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The Adventures of Philip String

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

The seventh episode of the debut series of the Goon Show was first broadcast on 9 July 1951. It can be found in the Radio Times here.

It featured the first of three sketches titled ‘The Adventures of Philip String’, the others appearing in the next two episodes. While no recordings are known to exist, according to Roger Wilmut’s Goonography, the sketches contain the roots of a plot that was to re-emerge in ‘Dishonoured, or The Fall of Neddie Seagoon’ (Series 5 Episode 12).

Barry Took’s highly enjoyable book Laughter In The Air – which traces the history of radio comedy on the BBC back to its roots – contains an extract from the script for this show.

Sellers: And here is the only man who has successfully swum the Bakerloo Line – our beloved author, J. D. Quirkleback de Mountford Splunt. Secombe: […] I first wrote this show on the deck of my yacht in the Mediterranean. Sellers: And you, er, submitted it to the BBC? Secombe: No. Sellers: And why not? Secombe: Have you ever tried to get the deck of a yacht into Broadcasting House?

(from Laughter In The Air, by Barry Took, published by Robson Books, 1976)

The extract concludes:

Secombe: One night off Monte Carlo, a great storm blew up. The yacht shivered and rolled – great waves crashed over the decks. The crew rushed for the lifeboat; but I knew that as captain it was my duty to stay where I was. Sellers: And where was that? Secombe: In the bar of the Ritz Hotel.

(from Laughter In The Air, by Barry Took, published by Robson Books, 1976)

Update (9 July 2021): Courtesy of the Larry Stephens Twitter account:

Speaking to Alfred Draper in the mid-1970s for his book The Story of the Goons, producer Dennis Main Wilson admitted that the show was “slow to catch on”.

“But having experienced the hard fight to even get it on the air we were not all that much surprised. It was years ahead of its time and a bit too hairy for Auntie Beeb [the BBC]. For three years the BBC had rejected the idea of a Goon Show, so we couldn’t expect the public to accept it overnight. But we were confident we could make it.”

(Dennis Main Wilson, quoted in The Story of the Goons, published by Severn House, 1977)

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