Goon Milligan's friend and inspiration dies at 74...
"Gunner" Harry Edgington, a close mate of the great British
comedian Spike Milligan - and the inspiration behind the Goon Sliow's
most famous song - has died in Wellington, aged 74.
The song originated when Goon Harry (now Sir Harry) Secombe
incorrectly referred to Milligan's friend as Edgerton.
Milligan corrected him: It's' "Edgington, Edgington" and then
emphasised the point by saying "Yington, yington." Secombe ended the
sentence with a "tiddl,e- i-po" and so the nonsense song ``Ying Tong
Tiddle-i-Po'' was born.
Edgington met Milligan when they were conscripted in 1940 into
the 56th Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery, at Bexhill-on-Sea.
In his book, ``Adolf Hitler - My Part in His Downfall'', Milligan
wrote: "I soon contacted the jazz addicts. I wa introd uced to 6ft
2in s dreamy-eyed Gunner Harry Edgington. A Londoner, he was an
extraordinary man, with moral scruples that would have pleased Jesus.
"It was the start of a lifelong friendship. Harry played the
piano. Self-taught. He delighted me with some tunes he had composed.
He couldn't read music and favoured two keys, F sharp and C sharp,
both keys the terror of the jazz man.
"He was game for a jam any time. And of course start to hum any
tune and Harry would be in with the harmony, and spot on. It helped
life a lot to have him around."
The four-piece band they formed became Milligan's first step into
They served at Bexhill until they were posted to North Africa in
1943. After being demobbed in 1946, Edgington went back to his' trade
as a photo-engraver but kept in,touch with Milligan. He would
occasionally visit at weekends and read over Gooti Sitow scripts and
Edgington migrated to New Zealand with his family in 1963. He
saw new technology was destroying Ins trade in Britain and thought
ttiat by ipoving to New Zealand therb would be a better chance of
finishing his working life in the trade he knew.
But he was also depresse England and the bleak winters wliere, as
he saw it, he lived in a cell, went to work on the Underground and
then worked all day in a cell. Iii winter the only chance of seeing
the sun was at the weekend.
In Wellington he worked for the _Evening Post_ and the
_Dominion_, but ultimately the new technology caught up with him when
he was made redundant at the age oi 61.
He was a stong utiion man and served for five years as Wellington
branch president of the Photo-Engravers Union and two years as
On'ational president in the early 1980S. He joined the Wellington
Jazz Club. Attempts to get a professional band going never succeeded
but lie continued to compose.
Edgington, who is survived,by Ilis wife, a son and a daughter,
kept in contact with Milligan and his other former Army colleagues
throughout his life.
He went back to Britain twice, once to appear on Spike Milligan's
``This is Your Life'', and Milligan visited him several times in New
In a newspaper death notice yesterday, Milligan paid tribute to
Edgington. The death notice reads:
I would like to say a few words on the above-mentioned person who
died recently. fle was my lifelobg frieno, having met in the war in
the year 1940. He was a composer and pianist an'd I was a trumpet
player and between us we formed a jazz quartet.
"We played on numerous occasions, from Battery concerts to those
in the desert lit bv lorry lamps. He was a superb composer and many
of our iiuiiibers in the band had been composed by him. He was that
very good thing, a sensitive friend. He played no small part in
writing the Goon Silows in the early days, including my novel
"He continued to play jazz right up to the end in jazz groups
which played at the Wellington Jazz Club. He was a great influence in
my life both musically and literally and his going will be a sad one
for me" --- Spike Milligan.
<picture of Spike Milligan>