Although not born in Sligo Town, Terence Alan Milligan, who was better known to millions of fans worldwide as Spike Milligan, had very strong connections with Sligo Town.
Born in Ahmednagar, India, on 16 April 1918, Spike Milligan‘s father was born in Holborn Street, one of the oldest streets in Sligo Town.
Spike Milligan was an Irish writer, artist, musician, humanitarian, comedian, and poet. He played the piano, trumpet, guitar and saxophone and was the creator, the principal writer and a performing member of The Goon Show
Although he lived most of his life in England and served in the British Army, Spike Milligan was refused a British passport in 1960, this was because he had been born outside of Britain to an Irish father, Leo Milligan of 5 Holborn Street in Sligo Town.
Spike, whose grandfather William Milligan was an army sargeant based in Sligoand was also well-known locally as an entertainer, took Irish citizenship instead, whilst continuing to live and work in the United Kingdom.
Spike Milligan also wrote verse, considered to be within the genre of literary nonsense, for children, the best of which is comparable with that of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, the most famous probably being “On the Ning Nang Nong”. 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.
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.
Spike Milligan suffered from Bipolar disorder for most of his life, having at least ten major mental breakdowns, several lasting over a year. He spoke candidly about his condition and its effect on his life:
“I have got so low that I have asked to be hospitalised and for deep narcosis (sleep). I cannot stand being awake. The pain is too much… Something has happened to me, this vital spark has stopped burning – I go to a dinner table now and I don’t say a word, just sit there like a dodo. Normally I am the centre of attention, keep the conversation going – so that is depressing in itself. It’s like another person taking over, very strange. The most important thing I say is ‘good evening’ and then I go quiet”
Spike Milligan suffered from bouts of serious depression, during which he 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) and “Rommel: Gunner Who? A Confrontation in the Desert” (1974).
He wrote comedy songs, including “Purple Aeroplane“, which was a parody of The Beatles‘ song “Yellow Submarine“.
Spike Milligan was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) (honorary because of his Irish citizenship) in 2000. He had been made an Honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1992.
Spike Milligan had three children with his first wife Jane Marlow: Laura, Sean and Sile. He had one daughter with his second wife Patricia Milligan: the actress Jane Milligan. He last wife was Shelagh Sinclair. The four children have recently collaborated with documentary makers on a new multi-platform program called I Told You I Was Ill: The Life and Legacy of Spike Milligan
Spike Milligan died from liver disease, at the age of 83, on 27 February 2002, at his home in Rye, East Sussex.
A plaque was unveiled on No5 Holborn Street, the house where Spike Milligan‘s father Leo Milligan was born and where his grandfather Sergeant William Milligan of the Sligo Artillery had lived.
The unveiling ceremony, which took place on Saturday June 26th 2005, was attended by a small group of Spike Milligan fans and was officiated by the then Mayor of Sligo, Councillor Declan Bree.