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Spike Milligan

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Title: Spike Milligan  
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Collection: 1918 Births, 2002 Deaths, 20Th-Century Poets, Actors Awarded British Knighthoods, Articles with Inconsistent Citation Formats, Bbc People, British Army Personnel of World War II, British Book Award Winners, Burials in Sussex, Deaths from Renal Failure, Honorary Knights Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Humorous Poets, Irish Comedy Writers, Irish Male Comedians, Irish Male Film Actors, Irish Male Radio Actors, Irish Male Stage Actors, Irish Male Television Actors, Irish Memoirists, Irish People of English Descent, Irish Radio Writers, People from Ahmednagar, People from Rye, East Sussex, People with Bipolar Disorder, Royal Artillery Soldiers, The Goon Show, Writers Who Illustrated Their Own Writing
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Spike Milligan

Spike Milligan
Birth name Terence Alan Milligan
Born (1918-04-16)16 April 1918
Ahmednagar, India
Died 27 February 2002(2002-02-27) (aged 83)
Rye, East Sussex, England
Nationality Irish (formerly British)
Influenced Monty Python, Robin Williams
Spouse June Marlow (1952–60)
Patricia Ridgeway (1962–78)
Shelagh Sinclair (1983–2002)
Children Jane Milligan
Laura Milligan
Seán Milligan
Síle Milligan Harrower
James Maughan-Milligan
Romany Watt-Milligan
Notable works and roles The Goon Show, Q, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall

Sir Spike Terence Alan Milligan KBE (16 April 1918 – 27 February 2002), was a comedian, writer, musician, poet, playwright, soldier and actor of Irish parentage and dual Irish and British nationality.[1] His early life was spent in India, where he was born but the majority of his working life was spent in the United Kingdom. He disliked his first name and began to call himself Spike, after hearing a band on Radio Luxembourg called Spike Jones and the City Slickers.[1]

He claimed his right to Irish citizenship (as a child of an Irish citizen), after the British government declared him stateless. He was the co-creator, main writer and a principal cast member of The Goon Show, performing a range of roles including the popular Eccles and Minnie Bannister characters.

Milligan wrote and edited many books, including Puckoon and his seven-volume autobiographical account of his time serving during the Second World War, beginning with Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall. He is also noted as a popular writer of comical verse; much of his poetry was written for children, including Silly Verse for Kids (1959). After success with the groundbreaking British radio programme, The Goon Show, Milligan translated this success to television with Q5, a surreal sketch show which is credited as a major influence on the members of Monty Python's Flying Circus.


  • Early life 1
  • Second World War 2
  • Career 3
    • The Goon Show 3.1
    • Television 3.2
    • Poetry and other writings 3.3
      • Treasure Island 3.3.1
      • The Bed-Sitting Room 3.3.2
      • Oblomov 3.3.3
    • The Devils 3.4
    • Ad-libbing 3.5
    • Cartoons and art 3.6
    • Advertising 3.7
  • Personal life 4
    • Family 4.1
    • Health 4.2
    • Nationality 4.3
  • Humour with the Prince of Wales 5
  • Campaigning 6
  • Death 7
  • Legacy 8
  • Radio comedy shows 9
  • Other radio shows 10
  • TV comedy shows 11
  • Other notable TV involvement 12
  • Theatre 13
  • Films 14
  • Books 15
    • Goon Show 15.1
    • Novels 15.2
    • William McGonagall 15.3
    • "According to" books 15.4
    • Scripts 15.5
    • Children's books 15.6
    • Memoirs 15.7
    • Non-fiction 15.8
    • Collections of literature 15.9
    • Collections (mostly poetry) 15.10
  • Recordings 16
  • References 17
  • Biographical works 18
  • External links 19

Early life

Milligan was born in Ahmednagar, India, on 16 April 1918, the son of an Irish father, Captain Leo Alphonso Milligan, MSM, RA (1890–1969), who was serving in the British Indian Army.[2] His mother, Florence Mary Winifred Kettleband (1893–1990), was English. He spent his childhood in Poona (India) and later in Rangoon, capital of British Burma. He was educated at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Poona and St Paul's Christian Brothers, de la Salle, Rangoon. He lived most of his life in the United Kingdom and served in the British Army in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War.

Second World War

Men of Spike Milligan's unit, 56th Heavy Regiment, with a BL 9.2-inch howitzer, Hastings, Sussex, May 1940

During most of the late 1930s and early 1940s, Milligan performed as an amateur jazz vocalist and trumpeter before, during and after being called up for military service in the fight against Nazi Germany but even then he wrote and performed comedy sketches as part of concerts to entertain troops. After his call-up but before being sent abroad, he and fellow musician Harry Edgington (nicknamed Edge-ying-Tong, which gave birth to one of Milligan's most memorable musical creations, the Ying Tong Song) would compose surreal stories, filled with puns and skewed logic, as a way of staving off the boredom of life in barracks. One biographer describes his early dance band infiltration: "He managed to croon like Bing Crosby and win a competition: he also played drums, guitar and trumpet, in which he was entirely self taught". He also acquired a double bass, which he took lessons on and would strum in jazz sessions.[3] Milligan had perfect pitch.

During World War 2, he served as a signaller in the 56th Heavy Regiment Royal Artillery, D Battery, as Gunner Milligan, 954024. The unit was equipped with the obsolete, World-War-1 era BL 9.2-inch howitzer and based at Bexhill on the south coast of England. Milligan describes training with these guns in part two of Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, claiming that, during training, gun crews resorted to shouting 'bang' in unison as they had no shells to practise with.[4]

The unit was later re-equipped with the BL 7.2-inch howitzer and saw action as part of the First Army in the North African campaign and then in the succeeding Italian campaign. Milligan was appointed lance bombardier and was about to be promoted to bombardier, when he was wounded in action in the Italian theatre at the Battle of Monte Cassino. Subsequently hospitalised for a mortar wound to the right leg and shell shock, he was demoted by an unsympathetic commanding officer (identified in his war diaries as Major Evan 'Jumbo' Jenkins) back to Gunner. It was Milligan's opinion that Major Jenkins did not like him, because Milligan constantly kept the morale of his fellow soldiers up, whereas Major Jenkins's approach was to take an attitude towards the troops, similar to that of Lord Kitchener. An incident also mentioned, was when Major Jenkins had invited Gunners Milligan and Edgington to his bivouac to play some jazz with him, only to discover that the musicianship of the aforementioned gunners was far superior to his own ability to play the military tune 'Whistling Rufus'.

After hospitalisation, Milligan drifted through a number of rear-echelon military jobs in Italy, eventually becoming a full-time entertainer. He played the guitar with a jazz and comedy group called The Bill Hall Trio, in concert parties for the troops. After being demobilised, Milligan remained in Italy playing with the Trio but returned to England soon after. While he was with the Central Pool of Artists (a group he described as composed "of bomb-happy squaddies") he began to write parodies of their mainstream plays, which displayed many of the key elements of what would later become The Goon Show (originally called Crazy People) with Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine.


The Goon Show

Milligan returned to jazz in the late 1940s and made a precarious living with the Hall trio and other musical comedy acts. He was also trying to break into the world of radio, as a performer or script writer. His first success in radio was as writer for comedian Derek Roy's show. After a delayed start, Milligan, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine joined forces in a relatively radical comedy project, The Goon Show. During its first season the BBC titled the show as Crazy People, or in full, "The Junior Crazy Gang featuring those Crazy People, the Goons!", an attempt to make the programme palatable to BBC officials, by connecting it with the popular group of theatre comedians known as The Crazy Gang.[5]

The first episode was broadcast on 28 May 1951 on the BBC Home Service.[6] Although he did not perform as much in the early shows, Milligan eventually became a lead performer in almost all of the Goon Show episodes, portraying a wide range of characters including Eccles, Minnie Bannister, Jim Spriggs and the nefarious Count Moriarty.[7] He was also the primary author of most of the scripts, although he co-wrote many scripts with various collaborators, most notably Larry Stephens and Eric Sykes. Most of the early shows were co-written with Stephens (and edited by Jimmy Grafton) but this partnership faltered after Series 3. Milligan wrote most of Series 4 but from Series 5 (coinciding with the birth of the Milligans' second child, Seán) and through most of Series 6, he collaborated with Eric Sykes, a development that grew out of his contemporary business collaboration with Sykes in Associated London Scripts.[8] Milligan and Stephens reunited during Series 6 but towards the end of Series 8 Stephens was sidelined by health problems and Milligan worked briefly with John Antrobus. The Milligan-Stephens partnership was finally ended by Stephens' death from a brain haemorrhage in January 1959; Milligan later downplayed and disparaged Stephens' contributions.[9]

The Goon Show was recorded before a studio audience and during the audience warm-up session, Milligan would play the trumpet, while Peter Sellers played on the orchestra's drums.[10] For the first few years the shows were recorded live, direct to 16-inch transcription disc, which required the cast to adhere closely to the script but by Series 4, the BBC had adopted the use of magnetic tape.[11] Milligan eagerly exploited the possibilities the new technology offered—the tapes could be edited, so the cast could now ad-lib freely and tape also enabled the creation of groundbreaking sound effects. Over the first three series, Milligan's demands for increasingly complex sound effects (or 'grams', as they were then known) pushed technology and the skills of the BBC engineers to their limits—effects had to be created mechanically (foley) or played back from discs, sometimes requiring the use of four or five turntables running simultaneously.[11] With magnetic tape, these effects could be produced in advance and the BBC engineers were able to create highly complex, tightly edited effects 'stings' that would have been very difficult (if not impossible) to perform using foley or disc. In the later years of the series many Goon Show 'grams' were produced for the series by members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a notable example being the "Major Bloodnok's Stomach" effect, realised by Dick Mills.

Although The Goons elevated Milligan to international stardom, the demands of writing and performing the series took a heavy toll. During Series 3 he suffered the first of several serious mental breakdowns, which also marked the onset of a decades-long cycle of manic-depressive illness. In late 1952, possibly exacerbated by suppressed tensions between the Goons' stars, Milligan apparently became irrationally convinced that he had to kill Sellers but when he attempted to gain entry to Sellers's neighbouring flat, armed with a potato knife, he accidentally walked straight through the plate-glass front door. He was hospitalised, heavily sedated for two weeks and spent almost two months recuperating; fortunately for the show, a backlog of scripts meant that his illness had little effect on production.[12] Milligan later blamed the pressure of writing and performing The Goon Show, for both his breakdown and the failure of his first marriage.[13]

A lesser-known aspect of Milligan's life in the 1950s and 1960s, was his involvement in the writers' agency Associated London Scripts. Milligan married for the first time and began a family. This reportedly distracted him from writing so much, that he accepted an invitation from Eric Sykes to share his small office, leading to the creation of the co-operative agency.


Milligan made several forays into television as a writer-performer, in addition to his many guest appearances on interview, variety and sketch comedy series from the 1950s to the 2000s. The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d (1956) starring Peter Sellers, was the first attempt to translate Goons humour to TV; it was followed by A Show Called Fred and Son of Fred, both made during 1956 and directed by Richard Lester, who went on to work with The Beatles. During a visit to Australia in 1958, a similar special was made for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, "The Gladys Half-Hour", which also featured local actors Ray Barrett and John Bluthal, who would appear in several later Milligan projects. In 1961, Milligan co-wrote two episodes of the popular sitcom Sykes and A..., co-starring Sykes and Hattie Jacques and the one-off "Spike Milligan Offers A Series of Unrelated Incidents at Market Value".

The 15-minute series The Telegoons (1963), was the next attempt to transplant The Goons to television, this time using puppet versions of the familiar characters. The initial intention was to 'visualise' original recordings of 1950s Goon Show episodes but this proved difficult, because of the rapid-fire dialogue and was ultimately frustrated by the BBC's refusal to allow the original audio to be used. 15-minute adaptations of the original scripts by Maurice Wiltshire were used instead, with Milligan, Sellers and Secombe reuniting to provide the voices; according to a contemporary press report, they received the highest fees the BBC had ever paid for 15-minute shows.[14] Two series were made in 1963 and 1964 and (presumably because it was shot on 35mm film rather than video) the entire series has reportedly been preserved in the BBC archives.

Milligan's next major TV venture was the sketch comedy series The World of Beachcomber (1968), made in colour for BBC 2; it is believed all 19 episodes are lost. That same year, the three Goons reunited for a televised re-staging of a vintage Goon Show for Thames Television, with John Cleese substituting for the late Wallace Greenslade but the pilot was not successful and no further programmes were made.

In early 1969, Milligan starred in the ill-fated situation comedy Curry & Chips, created and written by Johnny Speight and featuring Milligan's old friend and colleague Eric Sykes. Curry & Chips set out to satirise racist attitudes in Britain in a similar vein to Speight's earlier creation, the hugely successful Till Death Us Do Part, with Milligan 'blacking up' to play Kevin O'Grady, a half-Pakistani–half-Irish factory worker. The series generated numerous complaints, because of its frequent use of racist epithets and 'bad language' – one viewer reportedly complained of counting 59 uses of the word "bloody" in one episode – and it was cancelled on the orders of the Independent Broadcasting Authority after only six episodes.

Director John Goldschmidt's film The Other Spike dramatised Milligan's nervous breakdown in a film for Granada Television, for which Milligan wrote the screenplay and in which he played himself. Later that year, he was commissioned by the BBC to write and star in Q5, the first in the innovative "Q" TV series, acknowledged as an important precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus, which premiered several months later. There was a hiatus of several years, before the BBC commissioned Q6 in 1975. Q7 appeared in 1977, Q8 in 1978, Q9 in 1980 and There's a Lot of It About in 1982. Milligan later complained of the BBC's cold attitude towards the series and stated that he would have made more programs, had he been given the opportunity. A number of episodes of the earlier "Q" series are missing, presumed wiped. In 1979 he was a special guest star on The Muppet Show.

From 1995 to 1998, he voiced the highly successful children's animated series Wolves, Witches and Giants for ITV. The series was written by Ed Welch, who had featured in the "Q" series, collaborated with Spike on several audio productions, produced and directed by Simon & Sara Bor. The series was shown in over 100 territories including the UK and USA.

Poetry and other writings

Milligan also wrote verse, considered to be within the genre of literary nonsense. His poetry has been described by comedian Stephen Fry as "absolutely immortal—greatly in the tradition of Lear."[15] One of his poems, "On the Ning Nang Nong", was voted the UK's favourite comic poem in 1998 in a nationwide poll, ahead of other nonsense poets including Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.[16] This nonsense verse, set to music, became a favourite Australia-wide, performed week after week by the ABC children's programme Playschool. Milligan included it on his album No One's Gonna Change Our World in 1969, to aid the World Wildlife Fund. In December 2007 it was reported that, according to OFSTED, it is among the ten most commonly taught poems in primary schools in the UK.[17]

While depressed, he wrote serious poetry. He also wrote a novel Puckoon and a series of war memoirs, including Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1971), "Rommel?" "Gunner Who?": A Confrontation in the Desert (1974), Monty: His Part in My Victory (1976) and Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall (1978). Milligan's seven volumes of memoirs cover the years from 1939 to 1950 (his call-up, war service, first breakdown, time spent entertaining in Italy and return to the UK).

He also wrote comedy songs, including "Purple Aeroplane", which was a parody of The Beatles' song "Yellow Submarine". Glimpses of his bouts with depression, which led to the nervous breakdowns, can be found in his serious poetry, which is compiled in Open Heart University.

Treasure Island

Bernard Miles gave Milligan his first straight acting role, as Ben Gunn, in the Mermaid Theatre production of Treasure Island. Miles described Milligan as:

a man of quite extraordinary talents ... a visionary who is out there alone, denied the usual contacts simply because he is so different he can't always communicate with his own species ...".[18]

Treasure Island played twice daily through the winter of 1961–62 and was an annual production at the Mermaid Theatre for some years. In the 1968 production, Barry Humphries played the role of Long John Silver, alongside William Rushton as Squire Trelawney and Milligan as Ben Gunn. To Humphries, Milligan's "best performance must surely have been as Ben Gunn .., Milligan stole the show every night, in a makeup which took at least an hour to apply. His appearance on stage always brought a roar of delight from the kids in the audience and Spike had soon left the text far behind as he went off into a riff of sublime absurdity."[19]

The Bed-Sitting Room

In 1961–62, during the long pauses between the matinee and the evening show of Treasure Island, Milligan began talking to Miles about the idea he and John Antrobus were exploring, of a dramatised post-nuclear world. This became the one-act play The Bed-Sitting Room, which Milligan co-wrote with John Antrobus and which premiered at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury on 12 February 1962. It was adapted to a longer play and staged by Miles at London's Mermaid Theatre, making its debut on 31 January 1963. It was a critical and commercial success and was revived in 1967 with a provincial tour before opening at London's Saville Theatre on 3 May 1967. Richard Lester later directed a film version, released in 1969.[20][21]


On 6 October 1964, Milligan appeared in Frank Dunlop's production of the play Oblomov, at the Lyric Theatre in London, based on the novel by Russian writer Ivan Goncharov. Per Scudamore's biography,

Milligan's fans and the theatrical world in general found it hard to believe that he was to appear in a straight play ... He refused to be serious when questioned about his motives. In the story, Oblomov decides to spend his life in bed. Spike decided to identify with his character, and told disbelieving reporters that he thought it would be a nice comfortable rest for him. This was of course, prevarication. Spike was actually intrigued with Oblomov and had read a translation of Ivan Goncharov's novel.[22]

Milligan's involvement transformed the play. The first night started poorly, Joan Greenwood played Olga and later recalled that her husband André Morell thought the show was so appalling, they should get her out of the play. Per Scudamore:

Nobody seemed at all comfortable in their roles and the audience began to hoot with laughter when Milligan's slipper inadvertently went spinning across the stage into the stalls. That was the end of Spike's playing straight. The audience demanded a clown, he became a clown. When he forgot his words, or disapproved of them, he simply made up what he felt to be more appropriate ones. That night there were no riotous first night celebrations and most of the cast seemed to go home stunned. The following night Milligan began to ad lib in earnest. The text of the show began to change drastically. The cast were bedevilled and shaken but they went along with him ... Incredibly, the show began to resolve itself. The context changed completely. It was turned upside down and inside out. Cues and lines became irrelevant as Milligan verbally rewrote the play each night. By the end of the week, Oblomov had changed beyond recognition. Andre Morell came again ... and afterwards said 'the man is a genius. He must be a genius—it's the only word for him. He's impossible—but he's a genius!'. After Oblomov had run for a record-breaking five weeks at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, it was retitled Son of Oblomov and moved to the Comedy Theatre in the West End.[23]

In an interview with Bernard Braden, Milligan described theatre as important to him:

First it was a means of livelihood. And I had sort of lagged behind my confederates, that I ... remained in the writing seat. And I realise that basically I was quite a good clown ... and the one and only chance I ever had to prove that was in Oblomov when I clowned my way out of what was a very bad script ... I clowned it into a West End success and uh, we kept changing it all the time. It was a tour de force of improvisation ... all that ended it was I got fed up with it, that's all."[24]

The Devils

In 1959, Ken Russell made a short 35mm film about and with Spike Milligan, 'Portrait of a Goon'. The making of the film is detailed in Paul Sutton's book, 'Becoming Ken Russell' (ISBN 978-0-9572462-3-2). In 1971, Spike Milligan played a humble village priest in Ken Russell's film, The Devils. The scene was cut from the release print and is considered lost but photographs from the scene, together with Murray Melvin's memory of that day's filming, are included in Paul Sutton's book, 'Six English Filmmakers' (2014, ISBN 978-0-9572462-5-6)


As illustrated in the description of his involvement in theatre, Milligan often ad-libbed. He also did this on radio and television. One of his last screen appearances was in the BBC dramatisation of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast and he was (almost inevitably) noted as an ad-libber.

One of Milligan's ad-lib incidents occurred during a visit to Australia in the late 1960s. He was interviewed live on air and remained in the studio for the news broadcast that followed (read by Rod McNeil), during which Milligan constantly interjected, adding his own name to news items.[25] As a result, he was banned from making any further live appearances on the ABC. The ABC also changed its national policy so that guests had to leave the studio after interviews were complete. A tape of the bulletin survives and has been included in an ABC Radio audio compilation, also on the BBC tribute CD, Vivat Milligna [sic].

Film and television director Richard Lester recalls that the television series A Show Called Fred was broadcast live. "I've seen very few moments of genius in my life but I witnessed one with Spike after the first show. He had brought around a silent cartoon" and asked Lester if his P.A. took shorthand. "She said she did. 'Good, this needs a commentary.' It was a ten-minute cartoon and Spike could only have seen it once, if that. He ad-libbed the commentary for it and it was perfect. I was open-mouthed at the raw comedy creation in front of me."[26]

Cartoons and art

Milligan contributed occasional cartoons to the satirical magazine Private Eye. Most were visualisations of one-line jokes. For example, a young boy sees the Concorde and asks his father "What's that?". The reply is "That's a flying groundnut scheme, son." Milligan was a keen painter.[27][28]


In 1967, applying a satirical angle to a fashion for the inclusion of Superman-inspired characters in UK television commercials, Milligan dressed up in a "Bat-Goons" outfit, to appear in a series of television commercials for British Petroleum.[29] A contemporary reporter found the TV commercials "funny and effective".[29] From 1980 to 1982, he advertised for the English Tourist Board, playing a Scotsman on a visit around the different regions of England.

Personal life


Milligan married his first wife, June (Marchinie) Marlow, in 1952. They had three children – Laura, Seán and Síle – and divorced in 1960. He had one daughter with his second wife, Patricia Ridgeway (known as Paddy): the actress Jane Milligan (b. 1966). Milligan and Patricia were married in June 1962 with

  • "Spike Milligan's people"; Times Literary Supplement article
  • Listing of Milligan's works and performances
  • Milligan's TV Q series
  • .Extrageographic MagazinePreviously unheard audio of one of Milligan's last one-man shows
  • Spike Milligan at the Internet Movie Database
  • newspaper obituaryThe Guardian
  • BBC poll article
  • websitePuckoon

External links

  • Barnes, Peter (August 2002). An Uncooked Army Boot': Spike Milligan 1918–2002"'". New Theatre Quarterly 18 (Part 3. Intq 71): 205–210.  
  • Carpenter, Humphrey. Spike Milligan: The Biography. London, Hodder and Stoughton. 2003. ISBN 978-0-340-82611-9
  • Farnes, Norma. Spike: An Intimate Memoir. London, Harper Perennial. 2004. ISBN 1-84115-787-2 [Original, 2003] (Written by his "manager, mentor and troubleshooter for thirty or more years" – Eric Sykes, in Foreword)
  • Farnes, Norma (2004). The Compulsive Spike Milligan. London: Fourth Estate.  
  • Games, Alexander (2003). The Essential Spike Milligan. London: Fourth Estate.  
  • McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton.  
  • Scudamore, Pauline. Spike. London, Sutton Publishing. 2003. ISBN 978-0-7509-3254-7 This is a paperback publication of the hardcover biography, originally published as: Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada.  
  • Ventham, Maxine (2002). Spike Milligan: His Part In Our Lives. London: Robson.  

Biographical works

  1. ^ a b "Spike Milligan (obituary)". (Edinburgh). 28 February 2002. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey (2004). Spike Milligan The Biography. London: Hodder and Staughton. p. 8.  
  3. ^ Scudamore (1985) pp. 52–53.
  4. ^ Milligan, Spike (1971). Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall. Michael Joseph. pp. 36, 81. 
  5. ^ McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton.   p. 186.
  6. ^ Carpenter, 2003, p. 112.
  7. ^ Carpenter, 2003, p. 119.
  8. ^ Carpenter, 2003, p. 182.
  9. ^ Carpenter, 2003, p. 190.
  10. ^ Ventham, Maxine (2002). "Jeremy Robson". Spike Milligan: His Part in Our Lives. London: Robson. pp. 46–47.  
  11. ^ a b Carpenter, 2003, p. 120.
  12. ^ Carpenter, 2003, pp. 136–139.
  13. ^ Spike Milligan, More Goon Show Scripts (Sphere Books, London, 1973, ISBN 0-7221-6077-1), p. 13
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Fry, Stephen (27 February 2002). "Fry's Milligan memories". BBC News. Retrieved 12 June 2008. 
  16. ^ "Top poetry is complete nonsense". BBC News. 10 October 1998. Retrieved 12 June 2008. 
  17. ^ "Laureate attacks poetry teaching". BBC. 7 December 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2007. 
  18. ^ Scudamore (1985), p. 198.
  19. ^ Barry Humphries, in Ventham (2002), pp. 92–97.
  20. ^ Scudamore (1985) pp. 200, 203–204, 242–243.
  21. ^ McCann (2006) pp. 157–159.
  22. ^ Scudamore (1985) pp. 214–215.
  23. ^ Scudamore (1985) pp. 215–216.
  24. ^ "Spike Milligan interviewed by Bernard Braden". YouTube. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  25. ^ "Spike Milligan interrupts ABC News". 
  26. ^ Richard Lester, in Ventham (2002), pp.73–74
  27. ^ Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada.   pp.109–110, 258. (Published in 2003 as paperback under Spike, or Spike Milligan, depending on listing)
  28. ^ Antrobus, John (2002). Surviving Spike Milligan: A Voyage Through the Mind & Mirth of the Master Goon. London: Robson Books.   pp. 17, 24.
  29. ^ a b "Camera spread: Taking a rise out of the serious supermen in TV commercials, Spike Milligan in Bat-Goons outfit leads BP's sales campaign ...".  
  30. ^ "Profile: Spike Milligan – My dad the mad hatter; SPIKE MILLIGAN'S DAUGHTER JANE ON LIFE WITH THE GOON. – Free Online Library". Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  31. ^ "Spike Milligan: I told you i was ill". Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  32. ^ "Auction reveals the secret life of Spike Milligan". The Independent (London). 18 November 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  33. ^ a b Eden, Richard (19 June 2011). "Comedian Spike Milligan's children await details of legacy after death of his widow Shelagh". The Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  34. ^ a b Depression and How to Survive It, first edition, Spike Milligan and Anthony Clare, 1994.
  35. ^ Louvish, Simon (20 September 2003). "Nailing Spike". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  36. ^ "Spike Milligan dies at 83 | Media". Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  37. ^ "A Harlot's Progress". Channel 4. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  38. ^ Milligan, Spike (27 February 2002). "My Obituary, by Spike Milligan". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  39. ^ Sapsted, David (9 March 2002). "Piper's farewell for Spike Milligan". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  40. ^ "Milligan gets last laugh on grave". BBC News. 24 May 2004. 
  41. ^ "'"Spike 'wrote world's best joke. BBC News. 9 June 2006. 
  42. ^ Games, Alexander (2003). The Essential Spike Milligan. London: Fourth Estate.   p. vii.
  43. ^ Scudamore (1985) p. 170.
  44. ^ [2]
  45. ^ "Spike Milligan Bridge, Woy Woy". Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  46. ^ "Spike Milligan Room". Gosford City Council. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  47. ^ Milligan, Spike; Shand, Neil (1983). Spike Milligan's The Melting Pot. London:  
  48. ^ "Badjelly's Bad Christmas". Chickenshed Website. Chickenshed Theatre Trust. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  49. ^ "Let's Go Crazy (1951) – IMDb". 1 May 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  50. ^ "Penny Points to Paradise (1951) – IMDb". Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  51. ^ "A Kid for Two Farthings (1955) – Full cast and crew". 1 May 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  52. ^ "Watch Your Stern (1961) – IMDb". Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  53. ^ The Times, 10 October 1961


  • Milligan Preserved (1961)
  • Bridge On the River Wye (1962)
  • Best of Milligan's Wake (1964)
  • How to Win an Election (1964)
  • Muses With Spike Milligan (1965)
  • The World Of Beachcomber (1968)
  • A Record Load Of Rubbish (1971)
  • Badjelly The Witch (A Musical Tale) And Other Goodies (1974)
  • He's Innocent of Watergate (1974)
  • Spike Milligan with Jeremy Taylor: An Adult Entertainment Live at Cambridge University (1974)
  • Spike Milligan And Ed Welch Sing Songs From Q8 (1978)
  • Puckoon (1980)
  • Adolf Hitler – My Part in His Downfall (1981)
  • Spike Milligan: Wolves, Witches & Giants (1982)
  • Unspun Socks From a Chicken's Laundry (1982)
  • Where Have All the Bullets Gone? (1989)
  • Peace Work (1995)
  • Rommel? Gunner Who? (1997)
  • Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall (1997)
  • Spike Milligan: The Parkinson Interviews (2002)

Does not include Goon Show-related recordings


  • Silly Verse for Kids (poems) (1959)
  • A Book of Milliganimals (1968)
  • Values (poems) (1969)
  • Milligan's Ark (1971)
  • Small Dreams of a Scorpion (poems) (1972)
  • Transports of Delight (1974)
  • Milligan Book of Records (1975)
  • Poems (poems) (1977)
  • Goblins (poems) (1978)
  • Open Heart University (poems) (1979)
  • Twelve Poems That Made December Colder (poems) (1979)
  • Unspun Socks from a Chicken's Laundry (poems) (1981)
  • Chill Air (poems) (1981)
  • One Hundred and One Best and Only Limericks of Spike Milligan (poems) (1982)
  • Silly Verse for Kids and Animals (poems) (1984)
  • Floored Masterpieces with Worse Verse (poems) (1985) (with Tracey Boyd)
  • Further Transports of Delight (1985)
  • The Mirror Running (poems) (1987)
  • Startling Verse for All the Family (poems) (1987)
  • That's Amazing (1988)
  • Condensed Animals (1991)
  • Hidden Words: Collected Poems (poems) (1993)
  • Fleas, Knees and Hidden Elephants (poems) (1994)

Collections (mostly poetry)

  • A Dustbin of Milligan (1961)
  • The Little Pot Boiler: A Book Based Freely On His Seasonal Overdraft (1963)
  • Book of Bits or a Bit of a Book (1965)
  • Bedside Milligan (1969)
  • Indefinite Articles and Scunthorpe (1981)
  • A Potboiling Dustbin Full of Bits (1984)
  • Scunthorpe Revisited: With Added Milligan Articles And Instant Relatives (1989)
  • A Mad Medley of Milligan (1999)
  • The Essential Spike Milligan (2002)
  • The Compulsive Spike Milligan (2004)
  • Box 18: The Unpublished Spike Milligan (2006)

Collections of literature

  • The Spike Milligan Letters (1977)
  • More Spike Milligan Letters (1984)
  • Dear Robert, Dear Spike: The Graves – Milligan Correspondence (1991) (with Robert Graves)
  • Depression and How to Survive It (1993) (with Anthony Clare)


The War (and Peace) Memoirs (The seven memoirs were also recorded as talking books with Spike reciting them in his own inimitable style)


Children's books

  • The Bed-Sitting Room (1970) (with John Antrobus)
  • The Q Annual (1979)
  • Get in the Q Annual (1980)
  • There's a Lot of it About! (1983)
  • The Melting Pot (1983)


"According to" books

  • Great McGonagall Scrapbook (1975) (with Jack Hobbs)
  • William McGonagall: The Truth at Last (1976) (with Jack Hobbs)
  • William McGonagall Meets George Gershwin: A Scottish Fantasy (1988) (with Jack Hobbs)
  • William McGonagall: Freefall (1992) (with Jack Hobbs)

William McGonagall


  • The Goon Show Scripts (1972)
  • More Goon Show Scripts (1973)
  • The Book of the Goons (1974)
  • The Goon Cartoons (1982) (illustrated by Peter Clarke)
  • More Goon Cartoons (1983) (illustrated by Peter Clarke)
  • The Lost Goon Shows (1987)

Goon Show


  • "When The Sun Goes In" a film made for the solar eclipse – as himself (1999) now posted complete on YouTube.
One of Milligan's earlier books


  • Treasure Island (1961, 1973–1975)
  • The Bed-Sitting Room (1963, 1967) written by Milligan and John Antrobus
  • Oblomov opened at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in 1964. It was based on the Russian classic by Ivan Goncharov, and gave Milligan the opportunity to play most of the title role in bed. Unsure of his material, on the opening night he improvised a great deal, treating the audience as part of the plot almost, and he continued in this manner for the rest of the run, and on tour as 'Son of Oblomov'. The show ran at The Comedy Theatre in London's West end in 1965.
  • Badjelly's Bad Christmas A play created and performed by the Chickenshed Theatre Company using the works of Spike Milligan and his characters.[48]


  • Six-Five Special, first aired on 31 August 1957. Spike Milligan plays an inventor, Mr. Pym, and acts as a butcher in a sketch.
  • The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, Milligan co-wrote and performed in some sketches.
  • This Is Your Life, 11 April 1973. With Sellers, Bentine, and many others. Secombe spoke via a TV recording, as did his great friend Robert Graves.
  • In 1975 Milligan co-wrote (with Neil Shand) and co-starred in a BBC TV sitcom called The Melting Pot. Its cast of characters included two illegal immigrants, an Irish landlord, a Chinese Cockney, a Scottish Arab and numerous other racial stereotypes; Milligan himself took the part of Mr Van Gogh, described as "an illegal Pakistani immigrant".[47] After screening the pilot, the series was deemed to be too offensive for transmission. Five episodes remain unseen. Some of the characters and situations were reused in Milligan's novel, The Looney.
  • Tiswas – 1981 edition.
  • Guest appearing along with Peter Cook in Kenny Everett's Christmas Show in 1985.
  • Playing a moaning stranger in an episode from 1987 of In Sickness and in Health.
  • Narrator of The Ratties (1987), a children's cartoon series written by Mike Wallis and Laura Milligan, Spike's daughter.
  • The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town ran as a serial in The Two Ronnies in the 1970s.
  • Special guest star of edition of 18 January 1979 of The Muppet Show
  • Guest star in the 3rd episode of the award-winning BBC Scotland drama series Takin' Over the Asylum (1994)
  • Was the subject of This Is Your Life for a second time in February 1995 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel.
  • Narrated the 1995 TV show Wolves, Witches and Giants. A cartoon based on the book of the same name, it retold classic tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, but with a twist. The programme won the 1995 Royal Television Society award for Best Children's Entertainment, and was nominated for the same award again in 1997.
  • Guest on Series 4, Episode 3 of Room 101 in 1999

Other notable TV involvement

TV comedy shows

Milligan contributed his recollections of his childhood in India for the acclaimed 1970s BBC audio history series Plain Tales From The Raj. The series was published in book form in 1975 by André Deutsch, edited by Charles Allen.

Other radio shows

Radio comedy shows

Milligan's mother became an Australian citizen in 1985, partly in protest at her son's no longer being eligible for British Citizenship, and he was reported at the time to be considering applying for Australian citizenship.[44] The suspension bridge on the cyclepath from Woy Woy to Gosford was renamed the Spike Milligan Bridge in his memory,[45] and a meeting room in the Woy Woy public library is also named after him.[46]

After their retirement, Milligan's parents and his younger brother Desmond moved to Australia. His mother lived the rest of her long life in the coastal village of Woy Woy on the New South Wales Central Coast, just north of Sydney. As a result, Milligan became a regular visitor to Australia and made a number of radio and TV programmes there, including The Idiot Weekly with Bobby Limb. He also wrote several books including Puckoon during a visit to his mother's house in Woy Woy. Milligan named the town "the largest above ground cemetery in the world" when visiting in the 1960s.

Eddie Izzard described Milligan as "The Godfather of Alternative Comedy". "From his unchained mind came forth ideas that just had no boundaries. And he influenced a new generation of comedians who came to be known as 'alternative'."[42] Members of Monty Python greatly admired him. In one interview, which was widely quoted at the time, John Cleese stated "Milligan is the Great God to all of us".[43] The Pythons gave Milligan a cameo role in their 1979 film, Monty Python's Life of Brian, when Milligan happened to be holidaying in Tunisia, near where the film was being shot; he was re-visiting where he had been stationed during wartime. Graham Chapman gave him a minor part in Yellowbeard.

On 9 June 2006, it was reported that Richard Wiseman had identified Milligan as the writer of the world's funniest joke as decided by the Laughlab project. Wiseman said the joke contained all three elements of what makes a good gag: anxiety, a feeling of superiority and an element of surprise.[41]

Milligan has been portrayed twice in films. In the adaptation of his novel Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, he was played by Jim Dale, while Milligan played his father. He was portrayed by Edward Tudor-Pole in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004). In a 2008 stage play, Surviving Spike, Milligan was played by the entertainer Michael Barrymore.

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedians' Comedian, he was voted among the top 50 comedy acts, by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. In a BBC poll in August 1999, Milligan was voted the "funniest person of the last 1000 years".

There is a plaque and bench located at the Wadestown Library, Wellington, New Zealand in an area called "Spike Milligan Corner".

There is a campaign to erect a statue in the London Borough of Lewisham where he grew up. After coming to the UK from India in the 1930s, he lived at 50 Riseldine Road, Brockley and attended Brownhill Boys' school (later Catford Boys' School, which was demolished in 1994).

Over ten years the Finchley Society led by Barbara Warren raised funds - the Spike Milligan Statue Fund - to commission a statue of him cast in bronze by local sculptor John Somerville and erected in Finchley in the grounds of Avenue House in East End Road. The statue of Milligan sitting on a bench was unveiled on 4 September 2014 at a ceremony attended by a number of local dignitaries and showbusiness celebrities including Roy Hudd, Michael Parkinson, Maureen Lipman, Terry Gilliam, Kathy Lette, Denis Norden and Lynsey de Paul.

Milligan lived for several years in Holden Road, Woodside Park, Finchley, at The Crescent, Barnet and was a contributing founder and strong supporter of the Finchley Society. His old house in Woodside Park is now demolished but there is a blue plaque in his memory on the block of flats on the site.

The film of Puckoon, starring Sean Hughes, including Milligan's daughter, the actress Jane Milligan, was released after his death.

From the 1960s, Milligan was a regular correspondent with Robert Graves. Milligan's letters to Graves usually addressed a question to do with classical studies. The letters form part of Graves's bequest to St. John's College, Oxford.

The Holden Road plaque


Milligan died from kidney failure, at the age of 83, on 27 February 2002, at his home in Rye, East Sussex.[33] On the day of his funeral, 8 March 2002, his coffin was carried to St Thomas's Church in Winchelsea, East Sussex and was draped in the Irish tricolour.[39] He had once quipped that he wanted his headstone to bear the words "I told you I was ill." He was buried at St Thomas's cemetery but the Chichester diocese refused to allow this epitaph.[40] A compromise was reached with the Irish translation, Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite and in English, "Love, light, peace".

Even late in life, Milligan's black humour had not deserted him. After the death of Harry Secombe from cancer, he said, "I'm glad he died before me, because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral." A recording of Secombe singing was played at Milligan's memorial service. He also wrote his own obituary, in which he stated repeatedly that he "wrote the Goon show and died".[38]


The headstone of Spike Milligan's grave, formerly in the grounds of St Thomas's Winchelsea, East Sussex. The name of his last wife have since been added along with birth and death dates and an additional epitaph. The epitaph reads Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite, Irish for "I told you I was ill."

In 1971, Milligan caused controversy by attacking an art exhibition, consisting of catfish oysters and shrimp which were to be electrocuted, at the Hayward Gallery with a hammer.[37] He was a staunch and outspoken scourge of domestic violence, dedicating one of his books to Erin Pizzey.

He was a strident campaigner on environmental matters, particularly arguing against unnecessary noise, such as the use of "muzak".


The Prince of Wales was a fan and when Milligan received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Comedy Awards in 1994, the Prince sent a congratulatory message to be read out on live TV. The comedian interrupted the message to call the Prince a "little grovelling bastard".[36] He later faxed the prince, saying "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question?" In reality he and the Prince were very close friends and Milligan had already been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1992 (honorary because of his Irish citizenship).[34] He was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 2000.

Humour with the Prince of Wales

As Milligan was not born in the United Kingdom, his claim to British nationality was never clear. Milligan felt that he was entitled to a British passport, after having served in the army for six years. His passport application was refused, primarily because he would not swear an Oath of Allegiance and his Irish ancestry gave him an escape route from his stateless condition. He became an Irish citizen and remained so until his death.[35]


I have got so low that I have asked to be hospitalised and for deep narcosis (sleep). I cannot stand being awake. The pain is too much ... Something has happened to me, this vital spark has stopped burning – I go to a dinner table now and I don't say a word, just sit there like a dodo. Normally I am the centre of attention, keep the conversation going – so that is depressing in itself. It's like another person taking over, very strange. The most important thing I say is 'good evening' and then I go quiet.[34]

He suffered from severe bipolar disorder for most of his life, having at least ten serious mental breakdowns, several lasting over a year. He spoke candidly about his condition and its effect on his life:


Shelagh Milligan died in June 2011.[33]

In October 2008 an array of Milligan's personal effects was sold at auction by his third wife, Shelagh, who was moving into a smaller home. These included a grand piano salvaged from a demolition and apparently played every morning by Paul McCartney, a neighbour in Rye in East Sussex.[32]

In 1975 Milligan fathered a son, James (born June 1976), in an affair with Margaret Maughan. Another child, a daughter Romany, is suspected to have been born at the same time, to a Canadian journalist named Roberta Watt. His last wife was Shelagh Sinclair, to whom he was married from 1983 to his death on 27 February 2002. Four of his children collaborated with documentary makers on a new multi-platform programme called I Told You I Was Ill: The Life and Legacy of Spike Milligan (2005), which includes an accompanying website.[31]


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