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Home Front - Omnibus - 3. 18-22 August 1914
Image for Spike Milligan - The Serious Poet

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Last on

Sat 12 Nov 2011 23:30 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 06 November 2011

Spike Milligan's 3 daughters, Sile, Laura and Jane discuss how their father's serious poetry reflected his life and personality. Milligan's writing was intimate and honest.

Spike Milligan's funny verse is well loved and his poem On The Ning Nang Nong was once voted the UK's favourite comic poem. However, there is a body of serious poetry that Spike Milligan wrote which, although is lesser known, is equally as powerful. A prolific writer, Milligan used his poetry as an outlet for his feelings about everything in his life from his family, to losing friends in the war, to the issues he cared about.

In this personal reflection, Spike's 3 daughters - Sile, Laura and Jane talk about the poems and remember their father. Through this, his most intimate work, they discuss the man they grew up with - the loving and creative hands-on father and the man who would disappear for days to his bed with depression. He often wrote beautiful and moving poetry for his children and mourned the passing of their childhoods. They in turn had a 'magical' childhood with Spike creating imaginary worlds for them and taking time for small things - for example he wrote a poem of the beauty of throwing pebbles into water with Jane.

The daughters recall Spike's affinity to children and animals and the pain he suffered when he witnessed suffering in either. They also remember Spike the husband to three wives. Sile and Laura are daughters from Spike's first marriage to June and Jane's mother was Spike's second wife, Paddy. The poems reveal Spike's love affairs during the marriages and the subsequent turbulent emotional life. Sile was once given a pair of Jade earrings from her father for Christmas. It was only later when she read one of his poems about the earrings that she realised they had been bought for a lover who had left him.

Jane recalls that Spike never stopped writing, even when depressed and that he used his writing to try to heal himself. Some of the poems were written in a psychiatric ward. Laura remembers Spike giving a reading of a poem about lost friends who died in Lauro, Italy in the war, in front of an audience in the last years of his life. He broke down during the reading. It was the war that kick started his poetry writing.

Despite their serious content, Spike's wit is present in some of the poems, but they are a chance to see a different side to this comic genius. Apparently, Spike was immensely proud of the work and was terrified that he'd only be remembered for The Goons.

Producer: Laura Parfitt
A White Pebble Media production for BBC Radio 4.

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