“I don’t mind dying as long as I am not around when it happens.”
The words above were one of Spike Milligan’s ‘off the cuff ‘ answers. He also claimed he wanted to outlive Harry Secombe as he didn’t want him singing at his funeral.
Friends and relations of the comedian crowded into St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Watchbell Street for a private service, conducted by Father David, to say goodbye to the man who has been at the forefront of British off-beat comedy since the fifties when he was part of the famous Goon Show team that captivated an enormous audience on Radio. His work rate throughout his lifetime was prolific. Besides his multitude of Radio and Television appearances he appeared in films and wrote several books including “Hitler – My part in his Downfall” which became a classic read for all of his many followers and fans.
Spike Milligan’s roots were in Ireland and an Irish flag draped his coffin, a wreath in the form of an Irish flag was among the many other tributes including one in the shape of a Rugby Ball. Spike was Vice-President of Rye Rugby Club.
A wreath of white roses from the Prince of Wales carried a personal handwritten message. Spike Milligan had been a favourite of Prince Charles since the Goon Show days.
Since moving to Rye at the beginning of the Eighties Spike has been a part of the Rye scene. He was a prime mover, along with Paul and Linda McCartney in the campaign to save Rye Memorial Hospital and took part in the original protest walk. In recent years he had taken part in local activities as far as his health allowed. Besides taking an active interest in Rye Rugby Club, he was persuaded by the Bonfire Boys to become Rye Fawkes. He kept his promise and rode on the famous Sedan Chair down through the Landgate and lit the bonfire in 1997, despite being ill at the time. His comment that it would have been better to have firemen of the same height carrying the chair caused great amusement at the Fire Station.
Spike Milligan was laid to rest at St. Thomas’ Church Winchelsea.
From the April 2002 Issue of “Rye’s Own”