Handjunk and Scrongleshott
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
‘The Search for the Bearded Vulture’ was broadcast on 24 February 1953 as episode 16 of the third series. As you’ll read on page 24 of this week’s Radio Times, Graham Stark once again deputised for Spike Milligan.
I’ve found a script for this and the next episode of the third series online, which I think has its roots in the enviable archives of the US branch of the Goon Show Preservation Society. It’s not complete, but gives enough of a flavour of life (almost) immediately post-Bentine.
Eccles: Oooh! Land ahead! Handjunk: How far? Eccles: What? Um... I... er... [FX: Crash]
Handjunk, who I believe is played by Harry Secombe and is an early incarnation of Neddie Seagoon, assembles a team to go in search of the bearded vulture. He employs the wonderfully named Scrongleshott and Fussbuttle.
Handjunk: Come, gentlemen, this is for England’s sake. Scrongleshott: Who cares about England? Handjunk: But it’s for the glory of your country. Fussbuttle: Ahhh, fiddle to the country, I say. Handjunk: I’ll pay you £1,000 apiece. Fussbuttle and Scrongleshott: [singing] There’ll always be an England!
Once he has completed his team, Handjunk leads them through the Javanese jungle – and we encounter a couple of what will later become some of Milligan’s favourite jokes. The first is one of my favourites and returns in ‘The Secret Escritoire’ (Series 6 Episode 2) and ‘Six Charlies In Search Of An Author’ (Series 7 Episode 13).
Eccles: Hey, look at me! I'm across the river! Handjunk: How did you get across, Eccles? Eccles: I walked across on that log. Handjunk: That… that's not a log, it's a crocodile. Eccles: Ooh. I wondered why my legs kept getting shorter.
Then there was the ludicrous list of supplies. This gag – which lets Spike and Larry Stephens find the best ridiculous combinations of words that they can – returned in ‘Shangri-La Again’ (Series 6 Episode 8) and ‘The International Christmas Pudding’ (Series 6 Episode 9). This time around, the vital equipment that was taken into the jungle included:
400 water-cooled Naafi pianos
Six hundredweight of partially assembled Hittite stone ducking stools
One tarpaulin nightshirt with glossy swabbler and cerebral hammer folio
10,000 starling traps, unused
Four quarters of rare Hyderabad sari gas boots
Three cases of light skinned bald idiots bound in aardvark shading and groove support lane foot mouldings
One 200 foot hollow grit-filled statue of Gilbert Harding with inflammable massage and bamboo dipstick
Handjunk: Splendid. Everything's here.
The intrepid team does eventually trap the bearded vulture, but it doesn’t end the way they wanted.
Eccles: Look! Look what's in the cage! Handjunk: What? Eccles: Me. Handjunk: You idiot. How the devil did you get in there? Eccles: Well, I got in to shoo this thing out, it was eating all our bait. Handjunk: What thing? Eccles: This vulture.
It turns out, though, that it’s not got a beard.
American Salesman (Sellers): And why? Because it uses Goon Stick, the wonder shaving foam…
Aaaand, scene. I like to imagine this is a call back to something at the start of the show, although as part of the show is missing we’ll never know.
While googling for "the search for the bearded vulture", I stumbled upon a photographer's actual search for said bird, which was rather more successful.
Bearded vulture image sourced from Wikipedia. Credit: Richard Bartz.