Spike Milligan KBE (1918 - 2002)
Terence Alan Patrick Sean Milligan began to call himself "Spike" after hearing a band on Radio Luxembourg called Spike Jones and his City Slickers.
Born in India, the son of an English mother and an Irish father who was a Captain in the British Indian Army, Spike Milligan spent his early years in India, moving the UK in his teen years where he spent most of his working life.
A man of extraordinary talents, Spike Milligan was a jazz vocalist, musician, soldier, actor, comedian, painter, playwright, poet and writer. With an unorthodox, absurd and consistently funny sense of humour he was one of the most popular and successful comedians on the British comedy circuit. His most famous accomplishment was The Goon Show, a comedy radio show aired for thirty minutes each week which ran for nine years, elevating him to international stardom.
A particularly famous example of his humour appears at a moment when aged 76, he made a notorious aside in front of a live audience and millions of TV viewers. He was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Comedy Award when a fan letter from the Prince of Wales was read out. Spike Milligan remarked: "Little grovelling bastard ...” One assumes His Royal Highness took no offence as Spike later received an honorary knighthood.
Spike Milligan wrote over 80 books, including 3 novels, of which the most renowned is Puckoon, a slapstick novel about a boundary commission group, tasked with creating the new official division between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Due to utter incompetence, the new border follows a route through the centre of the small town of Puckoon. Barbed wire down the centre of streets literally cuts the village in two with hilarious results. Puckoon was made into a film in 2002.
He wrote ten “according to Spike Milligan” books. One of his well-known quotes “And God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light, but the Electricity Board said he would have to wait until Thursday to be connected,” appears in “The Bible according to Spike Milligan.”
He also wrote over 20 books of poetry, his nonsensical style compares to Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. His most noted poem is titled “On the Ning Nang Nong” and was voted the UK's favourite comic poem in 1998.
Another of Spike’s more popular poems:
Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I'll draw a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?
His other writings include seven books on his memoirs and a large number of scripts. For a full list of his written work follow this link.
Spike Milligan died 15 years ago today from kidney failure following a long illness, he was 83 years old. He once made a wisecrack that a suitable inscription for his headstone would be "I told you I was ill." His gravestone is located at St Thomas' churchyard in Chichester bearing the Gaelic inscription:
Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite.
Love, Light, Peace
I told you I was ill