! You mean that portion will have to be shot?
BLOODNOK: Yes, it will need a man with a steady eye, a hollow tooth and a wooden leg to bring it down.
SEAGOON: Do you know of such a man?
BLOODNOK: No, but I know a man whose advice could be invaluable to you, but… ah-hum – he'd be too expensive.
SEAGOON: Mmm. Between you and me, how much should I offer him?
BLOODNOK: Well, between you and me his usual fee is a thousand, but in my estimation he's worth much more.
SEAGOON: Right. Who is he?
SEAGOON: Ahaha, Major Bloodnok. I've been told to offer you three thousand pounds.
BLOODNOK: You've been very well advised.
SEAGOON: Oh. Well now, what do you advise me to do?
BLOODNOK: First – pay me the money. Er, you have money, haven't you?
SEAGOON: Of course I have money.
BLOODNOK: Good, good.
SEAGOON: Miss Throat?
SEAGOON: Open my money chest and put on that gramophone record of seven thousand pounds in shillings.
GRAMS: Drop a series of coins one by one onto a hard surface.  
BLOODNOK: Wait a minute! That was only three thousand, five hundred pounds. Where's the rest of it?
SEAGOON: I'll play you the other side.
BLOODNOK: All right, I'll play the rest when I get home. Do have a picture of Queen Victoria please.
SEAGOON: No thanks, I'm trying to give them up. Now tell me – what is your advice about the Great International Christmas Pudding?
BLOODNOK: Forget all about it lad. (Going) Goodbye!
SEAGOON: Stop! You mustn't go.
SEAGOON: I've made up my mind. I'm going to get that Christmas Pudding and all for Britain. I want you to accompany me on the safari.
BLOODNOK: But I've never played one in my life.
SEAGOON: I'll have a man flown out to teach you.
BLOODNOK: Then I'll come. Of course, I shall need special equipment…
SEAGOON: Such as?
BLOODNOK: … money.
SEAGOON: Very well. Here's a recording of a blank cheque.
GRAMS: Silent gramophone record. Lots of surface noise.
SEAGOON: Just fill in the label for any amount you like. Now, what else do we need?
BLOODNOK: A picture of Queen Victoria.
SEAGOON: (narrative) On Bloodnok's advice, I also purchased the following vital equipment.
MILLIGAN: One knee-action, self-reciprocating Christmas Pudding gun.
SECOMBE: One hand painted inflatable Christmas Pudding decoy with rubber hollow.
SELLERS: One portable plastic and gravel road.
MILLIGAN: One long-bent-thing-with-a-sort-of-lump-on-the-end.
SECOMBE: On waterproof cover for same.
SELLERS: One same.
MILLIGAN: Thirty-three boxes of yellow kosher boots.
SECOMBE: Another long-bent-thing-with-a-sort-of-lump-on-the-end.
SELLERS: One uncooked leather trilby with sugar feather.
MILLIGAN: One sixty foot explodable granite statue of Bessie Braddock with built in plunger. [20]
SECOMBE: Detailed plans of what to do with long-bent-thing-with-a-sort-of-lump-on-the-end.
BLOODNOK: Right now, pack all that into the piano and burn it to ashes.[21]
SEAGOON: To ashes?
BLOODNOK: Yes, they're much, much lighter to carry. Please, have a picture of Queen Victoria!
SEAGOON: Haha. Not before lunch.
BLOODNOK: Right then follow me!
ORCHESTRA: Bloodnok theme; segue into Saharan vamp.

GRAMS: Sandpaper footsteps. Fade.
GREENSLADE: Meanwhile, unknown to Seagoon, a different expedition has already reached the forest of Ying-Tong-Iddle-I-Po collecting moss for the BBC. At this very moment indeed, its members are bedding down in their tents under the jungle moon.
BANNISTER: (Approaching) Oh dear, yim-bom-biddle-oh…

(singing) Melodies divine…

Have you tucked the ends of the sheets in, Henry?
CRUN: Yes… yes, Min. Yes.
BANNISTER: Oh dear. Have you put the hot water bottle in?
CRUN: Yes.
BANNISTER: Good, good, good. It's very hot tonight, I think I'll have a cold water bottle.
CRUN: Oh Min, we will have to get these tents redecorated. The wallpaper is peeling.
BANNISTER: I'll get a new roll from London, Henry.
CRUN: Good, good.
BANNISTER: Yes, it is good.
CRUN: Did you put the tiger out, Min? [22]
BANNISTER: Yes, I did. I put the tiger out, Henry.
CRUN: And don't forget to tell the camel driver, no milk tomorrow.
FX: A series of dull thuds on wooden flooring. Continue under.
BANNISTER: Ohhhhhhhheeohiei. What… what's that?
CRUN: It's all right Min. It's just those noisy people in the tent upstairs. (Calls out) Who's that walking about upstairs?
ECCLES: (off) I'm the famous Eccles. I got friends in.
CRUN: It's the famous Eccles and he's got friends in, Min. (Calls out) Do you mind taking those noisy boots off?
ECCLES: (off) OK.
FX: One boot hits the floor. Second boot hits the floor.
BANNISTER: Ahh, that's better.
FX: Third boot hits the floor.
BANNISTER: Ohh! I didn't know he had three legs, Henry.
CRUN: He hasn't, Min. He hasn't, he has a one legged friend. Goodnight Min.
BANNISTER: Goodnight, buddy.
Slight pause.

FX: Fourth boot hits the floor.
CRUN: He's got two one legged friends!
FX: Fifth boot hits the floor.
BANNISTER: That – or one three legged friend, Henry.
CRUN: Yes. Well, goodnight Min.
BANNISTER: Goodnight, little naughty Henry. Goodnight little Henry!
GRAMS: Tiger growling.
BANNISTER: Ohh! What's that? We'll all be murdered in our beds!
CRUN: Is that the tiger, Min? Let him in, let him in.
BANNISTER: Come in, pussy.
GRAMS: Tiger growling.
BANNISTER: (Distant – approaching at speed) Ooohhowwoooow! It isn't a tiger Henry. It's a savage portion of the Christmas Pudding!

CRUN: (Screaming) Help! Eccles, heeeelppp!
BANNISTER: (Screaming) Heeelppp, Eccles!
CRUN: Help, Eccles, help!
FX: Loud banging on wooden flooring.
ECCLES: (off) You two down there – stop that naughty noise! I'm trying to get some sleep. I'm a brain-worker! [23]
CRUN: (Calls) I'm sorry Eccles. (Whispers) Not so loud, Min. Quietly.
BANNISTER & CRUN: (In earnest whispers) Help, Eccles! Help!
SEAGOON: (Approaching) Keep calm, old couple – keep calm. I heard your refined screams. Now, what's the trouble?
CRUN: There's a savage portion of International Christmas Pudding loose in the long grass.
SEAGOON: Good heavens! Just what I'm looking for. Quick, surround Africa!
GRAMS: Distant tribal drums. Agitated native shouting.
SEAGOON: Now, load that gun with threepenny bits. Careful! Don't point that gun at me – point it up at the ceiling.
FX: Pistol shot.

GRAMS: Single whoosh.

FX: Door opens.
ECCLES: [24] Look, I'm rich!
FX: Coin falls to floor.
SEAGOON: Pull up your pants at once! A-hem. Now then, if possible we must take this savage portion of pudding alive.
BLOODNOK: Are you mad? That Christmas Pudding could never be held captive inside anything.
SEAGOON: Then we must dig a pudding pit and line the sides with custard so it can't climb out.
BLOODNOK: Brilliant lad, brilliant. We have no time to waste. Ellington, play that crocodile quinge!

RAY ELLINGTON QUARTET – ‘The Crocodile Crawl’ [25]

GREENSLADE: The Great International Christmas Pudding, third helping. A change of events. At dawn a shock for our hunters.
GRAMS: Galloping hooves. Distant native shouting and tom-toms. Occasional rifle fire. Continue under.
BLOODNOK: Great walloping scraggles of nurdle! Look over there!
SEAGOON: Quick. Hand me my semi-circular glass telescope.
SEAGOON: Gad! (narrative) Dear listeners. As I looked over my shoulder, I could see a terrible sight.

GRAMS: Swell noise of chase. Fade under.

SEAGOON: Galloping at full tilt across the date fields was a savage portion of the Great International Christmas Pudding, hotly pursued by the ferocious tribe the Naringi Berbers. Then – to our horror, they brought it down with a well aimed plasticine boomerang and saxophone mat. Curses and naughty words! We are forestalled!
BLOODNOK: Don't worry lad, don't worry. It's a blessing in disguise.

SEAGOON: What is?

BLOODNOK: Sabrina with a beard.

SEAGOON: I don’t see what Sabrina needs a beard for. I think she looks attractive enough without one[26]. Haha!

BLOODNOK: I suppose she does really. I never thought of it that way.
FX: Knocks on door.
SEAGOON: Heavens, it's two men carrying a door. Come in!
GRYTPYPE: (Entering) Hello Neddie.
SEAGOON: Grytpype! So glad you came. Bad news. Bad, bad news. The Naringi Berbers have captured the last portion of the International Christmas Pudding. [27]
MORIARTY: Don't worry Neddie. We have a guide here who knows where they live.
BLUEBOTTLE: Yes, I know where they live, my capitain! Enter Bluebottle on cardboard horse. Signals applause on gramophone record.
GRAMS: Applause and cheering.

GRAMS: Applause and cheering stop immediately.

BLUEBOTTLE: I’ve had my fill of the clapping. Puts record in knapsack for next week.
SEAGOON: Little East Finchley Arab chieftain in brown suede shoes, lead us to the city of the Naringi Berbers and this quarter of jelly babies – is yours.
BLUEBOTTLE: Ohhhoh. Yehehe! I like this game. Follow me!
ORCHESTRA: Sahara desert link.
SEAGOON: (narrative) Following the tracks of the Naringi Berbers, Bluebottle led us to the great mud-walled city of I-EA STAC-TON. [28]
BLUEBOTTLE: Yes, there it is capitain! Now for my reward.
SEAGOON: Here then is your quarter of jelly babies.
BLUEBOTTLE: Oooh! Thank you! (Thinks. These jelly babies will increase my power of influence at school. This will make Molly Gnasher think twice about me at playtime. Thinks again. I know – I will taunt her with my jelly babies. I will be a man of wealth and mystery. Nhihingying! I will make her forget about that rotten swine Harold Lane and his Tony Curtis-type haircut!) [29]
GRAMS: Distant howling wind.

SEAGOON: I say – the gates of the city aren't locked and there's no-one about.
BLOODNOK. Flat me nurglers – the city's deserted.
MORIARTY: Sapristi yuckakakakakakou!
GRAMS: Tiger growls. Continue under.
MORIARTY: Ooh! Run for your lives! Look – the savage portion of the pudding has escaped!
SEAGOON: (narrative) As he spoke, the terrible pudding sprang into the deserted courtyard, its holly thrashing to and fro.
MORIARTY: Sapristi Nyackols! I know why the natives have fled – that pudding has hydrophobia! [30]
SEAGOON: Don't panic! Don't panic chaps. Play it with the pudding cloth while I get this plate under it.
CAST: (Effort)
GRAMS: Tiger growls crescendo.
SEAGOON: Got it! Quick – put the dish cover on!
FX: Metal dish cover on tray.
GRAMS: Tiger growls muffled.
BLOODNOK: Well done Ned – but unless you give that pudding an anti-hydrophobia injection, I promise you it won't live.
MORIARTY: Yes Neddie, you will have to do it. Take this hypodermic syringe.
SEAGOON: All right. Lift the dish-cover – NOW!
GRAMS: Tiger growls increase.
SEAGOON: Under you go!
FX: Metal dish cover slams down.
GRAMS: Tiger growls stop.

GRYTPYPE: Well done Moriarty – that pudding will be worth a fortune. Now we'll ditch Neddie.
MORIARTY & GRYTPYPE: (Laughing) Hahahahhaa!
FX: Tapping on dish cover
MORIARTY: What! Wait – he's knocking. Lift up the cover. Huh!

FX: Metal dish cover clanks.
SEAGOON: Ah! Thank you.
MORIARTY: Neddie! How's the pudding?
SEAGOON: (burps) Delicious!
MORIARTY: You swine Seagoon!
ORCHESTRA: Theme music.
GREENSLADE: (Interrupting) Sorry! Sorry! That's enough. Wooah, just a moment! Woooah! No, wait a moment. Wait a moment. Ladies and Gentlemen – Mr. Jim Pills.
JIM PILLS: (Clears his throat) Ahem.

        (sings)     “I have known melodies divine,

                                    a melody that lives forever.

                                    Songs of love and songs of hope,

                                    of songs that live forever more.

                                    Oh, leave a little songbird divine,

                                    a melody that lives for ere’…”[31]
GREENSLADE: Right, right – thank you. Thank you Mr. Pills. (Announcing) Mr. Pills was brought along to fill in as the programme was under-running.
ORCHESTRA: Theme music recommences.
GREENSLADE: (over) That was the Goon Show, a recorded 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, announcer Wallace
Greenslade – the programme produced by Peter Eton.

ORCHESTRA: Play out.


[1] This episode is unquestionably one of the most imaginative tales Milligan ever penned. A search for likely sources raises such possibilities as the expedition by Sir Erasmus Wilson to retrieve Cleopatra’s Needle from Egypt in 1877; the African explorations of Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) or even the life of Major-General Charles Gordon (1833-1885) the defender of Khartoum; but the tale is such a magnificent Milliganesque concoction of events, places and identities, that it is impossible to pin down any single historical event as the basis for the story. However, the date – 1843, gives us a clue to the literary background. That was the year in which Charles Dickens published that doyen of all tales concerning Christmas and Christmas puddings – ‘A Christmas Carol’.


“In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered – flushed, but smiling proudly – with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.”


While this episode is hardly the social-morality tale that was Dickens’ work, it lies well within the literary tradition of annual Christmas tales, but told in Milligan’s inimitable style and with his ‘boy’s own story’ view of the world.


“As he spoke, the terrible pudding sprang into the deserted courtyard, its holly thrashing to and fro”.


For while Dickens had placed his pudding in the grimy hovels of the poorest city workers in industrialised England, Spike set his pudding in the far flung reaches of Queen Victoria’s empire, both locations equally representative of British society and its race for profits and improvement, and both exotic in their own ways. The wildest conjunctions of facts are joined together by Milligan in this fantastic tale of a Christmas pudding that starts life as an ancient monument, becomes a god, and ends up as a rabid, loxodontial creature roaming the forests of Ying-ton-iddle-i-po. This is Milligan at his best – fantastical and funny, mixing comedy with fact, Christmas with Jungle Jim, Dickens with Rider Haggard, so as to create one of the greatest Goon fables of all.


[2] Sisygambis was the wife of Darius III (c. 380-330BCE) of Persia. Her formidable presence stabilised the remnants of the Achaemenid royal house after the invasion of Persia by Alexander the Great in 333 BCE and the subsequent murder of Darius by the satrap Bessus. Taken prisoner by the Macedonian army following the battle of Issus, Sisygambis and the ladies of the royal family were treated courteously by Alexander, who later married her grand-daughter Stateira.


[3] The history of the Christmas Pudding in Victorian England is almost the history of English society itself. Made from a compote of ingredients both common and exotic, preserved and fresh – candied orange peal, sultanas, dried plums and almonds, custard and brandy, it was leavened with currency (threepenny bits) in a spectacular culinary tableau representing the British economy, British society, agriculture and wealth. Since Charles Dickens published ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 1843, the christmas pudding had become elevated to the status of a national icon, and Dickens’ story concerning its appearance in the middle of Cratchit’s meagre but hearty yuletide celebrations was followed up rapidly by other stories and poetry that used its image as a potent reflector of the society in which the English lived. The journalist George Sims in 1879 wrote a highly charged poem ‘Christmas Day in the Workhouse’ in which a poverty stricken couple are refused the parish loaf because they obstinately refuse to give up their independence to move to the workhouse and live on charity puddings. Milligan often quotes the first line of the poem in the Goon Show: “’Twas Christmas night in the workhouse…”(The Great British Revolution – 12/8th)


[4] Milligan.


[5] Another quote from the ranks of the 56th Heavy Artillery during WWII. The call of “Grub up!” and “Tea up!” was passed along the lines verbally. (See ‘Rommel? Gunner Who?’ – Michael Joseph 1974 p.154)


[6] Milligan had been experimenting with anthropoideal nicotine in ‘Napoleon’s Piano’ and ‘Rommel’s Treasure’, now he had moved onto monarchical tobacco in the person of Queen Victoria.


[7] Probably an amalgamation of ‘Temple Fortune’ – an area in the London Borough of Barnet, north of Golders Green on the Finchley Road; and ‘Kilburn’ slightly further south. Spike and his family were in the process of moving into a home nearby during the end of 1955.


[8] The implicit cannibalism here is part and parcel of Milligan’s gradual degradation of Moriarty and Grytpype-Thynne. Other evidence for this vice occurs in ‘The Thing on the Mountain’ (15/8th) – “Pass the finger bowl… You swine. You’ve eaten the last finger!”, ‘The Seagoon Memoirs’ (7/9th) – “So, those teeth marks on my underwear were yours!” and in ‘The Silver Doubloons’ (5/10th) – “Look out, he’s got a knife! And a fork! And a spoon! He’s going to eat you Neddie!”  The Monty Python team eventually enlarged this gruesome subject into a whole episode.


[9] Secombe then improvises a line leaving Sellers slightly wrong-footed. Roughly, the exchange is:


               SEAGOON: Thank you very much.

               GRYTPYPE: Moriarty…

               SEAGOON: By heavens, its … stiff in there you know. Hahaha!

               GRYTPYPE: Yes, I’m sure.

               SEAGOON: It gets rather… ha-hum. &c


[10] Milligan often makes mention of swimming the English channel. Something about the absurdity of thin pale shivering youths swimming from one place to another tickled his funny bone, and he gradually began using the concept in a wide variety of guises: “I swam on my back, side, front and knees, but still couldn’t get off to sleep.” (‘Dishonoured’ - ) “I’m a female channel swimmer I tell you!” (‘The Gold Plate Robbery’ 9/6th) “Ah, Neddie, what a heroic sight you are in your wicker-work bathing costume and leather life belt.” (‘The Great Regents Park Swim’ 4/8th) Only three weeks before this show was performed, Florence May Chadwick (1918 – 1995) – the first woman to swim the channel, had appeared on “What’s My Line”, while two months earlier the 18 year old Canadian swimmer Marilyn Bell had become the youngest female to swim the distance.

[11] An historic event had taken place on the 6 May 1954, when the 25 year old Oxford medical student Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile at Iffley Road track, Oxford watched by 3000 spectators. Rogers broke the record again later that year in Vancouver, and the ‘metric mile’ at the European Championships in Berne in August. Since that date 16 seconds has been gradually shaved from Bannister’s record, and currently the time for that distance is 3:43.13, a record held by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco.



[12] Milligan’s compote of ancient knowledge is remarkable in its variety and amusing juxtaposition of the facts he was quoting. Alexandria was built by the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in c. 331 BCE; the Carthaginians ruled much of the coast of the Mediterranean  in the 3rd century BCE; and Plato’s ‘Republic’ is a book – not a political entity as implied, written around 380 BCE.


[13] Seagoon interjects‘Needle-nardle-noo!’ – from a distance.


[14] Written in 1917 by the tin-pan-alley composer George W. Meyer to words by Leslie and Goetz, the popular number was resurrected for the 1942 film of the same name starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. The original writers were well know creators of hit tunes and catchy lyrics, at a time when popular music was beginning to feel the influence of Dixieland jazz and the Charleston. They were individually responsible for such numbers as “Where was Moses When the Lights Went Out?”, Oogie Oogie Wa Wa”, “Since Maggie Dooley Learned the Hooley Hooley”, “Where did Robinson Crusoe go with Friday on Saturday Night” and “Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula”. As you can see, Milligan wasn’t the first to write nonsense verses.


[15] The words the men of the orchestra sing are:

               “Yaamo yaamo yaamo yaamo yaamo.

               Boh-yah boh-yah boh-yah boh-yah boh!”


[16] I assume this is a Milligan invention based on the name of a tribal group in the Congo, whose lands were on the Uele River. A township of that name actually exists in the Central African Republic, though it is nowhere near the Sudan and hardly a Port.


[17] Khaki Drill shorts (known by the acronym K.D.), were standard issue during WWII to members of HM forces serving in the North African desert. In ‘Rommel? Gunner Who?’ (p184) Spike says of them;


“The sight of white knobbly legs plus voluminous shorts brought forth howls of laughter. We looked like ENSA comics trying to be funny… The sun never sets on the British Empire – with these bloody shorts it would never set on their knees either.”

[18] Where Spike got this word is not clear. Narangi in Hindi/Urdu is one of the names used for orange – both the fruit and the colour, and would have been the word used by his aaya. While there is a small village, Naringi, 175km north-west of Poona in Maharashtra it is unlikely Spike had ever heard of it. Spike’s recall of the Urdu words his aaya spoke to him when he was a boy, was remarkable, though possibly – as in this case, slightly askew.

The Berbers are an indigenous North African people, originally inhabiting coastal areas from Morocco to Egypt. Essentially a farming race, not nomadic like other North African ethnic groups, it is a figment of Spike’s imagination to position them as far east as the central Sudan.


[19] The words ‘Ying tong iddle I po’ had been used as far back as September 1954 in ‘The Whistling Spy Enigma’ (1/5th). Milligan is quoted by Carpenter as saying that, “…(Harry) Edgington was sometimes known as ‘Edge-Ying-Tong”, which seems almost certainly to have been the original source of the saying. In the following year, 1956, the Goons would have a major chart topping success with a song based entirely on these nonsense words.

[20] Elizabeth Margaret Braddock (1899-1970) – known as ‘Battling Bessie’ was a British Labour politician, ardent socialist and tireless campaigner for women’s rights, maternal and child welfare, mental health care, youth crime and poverty. In July of 1955during her period of office as MP for Liverpool Exchange, she made a guest appearance at the Café de Paris to introduce Marlene Dietrich perform her cabaret act. Lady Norah Docker (another of Spike’s bête noirs) who was present, took exception to Mrs Braddock’s presence and swept out of the nightclub in high dudgeon. Bessie took it calmly, stayed to see the show and had a long chat with Marlene about politics. The following year, Bessie – who was concerned about the use of air-rifles amongst youths in her constituency, took three of the weapons into the House of Commons. After firing the unloaded rifles into the air, she crossed the floor of the House and handed them to the Home Secretary. The deputy Chairman expressed his displeasure at her behaviour, to which she replied:  but you see I have to startle this House before anyone does anything about anything.” 

Milligan seems to have found her both funny and absurd, but it was largely through her efforts as a member of the Royal Commission on Mental Health (1954-1959) that a boldly enlightened Act was passed in 1959 that led to a vast improvement in the treatment and care for people like Spike.


[21] Milligan’s lists are incomparably funny. The list of articles carried through the Himalayas in the previous show ‘Shangri-La Again’, also ends with a punch line about a piano.


[22] Tiger’s were becoming a Milliganesque fixation. “Come out of there! Tigers aren’t meant to be slept in you know…” (The White Box of Great Bardfield – 25/5th); “My name is – er – Jim Bluebottle Tiger-nuts!” (The Starlings – 1954): “Could you tell me the way out of this Tiger?” (The Great Regent’s Park Swim – 4/8th).


[23] The term ‘brainworker’ was a socialist appellation meant to identify and characterise those in managerial positions in non-exclusive terms. The word had been around for decades, appearing in magazines like ‘Popular Science’ as far back as 1879 when it was observed that “there is no hard and fast boundary between the brain-worker and the muscle-worker”. George Orwell made the term famous in his dystopian novella ‘Animal Farm’ (1945) when the pigs explained; “We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us.


[24] There is a distant muffled FX here. It could well be that a sound gag went astray.


[25] A song from the recent film “An Alligator Named Daisy” released by the Rank Organisation. Starring Donald Sinden and Diana Dors, it concerns an abandoned alligator that Sinden inherits. Included in the soundtrack was this finger-snapping rock and roll number by Ken Mackintosh (1919-2005), the legendary British band leader.


[26] The sixth series became ‘Sabrina Country’ as the happily married Spike Milligan quietly steamed with forbidden passion for this talented young miss (born 1936 and originally named Norma Sykes), from Stockport, Cheshire.  Known for nothing else except her looks, figure and Miltonesque name given to her by Arthur Askey, whose dumb blonde sidekick she played in the 1955 ITV series ‘Before Your Very Eyes’, 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.

[27] Secombe makes an error here that has almost become an accepted part of the dialogue.


SEAGOON: The Naringi-Berbers have captured the last pudding of the International Christmas Pudding portion. (Collapses in laughter). You know what I mean, don’t you Grytpype. (Giggles) Anyway, they’ve had a go at it!


The numbers of mistakes made by the Goon Show cast was extremely small compared with the volume of lines they broadcast – often with little more than a single run-through, and more often than not dealing with Milligan’s hasty addendums in the margins as they went.


[28] The transcription of this name must be credited to ‘Moriarty’ of Melbourne Australia, who solved the puzzle in January of 2004. The name of the city is East Acton – with the word divisions altered.


[29] Tony Curtis (1925 -  2010) the American film actor, was discovered at the age of 23 by Universal Studios and starred in over 100 films during his extensive career, including ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ (1957), ‘The Defiant Ones’ (1958) and ‘Some Like it Hot’ (1959). During the 50’s, when he was at his most popular, he was considered a screen hunk, adopting a distinctive hairstyle known as a ‘duck’s tail’ in the US and as a ‘duck’s arse’ in Great Britain. This hairstyle – with the hair on the sides of the head swept back so that they meet at the back of the head, prompted Elvis Presley to wear his hair the same way. Wearing a ducktail came to be known as a sign of rebellion.

[30] Hydrophobia is a version of rabies, causing inflammation of the brain. In the later stages of this fatal disease the animal exhibits periods of mania and lethargy. Milligan would have seen the human effects of rabies whilst a child in India, which still retains one of highest rates of human rabies in the world, due to the bites of stray dogs.


[31] Regrettably I cannot source this piece. Milligan makes mention of the phrase ‘melody divine’ in thirteen of the Goon Shows, though this is the only time he attempts to give a full rendition of the piece – (if indeed the song actually existed at all).

A piece with this title was actually published. Entitled ‘Melody Divine’, the original 1929 sheet music has the sub title “…as sung by Carmel Meyers in the First National Vitaphone Picture THE CARELESS AGE, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr”. Unfortunately the melody and lyrics do not match either Mr Pills’ rendition of the song, or the vocal phrase that the characters sing in other episodes when singing that line. Spike’s performance is very well observed, full of emotional breaths and squally top notes, and is undoubtedly based on his childhood observations of the parlour singers his parents consorted with in amateur musical societies in Colonial India. Spike used overwrought performances of parlour songs as late as the final Q series.