Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Begorrah - 'tis time for the Oirish.

Apparently there have been formal complaints about Ant and Dec mentioning Irish stereotypes on one of their recent Saturday night programmes. I've seen a clip of the offending item and, oh dear, if the complainants found that offensive, what would they make of Spike Milligan's entries in the Irish Stereotype Competition? I offer as evidence two items from his Q series (possibly the funniest programmes ever shown on UK television) - the Irish Astronaut and Irish O'lympic sketches. Hooray for non-PC times and a double, nay treble, nay quadruple, hooray for Spike.

The irony, for those who did not know, was that Spike was an Irish citizen which came about in a typically Milliganesque fashion. In 1962, the British Government refused to renew Spike's passport because they did not consider him a British citizen. They told him he could apply for citizenship, but this required swearing an oath to the Queen, which Spike refused to do. By this stage, Prince Charles was one of Spike's biggest and probably most famous fan. Prince Charles even sent him a letter saying, ‘Come on, you know, I had to swear allegiance to the Queen and it's not that painful for God's sake' and Spike wrote back and said, ‘Well, it's okay for you, she's your mum'."
So Spike set out in search of a country that would have him as citizen without him having to grovel. Spike really felt he deserved British citizenship unconditionally, after serving for six years in the British Army during WW2. When it became apparent they wouldn't make it that easy, he went to the Irish Embassy and said, "Can I be Irish?". Spike's brother Desmond Milligan recalled that the Irish Ambassador, Eamon Kelly, spoke to Spike personally and said, "Oh, you're that bloke on the telly. Of course you can become an Irish citizen. We're terribly short of people". A bottle of whisky and the passport followed.

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