Biography of Spike Milligan
Milligan was born in Ahmednagar, India, on 16 April 1918, the son of an Irish-born father, Captain Leo Alphonso Milligan, MSM, RA, who was serving in the British Indian Army. His mother, Florence Mary Winifred Kettleband, was born in England. He spent his childhood in Poona (India) and later in Rangoon (Yangon), capital of Burma (Myanmar). He was educated at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Poona, and St Paul's Christian Brothers, de la Salle, Rangoon.
He lived most of his life in England and served in the British Army, in the Royal Artillery during World War II.
Milligan also wrote verse, considered to be within the genre of literary nonsense. His poetry has been described by comedian Stephen Fry as "absolutely immortal - greatly in the tradition of Lear". His most famous poem, On the Ning Nang Nong, was voted the UK's favourite comic poem in 1998 in a nationwide poll, ahead of other nonsense poets including Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. This nonsense verse, set to music, became a favourite Australia-wide, performed week after week by the ABC children's programme Playschool. Milligan included it on his album No One's Gonna Change Our World in 1969 to aid the World Wildlife Fund. In December 2007 it was reported that, according to OFSTED, it is amongst the ten most commonly taught poems in primary schools in the UK.
While depressed, Milligan wrote serious poetry. He also wrote a novel Puckoon, parodying the style of Dylan Thomas, and a very successful series of war memoirs, including Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1971), "Rommel?" "Gunner Who?": A Confrontation in the Desert (1974), Monty: His Part in My Victory (1976) and Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall (1978). Milligan's seven volumes of memoirs cover the years from 1939 to 1950 (his call-up, war service, first breakdown, time spent entertaining in Italy, and return to the UK).
He wrote comedy songs, including "Purple Aeroplane", which was a parody of The Beatles' song "Yellow Submarine". Glimpses of his bouts with depression, which led to the nervous breakdowns, can be found in his serious poetry, which is compiled in Open Heart University.
Even late in life, Milligan's black humour had not deserted him. After the death of friend Harry Secombe from cancer, he said, "I'm glad he died before me, because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral." A recording of Secombe singing was played at Milligan's memorial service. He also wrote his own obituary, in which he stated repeatedly that he "wrote the Goon show and died".
Milligan died from liver disease, at the age of 83, on 27 February 2002, at his home in Rye, East Sussex. On the day of his funeral, 8 March 2002, his coffin was carried to St Thomas's Church in Winchelsea, Sussex, and was draped in the flag of the Republic of Ireland. He had once quipped that he wanted his headstone to bear the words "I told you I was ill." He was buried at St Thomas's Church cemetery in Winchelsea, East Sussex, but the Chichester Diocese refused to allow this epitaph. A compromise was reached with the Irish translation, "Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite", and additionally in English, "Love, light, peace".
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Spike Milligan Poems
On The Ning Nang Nong
On the Ning Nang Nong Where the Cows go Bong! and the monkeys all say BOO! There's a Nong Nang Ning
A Silly Poem
Said Hamlet to Ophelia, I'll draw a sketch of thee,
Have A Nice Day
'Help, help, ' said a man. 'I'm drowning.' 'Hang on, ' said a man from the shore. 'Help, help, ' said the man. 'I'm not clowning.' 'Yes, I know, I heard you before.
Through every nook and every cranny The wind blew in on poor old Granny Around her knees, into each ear (And up nose as well, I fear)
'Twas midnight in the schoolroom And every desk was shut When suddenly from the alphabet Was heard a loud "Tut-Tut!"
A young spring-tender girl combed her joyous hair 'You are very ugly' said the mirror. But,
Say Bazonka every day That's what my grandma used to say It keeps at bay the Asian Flu' And both your elbows free from glue.
There must be a wound! No one can be this hurt and not bleed.
My Sister Laura
My sister Laura's bigger than me And lifts me up quite easily. I can't lift her, I've tried and tried; She must have something heavy inside.
Somewhere at some time They committed themselves to me And so, I was! Small, but I WAS!
I saw a little elephant standing in my garden, I said 'You don't belong in here', he said 'I beg you pardon?', I said 'This place is England, what are you doing here?', He said 'Ah, then I must be lost' and then 'Oh dear, oh dear'.
Things that go 'bump' in the night Should not really give one a fright. It's the hole in each ear That lets in the fear,
The people who live On the Oojah-ka-Piv Stand around in bundles of nine
Elephants are contagious! Be careful how you tread. An Elephant that's been trodden on Should be confined to bed!
When I Suspected
There will be a time when it will end.
Be it parting
Be it death
So each passing minute with you
Pendulummed with sadness.
So many times
I looked long into your face.
I could hear the clock ticking.