Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Episode 24 of the second series of the Goon Show was piped into listeners’ ears on 8 July 1952. Page 22 of the Radio Times has the proof.
One of Spike Milligan’s first major projects after the Goon Show ended in 1960 was his comic novel Puckoon. Published in 1963, it tells the story of the drawing of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the effects upon the town of Puckoon – which is split in two by it.
I was going to write that it is ‘typical Milligan’ – but there is nothing typical about it. From the opening pages that feature the main character challenging the author over the standard of the legs he’s been given, the novel packs in the gags and the Goonish imagery and cartoon violence.
Puckoon has been adapted several times for stage, screen and radio. The 2002 film version starred Sean Hughes as Dan Madigan (Dan Milligan in the novel) and featured Richard Attenborough – a big Goon Show fan – as the narrator. It was Attenborough’s final film role before his death in 2014.
Bloodnok: British High Command have decided to deceive the Boche by creating a double for Monty's body. Neddie: And who will it be? Bloodnok: John Mills and Richard Attenborough. Neddie: Why them? Bloodnok: It's always John Mills and Richard Attenborough!
(from ‘I Was Monty’s Treble’, Series 9 Episode 2, broadcast 10 November 1958)
It’s apparently available on Amazon Prime in some regions. Here’s the trailer:
It was adapted for the stage in 2009 and toured several times. Here’s what it looked like in 2016:
Finally, in 2019, Ed Byrne, Pauline McLynn and Barry Cryer starred in a Radio 4 adaptation. It’s not available online, unfortunately, at least not that I’ve seen.
Jane Milligan, Spike’s daughter, appeared in both the film and radio versions.
Spike used the humour to poke fun and voice his frustration at British bureaucracy. It also illustrated his affection for Ireland, as he was very proud of his Irish ancestry.
“You intend to bury an Irish citizen in what is now British territory? He will require the following: an Irish passport stamped with a visa, to be renewed annually for the rest of his stay.”
Buy it here, folks!