Spike Milligan: a very silly mid-off

'Milligan carried a spade instead of a bat, called for middle and leg, dug a hole and disappeared into it'
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I have received many letters of tribute to the late Spike Milligan, and in his honour I would like to print a few today.

From Sir George "Gubby" Trotter

Sir, In all the tributes to the late Spike Milligan, I have seen no mention of his deep and abiding love of cricket.

I think this started during his childhood in India. I remember him once saying to me" "You know, Gubby, I can never work out who got the best of the deal from the Raj, us or the Indians. We gave them bureaucracy, they gave us curry. We gave them the railway refreshment room, they gave us the Kama Sutra. But at the end of the day the important thing is we gave them cricket and they gave us dysentery. Know what that means?"

"No, Spike, I don't," I said.

"It means they gave us the runs and we returned the compliment."

yours etc

From ex-Gunner Reg Mildew

Sir, I first encountered Spike Milligan during the war. I was on patrol duty in North Africa when we spotted coming towards us out of the sandy wastes this lone individual wearing white trousers and a loose head-dress. After walking about quarter of an hour he reached our position and stopped to talk to us.

"Are you the crowd?" he said.

"What do you mean?" we said.

"Well," said Milligan (for it was he), "at this very moment I'm playing in an army cricket match, and the captain said to me "Go and field in the deep, Milligan," and I said "How deep, sir?" and he said "Just keep going till you meet the crowd, and stop there." Well, I hope you're the crowd, because I've been walking for three days..."

I later learnt he wasn't playing in a match at all. He was just engaged in a personal strategic retreat.

yours etc

From Roger de Mowbray

Sir, As one who often played with Spike Milligan in early 1950s cricket teams (usually the BBC Reject XI, open to scriptwriters who hadn't sold a joke to the BBC for over a month), I can testify to Spike's welcome anarchic approach to cricket. Once, I remember, he had just come in to bat, and the bowler let loose a bouncer to soften him up. "How dare you!" cried Spike. "Attack a defenceless man like that! Take that! And that!" And producing cricket balls from all over his person, he proceeded to pelt the hapless fast bowler until he fled from the field. "Can't take his own medicine," said Spike happily. Very typical.

yours etc

From Mr Terence Feelgood

Sir, I underwent a period of severe depression in the 1950s and spent several months in a clinic in Sussex, where they believed that one of the ways back to normality was through outdoor sports. I found myself picked for the clinic's First XI (we called ourselves the Manic Depressives), and one day we played a neighbouring team called the Clinical Casuals. When their opening batsman, Spike Milligan, came in, he was carrying a large spade instead of a bat. He called for middle and leg, and when it was given, he started digging a hole where he had been given guard. Soon it was big enough to get into, and with a cry of "I'll be safe in here, folks!" he disappeared into it. And he was.

yours etc

From Mr Rodney Moonless

Sir, I can vouch for the unconventional approach of Spike Milligan during the normally staid conduct of a cricket match. Once, when opening the batting for a Showbiz XI, Spike Milligan was opening the bowling. He paced out a 60-yard run, which looked rather menacing. He then walked all the way down the pitch to me and said: "Have you signed the Geneva Convention?" "No", I said. "You may live to regret it," he said. "If you live, that is."

He then proceeded to bowl the most wickedly fast delivery. "I wish now that I had signed it," I said. "Nothing easier," he said, and he pulled a long sheet of paper out of his pocket. "Sign here and here and here," he said, handing me a pen, adding: "It's not for me, it's for my wife. She loves all your work."

Somewhat shaken by this, I didn't notice that instead of walking back the 60 yards again, he turned round at the wicket and bowled me a slow underarm delivery, which I wasn't expecting and which clean bowled me.

"You see?" said Milligan, as I walked off. "Never underestimate an idiot."

yours etc