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The Goons Hit Wales

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

A (slightly belated) happy St David’s Day to Welsh listeners. On this day in 1956, a short Goon Show episode themed around Wales – birthplace of our own Harry Secombe, of course – was broadcast on the BBC Light Programme.

‘The Goons Hit Wales’ was a five-minute segment of a 60-minute broadcast for St David’s Day, starting at 9pm on that Wednesday night. Amusingly, it was immediately followed by ‘Wales Hits Back’:

The listing is also available here, in an abridged edition of the Radio Times put out as a four-page broadsheet publication due to a strike affecting London’s printing industry.

The episode itself has echoes of opening skit from ‘The History of Communications’ from series four, which itself was based on a sketch from the seventh episode of the first series.

It traces the development of Wales as a nation, from the first person (Eccles, singing dopily) to the tribal chiefs:

Sellers: The tribes of Wales warred and fought, until the coming of the tribal chiefs. It was in 3 AD that Bloodwind the Celt arose early one morning and, walking out of his cave, saw the great snowbound landscape. He raised his spear and said: Bloodwind (Secombe): Oooh, it's parky out here today, isn't it? Oh, I'm freezing to death by here, you see.

The music of Wales is the main theme of the episode. There is a name check for harpist Osian Ellis, who plays a brief musical excerpt.

Secombe: There are some never to be forgotten Welsh tunes. Now here's one everybody knows. Music, Osian. [Harp plays]

Other Goon Show characters pop in for a few lines, including Grytpype, Moriarty (who is admonished for trying to distract from Wales in favour of France), and Henry Crun. And then of course...

Bluebottle: Pardon me, captain. Secombe: Ah, it’s the young, heavily pimpled Bluebottle. Bluebottle: Yes, captain. I have a vital stantinstic about your country […] Do you know that there are more Welsh people in Wales than any other country in the world! Secombe: Are there indeed? Bluebottle: Yes. Go on, count them. Secombe: Right. One, two three… four million. Gad, you’re right! Here’s a penny, keep the change.

Harry Secombe also reveals how he is known as “Mighty Secombe”, after his army captain’s daily cry of “Where’s my tea, Secombe?”.

The payoff is another Welsh voice, from Secombe again (I don’t think he let the others put on mocking accents) comparing Cardiff to Paris, and deciding that he prefers Paris, any day.

As Roger Wilmut points out in his Goonography: “With commendable tolerance, the Welsh refrained from starting a war.”

This short ‘episode’ isn’t that easy to get hold of. It’s on The Goon Show Compendium 4, but I’ve not found that available anywhere online. Fortunately, I have found it available on the excellent, a veritable treasure trove of radio programmes from the UK, US and elsewhere.

For those who are interested, here is a take on St David's Day itself, taken from the same week's issue of the Radio Times.


The Goons Hit Wales

Broadcast: 1 March 1956

Written by: Spike Milligan

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