Greenslade: Loonies and gentlepogelum, we give you a story specially wrotten for the wireless type of radio set. Secombe: Yes. A story entitled ‘Dishonoured’. It was written by Mrs Bessie Braddock [then Labour MP for Liverpool Exchange], better known for her work as Don Cockell [British and European champion boxer]. All parts will be played by human beings. Eccles: Well – good night, folks!
The 12th episode of the fifth series of the Goon Show was broadcast on 14 December 1954, as per page 24 of that week’s Radio Times. The story tracks Neddie Seagoon’s attempt to rob a bank and escape with the gold – all under the watchful villainous eyes of Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.
The latter first meets Seagoon when he’s being moved on from a park bench by a policeman.
Seagoon: The voice came from a tall, dark, fully dressed male nude. He emerged from the darkness and walked into the gas light. [FX: Clang] Moriarty: Oooh! Curse.
One of my mum's favourite Goon gags, that one. Moriarty sees off Willium by inviting him to join the River Police, and then throwing him in the Thames.
Seagoon is employed as a bank clerk by Grytpype-Thynne, who, we are assured, is “well known in concentric circles”. He is put in charge of the gold vault, and immediately decides to steal it all. Grytpype decides to join him - after all, there's more money in Seagoon's van than in the vault, now.
The pair escape on a private yacht with the aid of a highly skilled navigator in the shape of Eccles, who promptly steers them into Hyde Park. Well, nobody’s perfect. Eventually they find their way to the Mediterranean Sea – but!
Grytpype: Neddie, when you came aboard I believe you deposited all of the gold in the care of Moriarty. Seagoon: Yes. Why - isn't it safe with him? Grytpype: Perfectly safe - wherever he and his rowing boat are.
Seagoon dives into the sea in pursuit, but those two villainous villains have double-crossed him. Away he swims, covering 10 miles. “The last three were agony – they were over land.”
He finds himself in India and enters a café, the Burrapow Sewer Club, where he falls for a dancer.
Seagoon: Into the middle of the floor sprang a creature that set my pulses racing. As one-by-one the blankets fell to the floor, the lights went down, and as the last blanket fell from the passionate creature, I moved to her side in the dark. [Panting] Oh desirable creature, what prompts you to dance in this den of vice? Eccles: I got to make a living too!
A version of this gag crops up towards the end of The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn, the Goon film from 1956 written by Larry Stephens but incorporating a few Milligan and Sykes jokes from previous radio scripts.
Seagoon and Eccles then decide to join the army and team up with Major Bloodnok to take on his mortal enemy, The Red Bladder, who has been financed by the gold that Moriarty and Grytpype fleeced from Neddie. Recruiting Bluebottle, they ride off to confront The Red Bladder and his forces.
Seagoon: Gad, we're outnumbered twenty-to-one. Eccles: Twenty-to-one? Time for lunch.
Another of my mum's favourite jokes. She has been known to make lunch at this time as an excuse to repeat it.
Fearless Seagoon fights on, even as Bluebottle is deaded while trying to trick Moriarty into smoking a stick of dynamite. He fights like a madman – how else? – but alas, he too is deaded.
Greenslade: On that spot is now a little white stone. Henry Crun: Yes. Once a year Minnie lays flowers on it. Minnie Bannister: The stone bears a simple inscription in Hindustani. Bloodnok: I haven’t the heart to tell her, but roughly translated it says: ‘Bombay – 49 miles’.
Here’s the Radio Times synopsis. Note the occasional similarities between this and the actual plot.
Young Ned, driven to distraction by the humdrum life at the bank where he works, decides to abscond with the contents of the strong room. One night, with his pockets bulging with notes, he joins a banana boat sailing for the blue Mediterranean. But Neddie, unused to sudden wealth, begins to lose heavily to the purser at snap, until in desperation he dives overboard and swims to India. There he joins the army and, continuing in the path of degradation, he sells military secrets to the Waziri tribesmen. Then he becomes the confidant of the notorious scourge of the North-West Frontier, the 'Dreaded Red Bladder'; until finally, in the foothills of the Himalayas, he meets his tragic end.
(from the Radio Times, page 24, issue 1622, published 10 December 1954)
This script was revisited a few years later in the ninth series. Titled ‘Dishonoured – Again’, it was recorded on 25 January 1959, and came about as Spike was too ill to contribute a new script and co-writer Larry Stephens was busy on his TV series The Army Game. In my view it's a tighter, funnier version and performance.
Despite his busy schedule, Stephens attended the recording and later went out to dinner with a friend, Ben Cleminson. (Spike later claimed he was there too, but there’s no real evidence of this.) Stephens collapsed at dinner, and died of a cerebral haemorrhage early the next day in hospital. He was largely lost to comedy obscurity until his cousin Julie Warren published her biography of him, It’s All In The Mind, last year.
Title: Dishonoured, or The Fall of Neddie Seagoon
Series 5, Episode 12
Broadcast: 14 December 1954
Written by: Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes
Producer: Peter Eton