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Several years after the radio Goon Show ended, the Goons were reinvented as a troupe of innovative television puppets called The Telegoons. Bluebottle, who was always the most popular Goon, is seen above in his quarter life-size television string puppet version.
Photograph Tonwen Ltd.


 

 
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A tribute to The Telegoons, a puppet version of the 1950s radio Goon Show,
this web site explores an overlooked chapter in the history of British television puppetry...

The Telegoons (The Official G.S.P.S. Site)


In the above picture the Telegoon puppets pose with their alter egos,
the Goons, during a pause in
The Telegoons voice recording sessions, 1963.

L to R: Neddie Seagoon (Sir Harry Secombe), Eccles (Spike Milligan KBE, sometimes also known as Spike Milligna, the well-known typing error), and Major Dennis Bloodnok (Peter Sellers). The hilarious Goons injected a new dimension into BBC radio humour during the 1950s, but came together once again in 1963 to provide the voices for a series of twenty-six puppet Goon shows lasting fifteen minutes each. The BBC is believed to have bought the British rights for more than £150,000. The last regularly broadcast radio Goon show was in 1960.
Image source: The Goon Show Companion by Wilmut & Grafton (see Bibliography) Colorization © Alastair Roxburgh


This website is proud to be affiliated with the Goon Show Preservation Society of Great Britain. Memberships are available. Please visit the main GSPS website here.

      

SITE LOG

18th DEC 2021: Several minor corrections.

13th AUG 2021: Several minor updates and clarifications here: Film Credits table.

8th AUG 2021: I have begun what I hope will be a long series of Telegoons website updates. Part of the impetus for this is an upcoming new edition of The Encyclopædia Goonicus (EG in its less Latin-looking abbreviation). EG was created by Neil Trickey, its chief conductor and bottle washer. I wish that he may long have the knees to continue this work. Anyway, suddenly out of the blue, a batter pudding landed on me, tossed over the pond by Neil. A paraphrased version of the message written on it still echoes in my mind in the voice of Peter Sellers' character Willium "Mate" Cobblers: "Pardon me, mate, but there's no loitering allowed 'ere..., I need those Telegoons scripts an' videos, mate, right away, mate! Before me retirement, mate!" 

EG is a Goon Show Preservation Society (GSPS) project dedicated to preserving the memory of stray Goon things in an orderly form. I highly recommend that you support it by becoming a dues-paying GSPS member, details of which are available at the official GSPS website, http://www.thegoonshow.org.uk/. There is also a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheGSPS which (allegedly) will also get you to the official GSPS website. It is also possible to get there via a link in the main menu page of this very webpage (click the bottom menu item that says GSPS Main Site). Another alternative is to send an email to membership.gsps@btinternet.com, where the Membership Secretary will gladly help.

GSPS membership brings certain privileges. These include a quarterly newsletter (paper or PDF) and invitations to events (there's an annual gathering at a London pub, an occasional 'do' at the BFI, etc.). Also, member-only access to The Encyclopædia Goonicus (See http://www.thegoonshow.org.uk/page30.html for details, where you can also see an artist's impression of Neil hard at work with his quill pen and a pre-modern version of the steam abacus). As currently advertised on the GSPS website, the Fifth Edition of EG is now over 3 years old. It will eventually be replaced (no availability date set at this time) by the Sixth Edition once a brand-new selection of Goons Goodies has been rounded up.

The Tele-Goonography section of this website includes a substantial new detail: Each Telegoons episode description now lists GSPS holdings of mp4 and MPEG-2 versions. These are newly cleaned-up and restored digital transfers of The Telegoons 16 mm cine films held in the GSPS archives, where they have been for a couple of decades. They are of much higher resolution than previous GSPS transfers and include several segments of newly restored audio. They represent the final deliverables of The Great Telegoons Telecine Project. I began this preservation project in July 2003 in East Tilbury, Essex, England. Finally, I completed it in July 2021 in Portland, Oregon, USA. Remarkably, the duration of this project was almost 18 years to the day! During much of that time, the episodes languished nearly half a world away from GSPS HQ, on MiniDV tapes, not to mention a succession of magnetic hard drives and thumb drives. By the time I was able to work on the project again, computers and audio/video editing software had advanced considerably. This is no small point because video rendering used to be extremely slow on a PC. However, after 18 years of biennial performance improvements under Moore's law, the digital editing, which would have been many months of my time, was reduced to about 40 hours! 

Along the way to completing The Telegoons telecine project, the only scary story I have to tell is a near loss of my primary digital backup copy of the films, all 90 GiB of them. This was a considerable amount of data back in the day (nowadays, not so much). The culprit was a severe Florida electrical storm. We saw a flash as a lightning bolt hit our DSL Internet pillar (outback on our rear boundary, which served our group of about six homes). In a hot millisecond, it fried almost every piece of electronics in my house, including my all-important network-connected backup drive! After obtaining some excellent British-made RAID recovery software named "UFS Explorer", it took me several weeks to do a software RAID reconstruction of the 4-disk RAID 5 array, the old bare drives littering my desk during the process, each attached to my new computer on a USB interface. Three of my four RAID-striped drives were OK. One was KO'd. The UFS software told me that if one more drive had been KO'd, recovery would have been impossible. Although the file recovery was a fingernail-biting exercise, I did not fret too much because if worse came to worst, I knew I still had my MiniDV tapes.  

It's been a long and winding road. Still, on successfully completing this work, I can say that The Telegoons have never looked and sounded better in these newly-minted digital transfers! The mp4 version of The Telegoons episodes, and also an equivalent set of MPEG-2 files (a format more readily viewable on smart TVs), are expected to eventually become part of The Encyclopædia Goonicus (EG), governed by the latest version of the EG end-user agreement and copyright statement. In Essence, the new mp4 and MPEG-2 Telegoons files are restricted for use only by Goon Show Preservation Society (GSPS) members. They may not be passed to anyone who is not a member. Said members must, of course, have electricity. Copying or uploading any EG video in any form is prohibited and cannot be sold, lent, rented, traded, or otherwise distributed. Public performance or broadcasting of these videos is not permitted. It would need to be negotiated with the BBC and other copyright holders, including any presumed heirs of Grosvenor Films Ltd's assets.

As always, you are welcome to email me (aroxburgh@ieee.org) with comments, corrections, or just to ask, "What time is it?"

4th JUL 2021: Today seemed like a good day to commemorate the passing of some giants of the Goons and Telegoons universe, all of whom became friends as I worked to document their stories. But time waits for no one, and the least I can do is mark my sadness at their passing with this small tribute to their creative and steadfast endeavors of a Goon kind:

Bill Nunn (1954-2004) will be remembered for his enthusiasm and the many hours he spent on GSPS matters. He did a stint as treasurer from January 1999 to January 2000, and helped to run the Goon Show Shop (including running a stall at GSPS event such as Bournemouth in 1995 and Brighton in 1997, also managing back issues of the GSPS newsletter and (its predecessor, Goon News) since 1982. Bill maintained a close friendship with Spike and Shelagh Milligan. I was introduced to Bill by Maxine Ventham, who told me he was the № 1 fan of The Telegoons in the GSPS, which I found to be true. Both Bill and I had been fortunate to have seen the original TV broadcasts of The Telegoons in 1963/1964, but living in New Zealand at the time I did not know of the GSPS until I managed to trade batter puddings with them about 1997. Bill's made his massive collection of Telegoons stuff available for me to study during two research visits to London, providing plenty of fodder for the initial versions of this website. In 2003 Bill told me he was under doctor's orders to take things easily. On 29 September 2004, after suffering heart failure in hospital, Bill passed away peacefully, too soon, aged 50. Bill's funeral service, which included the Ying Tong Song among other things, was reportedly unique (see GSPS NL 112). They don't make Goons and Telegoons fans like Bill any more. Long will he be missed.

Violet (Phelan) Philpott (1922-2012). As one of the principal puppeteers for The Telegoons production with 15 episodes to her credit, Violet graced our highly esteemed 2003 Egham convention (Great Grandson of a Weekend Called Fred) with her gentle presence. I fondly recall ringing her doorbell in Lissenden Gardens, London, with melting ice-creams in hand (chocolate, her favorite) on a hot July afternoon in 2003. I was introduced to Violet by Robert Whelan who, many moons ago as a young fan entranced by Violet's puppetry art, became firm friends with her during long summer holidays at the beach. One of Violet's last projects was an audio interview with Spike Milligan, which I was given to clean up and produce as an mp3 and audio CD. Violet passed away 14 December 2012, aged 90.  

Audrey (Taylor) Titcombe (1931-2010) will long be remembered for her Tat the Cat children's books (for which husband Bill drew the illustrations). However, writing was just one of her many talents. She was also known for her support of unions and especially the National Union of Mineworkers during the strikes of 1983-64. During a stint with husband Bill, running the Three Horseshoes pub in Birchinger, Essex, her generosity of spirit and benevolence came to the fore with the free lunches she provided for local pensioners. Audrey and Bill Titcombe were charming hosts during my
Telegoons research trip to Norfolk in 2000. Asking about the unusual roof timbers in the upstairs guest room in their 400 year old town house, I was told they were salvaged from Spanish Armada ships wrecked off the Norfolk coast. My gift of two videotapes of The Telegoons episodes were of great interest because neither Bill nor Audrey had ever seen the BBC's 1963-64 television transmissions. In the heartfelt obituary Bill wrote for Audrey he remembered her as an inspiration to all who knew her (see https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2010/sep/13/audrey-titcombe-obituary). 

Bill Titcombe (1939-2021) was a versatile and talented artist, illustrator, and cartoonist who worked on more than 65 franchised cartoon characters throughout his career, but is probably most famous for his artfully drawn full-color Tom and Jerry comic strips that ran on the cover of  TV Comic from 24th June 1969 (issue 810) into the 1980s. Bill's Wind in the Willows strips for Pippin were exquisite. He also created style-guides for the BBC's Teletubbies and Tweenies (used by the BBC's licensing department to define the look of cartoon characters to make it easier for other artists, such as who make tie-in merchandise, to achieve the correct look and feel of the characters). He also breathed new life into
The Telegoons, extending the show's 26-episode TV run with a popular 2-page strip in TV Comic that was notable for its varied adventures of Eccles, Neddie Seagoon, Bloodnok, and company, achieving a three-year run. Bill took great delight in showing me his art studio in his back garden, not to mention a guided tour of the Dad's Army Museum in nearby Thetford whose fame he helped spread with his memorable comic strip version of the TV series. Following retirement, Bill took up painting, mostly horses and birds. Bill died on 12 Feb 2021, aged 82. Here is a link to an obituary written by his good friend, magician Olly Day: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/12/bill-titcombe-obituary 

2nd NOV 2018: After a long hiatus, during which some of the batter puddings have grown quite cold, some long-needed revisions are in process for this website, still the only one of its kind on the Internet. Beware of imitations! May Neddie Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle, Major Dennis Bloodnok, Minnie Bannister, Henry Crun, Hercules Grytpype-Thynne, and Count Jim Moriarty, live long in our imaginations! ;-) 

Bloodnok's British Army Fusiliers uniform is now khaki! (blue was wrong; my apologies to supporters of the RAF!). Problem was I had no color reference, until I found one in the Telegoons colouring book, of all places. While not as reliable a reference as a color photograph of the puppet, this will do for now. By the way, while we're on the topic of Major Bloodnok, his three arm stripes sort of make custard out of his claim to have the rank of army major, n'est-ce pas? But Eccles is sometimes Field Marshal Eccles, so what do I know? ;-)

IMPORTANT: The link for cartoonist Hunt Emerson's website has been updated. Click on n Famous Fans, above, or you can just use this link: www.largecow.com 

1st SEPT 2007: I would like to use a little column space here to acknowledge Rowan Wiltshire. He was kind enough to write to me with some fresh biographical details about his father, Maurice. Very much appreciated, Rowan. If such things are possible, and as the major contributor to the television version of the Goons, I'm sure Maurice still gets to hang out with them, in that place where old comedians go, endlessly debating whether or not Goon humour translates to the small screen! ;-)   

1st FEB 2007: Postscript to the 9th JUL 2006 site log entry: Recently a DVD production company contacted me to say that they are in negotiations with the BBC for the right to transfer The Telegoons to DVD! This sounds like great news, but in the absence of any known whereabouts of Wendy Danielli, who just may be the last surviving shareholder in the (now defunct) Grosvenor Films Ltd., the BBC is stuck in one of its characteristic rights management quandaries. So, if anyone knows Wendy's whereabouts, please don't keep it to yourself, by dropping me a line at aroxburgh@ieee.org.

9th JUL 2006: Greetings dear visitor. Contrary to appearances over the past year, The Telegoons website has not been forgotten. Having recently completed one of the busiest periods of my life, I am once again able to contemplate ways in which the website can be improved. Over the next year I hope to be able to do far more than just keep the site log up-to-date. Indeed, I have a lot of "new" and rare Telegoons-related material that still needs to see the light of day, and which will help bolster the literary, comedic, and historical significance of The Telegoons

I wrote the following paragraph in response to an email that discussed the popularity of The Telegoons, and later realised that it might be of general interest, so here it is (in a somewhat abridged) form: 

Somewhere on the website I discuss a tragedy concerning Spike Milligan and the BBC's audience research department. Due to the fact that The Telegoons was originally aimed at an adult audience, the Beeb's audience research department polled parents, totally ignoring their children, who were the show's real audience, albeit unintended, and who were the only ones who really loved it. The BBC's programme department unfortunately presented a dismal view of the series to Spike. The fact that Spike did not find out about his audience of young Telegoons fans until he was getting too old to care what the BBC did or didn't do with his scripts, is the real tragedy of the matter. In Spike's final years, Maxine Ventham, former secretary of the Goon Show Preservation Society (GSPS) and founder of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society (PSAS) had a conversation or two with him about this. Based on Maxine's correspondence with me on this topic, clearly I'm not the only one who would have liked to have taken Spike back to that distant time and those places (the school grounds of England and the Commonwealth in 1963 and 1964) to see for himself that the Goon puppets were in fact a huge hit. In a 2004 conversation I had about this with Spike's daughter Jane, her parting words were, "We really must get The Telegoons back on television."

The Telegoons
series was simply ahead of its time. While the adult audience it was intended for ignored it, unbeknownst to the BBC, the series' former audience is now adult and is now (more than) ready for it, waiting for its second run. So please play it again, BBC. One of my goals this year is to present this perspective to the BBC, together with all of the names and comments on the BBC Telegoons petition (see green button, above).

2nd FEB 2006: Out of the blue, I heard from Telegoons assistant film editor, Jim Elderton. Jim now lives in Canada where he works as a film producer, director, and cameraman, producing his own films.

31st DEC 2005: One of the biggest news events of 2005 was the surprise revelation that three of The Telegoons string puppets are alive and well on the Isle of Wight! And now that a series of behind-the-scenes negotiations between their owner and the Goon Show Preservation Society (GSPS) have been completed (in which the GSPS wasn't able to buy the puppets), I am pleased to be able to tell you about their discovery. I said "alive and well", but the puppets are showing their age, and to be utterly frank, although still "alive" are none too "well", as the following photographs attest. These newly discovered Eccles, Bluebottle, and Minnie Bannister string puppets, like the Ned Seagoon rod puppet before them, are suffering from hardening and disintegration of the foam latex material that makes up their faces, hands and arms, etc. Fortunately they are have all of their original clothing, and Minnie's elaborate hair-do is still intact. Incredibly, she is still wearing her original pearl and gemstone necklace. Unfortunately the email address I have for the present owner of these historically important puppets is no longer valid, so if she would like to contact me confidentially at aroxburgh@ieee.org, I would like to propose that a section of this website be turned over to these puppets so that they may promote themselves to help build interest for possible future auction.

1st AUG 2005: The Telegoons website has just undergone its first big makeover in several years. All of the FAQs to do with people have now been moved to their own section. New material has been added; just look for the "NEW" tags. Perhaps the biggest news is that the petition to the BBC has collected over 1,000 signatures. I hope to submit it to the BBC and Network soon. After submission the petition will be kept going, and will again be resubmitted when it gets to over 3,000 signatures (the petition is accessible from the menu page on the site).

9th MAY 2005: Longtime Goon Show Preservation Society (GSPS) chairman Bill Horsman (who due to his profession and hobbies was a.k.a. as the Steam Count, a handle bestowed on him early on by former GSPS newsletter editor, Chris Smith) finally ran out of steam, and passed away today. Bill was well known for frequently renting The Telegoons films and presenting them to the assembled NE GSPS throng, and when the film rental company went out of business, purchasing all 26 of the films, all of them 16 mm, which were later donated to the GSPS archive. Bill will long be remembered for his wry sense of humour, and for travelling the length and longth of the country in 1999 to join the Sussex Mod in attempting to (in Goonish fashion) set the English channel on fire. He also joined them in trying to locate various Goon landmarks in southern England. More recently, Bill took part in a very entertaining "Goon Show" specially writted for the GSPS's weekend convention in Egham, July 2003. (Since attending said convention, I have a tendency to write writted, rather than written ;-).   

1st AUG 2005: One of the Goons' greatest and most ardent fans, Bill Nunn, passed away today after an extended period of ill health. Recognizing early on the importance of The Telegoons in the Goon scheme of things, Bill was instrumental in helping get this website off the ground. A Goon Show Preservation Society (GSPS) core member, he served as treasurer for many years.

6th MAR 2005: I am very pleased to announce the long-promised Goon/Telegoon map of London. To see it, just mosey on over to the FAQ section of the website, and click on "Where on earth did the Goons & Telegoons stuff take place?" The map is slightly incomplete in respect of the Albert Hall and the Houses of Parliament. These will be added once I have found a way to fit them in.

19th SEPT 2004: The GREAT Grandson of a Weekend called Fred
event in Egham, Surrey, 4th - 6th July 2003 was enjoyed by all who attended. 
Other news: After a long hiatus due to time pressure from other projects, some updates have been made to The Telegoons website. The most obvious of these is a new introductory section called "What what what what...". Although actually uploaded last May, it was incorrectly linked. This has now been corrected. My apologies if you tried to access it and found something else! 

Previous entries are here.


IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!

I need your help in locating Telegoons ephemera (old newspaper articles, magazine articles, films, toys, etc.) If you come across any such items (perhaps lagging the hot water pipes, or lining the old winter overcoat), I would be very pleased to receive them, or even a good photocopy or photograph. Anything would be greatly appreciated! I will gladly cover the cost of postage and any photocopying. Please e-mail me if you find anything that you think I might possibly find useful. All contributions will be acknowledged.  


This website would not have been possible without the
invaluable assistance I received from the following people:

Steve Arnold * Chris Smith * Nigel Knapton * Mary Royle
Robert Whelan *
Violet Philpott * Mike Fox * Bill Nunn
Richard Wheeler * Hunt Emerson * Bill Titcombe
Audrey Titcombe * Robbie James * John Heyes * Neil Trickey
Richard Stevens * Richard Parsons * Roger Langridge
Doreen Soan * Ann Perrin * David Brunt * Janet Roxburgh 
Monica Roxburgh * Maxine Ventham * Andrew Gannon
Francois Bayard * Shaqui Le Vesconte * Mike McCormick
Jim Elderton * Rowan Wiltshire * Zoe Mildare * Terry Mildare

Site designed and maintained by Alastair Roxburgh kiwi (Kiwi at large).
No batter-puddings were harmed in the making of this website.
Unattributed text Copyright 1999-2021 Alastair Roxburgh

Terms of Use:
This web site and all of the contents herein contained are protected by United States and International trademark and copyright laws. The information contained on this site is for the private enjoyment of the user and may not be copied or disseminated in any form or for any purpose without the express written consent of Alastair Roxburgh. Alastair Roxburgh and the Goon Show Preservation Society may not control the copyright of all images and sounds on this website. Infringement of copyright includes, but is not limited to, copying images or graphic elements or text or sounds for use on your own website. You are, however, granted permission to download content for personal, non-commercial use. The Terms of Use may be modified at any time and without notice.
 

 

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