The Starlings

First broadcast on August 31, 1954

Script by Spike Milligan
Produced by Peter Eton
Announced by Wallace Greenslade
Orchestra conducted by Wally Stott


Andrew Timothy:

Ladies and gentlemen, we present radio programme in English. From time to time actors will be heard. The author has fled the country

ORCHESTRA:

DRAMATIC THEME, STILL PLAYING AS ANDREW SPEAKS

Andrew:

1954. A world overshadowed with doubts, fears, uncertainty. Of Indo-China, the Suez, Cyprus, East and West German strife, the H-Bomb explosion, and yet to come the unbelievable power of the cobalt bomb (music ends). But our own governors are not unaware of these dangers. At this moment the House of Commons are debating serious matters.

Harry:

(old politician) Starlings, they're ruining St, Martin's!

Peter:

(old politician) There are far too many starlings in Trafalgar Square!

Harry:

Err, here, here.

Spike:

(old politician) We must get rid of these disgusting creatures!

Peter:

Well said

Harry:

Yes, here here

Henry:

Yes, get rid of them

Minnie:

What?

Henry:

Well said

Harry:

Yes, yes, get rid of them

Henry:

(talking over Minnie) Get rid of them

Harry:

Yes

Minnie:

Here, let's all have some tea

Everyone:

Cheers and applause (carry on in background while Andrew speaks)

Andrew:

Yes, Parliament was aroused. On the terrace of the House of Commons during the tea break back-benchers gave voice to their feelings

GRAMS:

LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY SUNG BY CROWDS FOLLOWED BY APPLAUSE AND CHEERS

Andrew:

The inventive genius of the country was called upon and for three years the starlings were attacked with a series of frightening devices

Peter:

Stuffed owls

Harry:

Wriggling rubber snakes

Spike:

High frequency sound beams

Peter:

(woman's voice) Little round things that went "knick, knick, knick"

Major:

Rice puddings fired from catapults

Andrew:

A recording of a female starling in trouble

Peter:

A recording of a female s>

Transfer interrupted!

Spike:

Trained cats

Major:

Rice puddings fired from catapults, mark 2

Harry:

Flashing lights and Chinese crackers

Spike:

(grand voice) Large things dropped from a great height, and vice-a- versa

Major:

Failing that, rice puddings fired from catapults

Andrew:

For some inexplicable reason all these devices failed. The starlings remained.

Peter:

(undertaker voice) The inventors were filled with remorse, and in sack cloth they marched the streets

GRAMS:

FOOTSTEPS MARCHING SLOWLY TO A DRUMBEAT

ORCHESTRA:

DESPAIR MUSIC (CAST SOBS BEHIND)

Andrew:

At the same time at the Ministry of Grit, Filth and Exportable Heads, the Secretary, Mr Ned Bladok was handed a vital bird statistic

FX:

PAPER BEING RUSTLED

Neddy:

Are you sure this figure is correct?

Throat (Spike):

Yes

Neddy:

Have you had it checked?

Throat:

Yes

Neddy:

You mean there are 30 million starlings roosting in Trafalgar Square?

Throat:

Yes

Neddy:

Thank you, Miss Perch

Throat:

Right

Neddy:

(to himself) 30 million starlings! Hm, Mr. Thin!

FX:

FOOTSTEPS RUNNING TOWARDS MICROPHONE

Thin (Peter):

(before arriving, during sound effect) Yes sir! Yes sir! Coming Sir! Ahh! (arrives) Did you so much as call me, sir?

Neddy:

Ah yes, Mr. Thin. Call a meeting of all the people we keep especially for meetings.

ORCHESTRA:

TRUMPET FANFARE

Neddy:

(loud voice) Gentlemen, I have called this meeting, to declare war on the starlings in London

GRAMS:

AUDIENCE RESPONSE AS TO HITLER'S SPEECHES

Neddy:

Thank you. The question is, how to get rid of them?

Major:

What about rice puddings fired from catapults?

Neddy:

No, no, no, no. We've had that.

Major:

Have we?

Neddy:

Yes

Major:

Oh. I say, look here, I remember a fashion out during the first world war for lasting peace. I remember after a heavy artillery barrage there were no signs of birds for months after.

Neddy:

I don't think that is at all relevant

Major:

If we could draw up 200 regiments of artillery, in Trafalgar Square, and let off a non-stop barrage for a month I am sure that -

Neddy:

(interrupting) No, no, no, Major. Wait a moment

Major:

What?

Neddy:

You've given me an idea.

Major:

I have?

Neddy:

Yes

Major:

Ugh!

Neddy:

Look, it all boils down to making a noise.

Major:

A noise

Neddy:

Just a noise

Major:

Yes, yes

Neddy:

Now, if we can get volunteers just to kick up a noise then -

Major:

Gad! You're right! Ah perfect! I'll ask Field Marshall Clinical Foot to let us have 3 brigades of guards at Trafalgar Square at dawn on Monday.

GRAMS:

SOLDIERS MARCHING AND COMMANDERS SHOUTING OUT ORDERS

Major:

What a magnificent sight! Aughhhh!

Andrew:

Good morning, err, Major Bloodnok?

Major:

The same

Andrew:

I'm Mr. Cringing-Nut, of the Morning Flight.

Major:

Oh yes, you're one of the observers aren't you?

Andrew:

That's right, sir

Major:

Yes, yes, yes. Well I'll tell you briefly what's happening. The whole of the square mile of Trafalgar Square has been cautioned off

Andrew:

Is it now a curfew area?

Major:

Yes. Only curfews our allowed in. All these squads marching in here are to kick up a din and in so doing you see they drive the starlings away.

Andrew:

What does the noise making equipment consist of?

Major:

Sergeant Steinbacker!

Harry:

Sir!

Major:

Explain the noise equipment to this gentleman, would you?

Harry:

Yes sir! Four men entering this area are headed with the following items: Iron bath tub with beater, football rattles, whistles, tin cans, dustbin lids, gas stoves filled with iron bolts, bagpipes, dinner gongs, kettle drums, thunder sheets, and other various noise making gear, for the uses of.

Andrew:

Thank you.

Major:

Ah, I see I see that Lance-Colonel Sockclencher is going to address the men now.

Peter:

(speaking into megaphone) Men! At ease chaps! Now, I'm going to put you in the picture. In a short time we will be commencing the noise for the uses of. So lets have a little practice first. Yes? Right. Now first, let's hear from the dustbin lids.

FX:

DUSTBIN LIDS BEING BANGED TOGETHER

Peter:

Well done. Thank you. Yes, thank you. Now, whistles and rattles.

FX:

WHISTLES AND RATTLES

Peter:

Good show, whistlers and rattlers. Thank you, that's enough. I know you all like music so there'll be time enough for that in a few moments. So now, take your positions, and according to our information the starlings are due in ten seconds from now. So let's have complete silence.

Andrew:

Gad Carruthers! Action at last!

Peter:

Yes, well, it had to come.

GRAMS:

SEVERAL SECONDS OF SILENCE FOLLOWED BY STARLINGS ARRIVING FLAPPING WINGS AND WHISTLING

Peter:

(on megaphone) Right men, noise commence!

FX:

DUSTBIN LIDS, WHISTLES AND RATTLES

Andrew:

(speaking over quietened noise) Diary of Operation Cacophony

Harry:

March the second, third week of operation. Starlings undisturbed. But two thirds of guard brigade stone deaf.

Spike:

April the first. Still no effect on starling. All rather annoying, really!

Peter:

December the first, very cold. Noise makers were augmented by the bagpipes of the Highland Brigade. Starlings still undisturbed. Population of London dropped 10,000 over night.

GRAMS:

BAGPIPES JOIN THE REST OF THE NOISE

Andrew:

December the 3rd. Deep snow. Starlings sleeping peacefully. Noise continues. Field Marshall Plunch sends the brigade a Christmas greeting. He receives in return a Christmas Pudding, with a rather disturbing message, and then -

ORCHESTRA:

DRAMATIC CHORDS AND TUNE

Andrew:

February the thirty-second. All troops withdrawn. Operation Cacophony abandoned.

Peter:

A military disaster! Those responsible were clad in sack cloth and once more walked the streets

GRAMS:

FOOTSTEPS MARCHING SLOWLY TO A DRUMBEAT

ORCHESTRA:

DESPAIR MUSIC (CAST SOBS BEHIND)

Everyone:

shouting angrily, Neddy trying to keep order

Neddy:

I admit that Operation Cacophony cost 160,000 and was a complete and utter failure. But these little mistakes will happen!

Peter:

(old politician) You made a muck of it!

Spike:

Bravo!

Neddy:

Honourable members, it was not an absolute failure. I mean, that is to say, though the starlings wee not removed from Trafalgar Square, they were...err well rearranged!

Minnie:

Rubbish! Rubbish!

Major:

You should have used rice puddings fired from catapults!

Neddy:

Nonsense!

Andrew:

I suggest the honourable member applies for the Chiltern Hundred

Neddy:

I refuse to get in that queue. In any case, I have already taken steps to ensure that the starlings are removed from London

Spike:

Lies!

Neddy :

I have, this day, inserted an advertisement in the paper asking for suggestions that will rid us of this pest

Peter:

(old politician) Well, we'll give you one more chance. Now then, lads, who's in for a quick round of pontoon?

Everyone:

applauds and shouts out encouragement (fades out)

FX:

TYPING BEING DONE VERY SLOWLY

Neddy:

Good morning, Miss Perch. Working late again?

Throat:

Yes

Neddy:

Good girl. Any replies to the advert in the papers?

Throat:

Yes, this bloke here's been waiting for you

Neddy:

Oh! Ha-Ha

Bluebottle:

Yes! He-he! I have been waiting to speak to you. Mr. Clum-Thrut- Knid-Sproo-Theckran-Bludge-Spratatan

Neddy:

Mr. Bladok's the name

Bluebottle:

Yes that's it. I knew it was something like Clum-Thrut-Knid-Sproo

Neddy:

Please, please. Well, will you come in please?

Bluebottle:

Thank you

FX:

DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS

Neddy:

Now, Mr., umm

Bluebottle:

Umm, my name is, um, Jim Bluebottle Tiger-Nuts. It is an unusual name.

Neddy:

Yes, I suppose it is. (polite cough) Still, a rose by any other name, you know

Bluebottle:

No, I do not know any Roses by any other names.

Neddy:

Ha-ha-ha (polite cough). Err, cigarette?

Bluebottle:

I do not smoke. Too expensive.

Neddy:

It's no expense to the Ministry. I could have you one rolled within the hour

Bluebottle:

No thank you.

Neddy:

Right, now to business. What is your invention?

Bluebottle:

It is an artificial explodable bird-lime

Neddy:

What a fascinating start. Continue

Bluebottle:

Thank you. Well, I have managed to compound a mixture that looks exactly like bird-lime. Now then, this bird-lime can be put down anywhere where there are starlings

Neddy:

(in acknowledgement) Um-hum

Bluebottle:

Then, simply by pressing a remote control button, all those little blobs of bird-lime can be exploded

Neddy:

Good Heavens!

Bluebottle:

Yes. It is all done by sound waves

Neddy:

You really mean it would drive the starlings away?

Bluebottle:

Yes.

Neddy:

Gad! What a saviour he is! Here, have an OBE

Bluebottle:

Oh, ta!

Neddy:

In England's darkest hour one always appears. First Cromwell, then Fred Clute, and now you. Now, Mr. Tiger-Nuts, do you have the formula for this artificial exploding bird-lime?

Bluebottle:

Yes, I have

Neddy:

Good. Let me have it and I'll get the Woolwich Arsenal to make it up

Bluebottle:

Here

Neddy:

This little invention of yours will save the day (fade out)

GRAMS:

(FADED IN) CAULDRONS BUBBLING

Neddy:

(speaking over Grams) Well, gentlemen of the press, there it is. 40,000 liquid tonnes of artificial explodable bird-lime

Andrew:

Wonderful! Absolutely marvellous!

Neddy:

Not too close, gentlemen, ah-ah, mind you don't fall in

Spike:

Ah, terribly sorry

Peter:

(old politician) It looks like the real thing

Neddy:

Well, it has to. These starlings must not suspect for a moment, Mr. Fairfax. After all, they know the real thing.

Peter:

Of course, of course

Andrew:

When will it be ready?

Neddy:

Well, the head of the department tells me the mixture will take 10 days to cool

Spike:

That's not bad at all

Neddy:

No. Then it is to be given artificial colouring and forced into tubes ready for squirting on to the buildings

Spike:

Oh, brilliant!

Neddy:

All in all, about 2 weeks, I should say. By then the inaugurating ceremony will be ready

Andrew:

What inauguration ceremony?

Neddy:

My dear sir, exploding of the artificial bird-lime recussetates the pressing of a button. And it is common law that all cutting of tapes and pressing of buttons must be carried out with due ceremony -

Peter and Spike:

Of course, of course

Neddy:

- As it will be in this case

Andrew:

Can I quote you on that?

Neddy:

You can quote me as saying it, but no more

Andrew:

What will be the date of the ceremony?

Neddy:

Err, 3 weeks from now. The BBC are covering the occasion

Andrew:

They would (voices and Grams fade out)

Andrew (maybe Peter):

This is London. And now it's time for our special outside broadcast from Trafalgar Square. Today the great experiment Operation Explodable Bird-Li - err, Bird Mixture - is about to commence. For the first part of our broadcast let us go over to Brian Ginstone

GRAMS:

CROWD ATMOSPHERE

Ginstone:

(Andrew, speaking over noise): Hello listeners, Brian Ginstone here, and I'm speaking from the roof of St. Martin's, the roof of St. Martin's, where for the past week workmen have been spreading the artificial explodable bird mixture, so to tell us a little about it, let's have a word with the foreman. Pardon me sir

Peter:

(old working class voice) Ey?

Ginstone:

I'm from the BBC

Peter:

I'll punch you in the flipping ear 'ole

Ginstone:

(laughs politely) Well, I wonder sir, if you'd like to say a few words to the listeners

Peter:

Don't they get enough chat from you lot?

Ginstone:

(laughs politely) Tell me, how long have you been putting the mixture round the ledges of this building?

Peter:

Oh, err, about 10 days, on and off

Ginstone:

What do you mean, "On and Off"?

Peter:

Well, some of us keep falling off

Ginstone:

(laughs politely) What jolly fun

Peter:

Yes

Ginstone:

Now tell us, you've been working on this job for 10 days on and off, what do you think of the idea and its chances?

Peter:

Well, you know, I -

Ginstone:

Err, Thank you. Now, as the workmen take down the last of the scaffolding, I see that the ceremony in the square below us is about to begin, so over to Richard Dimbleby (fade out)

GRAMS:

CROWD ATMOSPHERE (CONTINUED THROUGHOUT)

Peter:

(impression of Richard Dimbleby, speaking over crowds) Here, in the Great Square of Trafalgar, which, as we all know, takes its name from the great underground railway that runs directly beneath its ancient flagstones, here all is in readiness for the great explodable bird mixture inauguration. To my right rises the great wooden old platform from which this solemn ceremony will be perfumed. The entire Square is a great mass of banners, banners from the great Society of Pest Control, all waiting to see the result of this experiment.

FX:

SIREN ADDED TO CROWD ATMOSPHERE

Peter:

(over FX) Yes, there goes the great siren, telling us that all the workmen are clear of the buildings (Siren stops). That is to say St. Martin's, the National Gallery, Africa House, and all the other buildings that have been treated with this wonderful explodable bird mixture.

GRAMS:

SOLDIERS MARCHING AND SHOUTING COMMANDER IN BACKGROUND ADDED TO CROWD ATMOSPHERE

Peter:

Now then, to my right, up the right side of the square, I can see the bright, scarlet and pink tulips of the Royal College of Heralds, as they march majestically up to the base of the great platform. (Soldiers Grams stop) They are, of course, looking to sound the traditional fanfare Tedium Vitae which will announce the arrival of Duchess Winifred Boiledusspudswell, the well-known human being.

GRAMS:

HORSES AND CHARIOTS JOIN CROWD ATMOSPHERE

Peter:

And as I speak, I see the Third Battalion of the First Regal Household Cavalry, so-called as every member is a householder, and yes, there they go, their great white hooves, swords, snorting at the reign, and fie, and lifting the dust as they pass the base of Nelson's great Column, that column so nobly erected here in 1672 to commemorate Lord Nelson's victory at Balaclava, over the combined Egyptian and Turkish cavalry

GRAMS:

CROWD ATMOSPHERE STARTS CHEERING

Peter:

And those cheers are for the leader of the Household Troop as he dips the Union Jack, the national flag of the union of Jack

ORCHESTRA:

TRUMPET FANFARE

Peter:

That great fanfare announces the arrival of the great television coach bearing the Duchess by arrangement with Richard Winnick and Mark Loodman

GRAMS:

COMMANDER SHOUTS "PRESENT ARMS" FOLLOWED BY SOUNDS OF PRESENTING THE ARMS

Peter:

The Guard of the Tender Plumage Haddackurs presents arms and we all stand to attention for the anthem of the great Bird Pest Control

ORCHESTRA:

ANTHEM OF THE GREAT BIRD PEST CONTROL

Peter:

What a lovely tune that is from the pen of the marcher of the Archer Street roles, and now, yes, now, here comes the Duchess Boiledusspudswell followed by the venerable City Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Mothers-In-Laws and all the great traditional hangers-on. Now the Duchess approaches the great charcoal and bulsar staircase that leads up to the rostrum and at the same time leads down again. She mounts the great steps, her great cape of Northern Weevil scrabbling across the ancient planks of the high Grantfordloo

ORCHESTRA:

TRUMPET FANFARE

Peter:

And with that the Herald sounds the Turk Voluntary, the Voluntary so well beloved by the Swahili dust-group of Westminster. And now she reaches the great gold and bronze microphone to make her declaration. But first the master of the rolls and leather goods pledges his allegiance, also the quanti-denorum, so let us listen to it

GRAMS:

SPEECH BEING MADE ON MICROPHONE. BREAKING UP EVERY FEW WORDS

Peter:

He appears to be having trouble with the great microphone of state, the same great microphone used in 1672, hand beaten and foot slapped in gold and silver surmounted by two Burmese Cherubs and fashioned by the great sculptor Ben Venuto Selinae and his brother Fred. Oh and now I see the great engineer of state with the great state screwdriver adjusting the mace screws on the great microphone.

Spike:

(on microphone blows a few time) Hello....testing, testing...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 testing.....yes it's all right now

Peter:

(master of the rolls, on microphone) My lords, ladies and gentlepong. Pray silence for the Duchess Boiledusspudswell, Deme of the Empire, and at the present appearing in a television "That's your lot", "Where's your bond?", "What's up now?", "Who's your dad?", "Why have you come?" and other edifying panel games. She appears by permission of the makers of Footo, the wonder boot exploder

Peter:

(Dimbleby impression) With that great dignified ringing across the great square, she steps up to the great microphone

Peter:

(Duchess on microphone, sounds like Queen) Ladies and Gentlemen. It is with "-" pleasure that I have come "-" today to give my "-"

Spike:

(blows into microphone a few times) Hello, hello, testing, 1, 2, 3, 4, yes it's all right now

Peter:

Ladies and Gentlemen. It is my privilege and pruvilege to name this experiment Operation Explodable Bird Mixture, and may all who stand on it perish.

Peter:

(Dimbleby) She steps forward to press the great button. She presses it. And so for the final result over to Brian Ginstone on top of the National Gallery

GRAMS:

MILD EXPLOSIONS CONTINUOUS THROUGHOUT SPEECH

Ginstone:

(Andrew) And all around the corners of St. Martin's the bird mixture is exploding and the starlings are being driven away and I -

GRAMS:

GIANT EXPLOSION, CROWD CHEERS SCREAMS

Ginstone:

Oh dear, I don't quite know what happened

FX:

FIRE ENGINE BELL RINGING, SCREAMS CONTINUE, FADES OUT

Everyone:

(fades in) shouts and boos in House of Commons

Peter:

(Old politician, almost Churchill) Lads, lads, lads. Please, lads. Quiet now. Let us have a fair hearing. And now, Mr. Bladok.

Neddy:

Mr. Prime Minister, Honourable Members. I fear that the explodable bird-lime was a might too powerful, but fear not, St. Martin's will be rebuilt

Andrew:

But the starlings will only roost in it again

Neddy:

Well, if they do, we'll blow it up again. Naturally we would rebuild again, but if the starlings still persist in roosting there we'll have no compulsion but to blow it up yet again. We'll see who gets tired first

Minnie:

But think of the expense

Neddy:

No fears there. I have it on good authority that our financial position is far in excess of the starlings

Minnie:

Hurrah!

Neddy:

Yes, in any case, I have a new invention to deal with the pests

Peter:

What?

Neddy:

Rice puddings fired from catapults

FX:

CATAPULT RUBBER RELEASED HITTING SOMETHING THAT SOUNDS METALLIC

Neddy:

Oooh!

Andrew:

Good shot

Peter:

Right, lads, how about a nice cup of tea?

Everyone:

Here, here plus cheers and applause (fades out)

GRAMS:

STARLING TWITTER DURING ANNOUNCEMENTS

Andrew:

That was "The Starlings", that was, by Spike Milligan. All parts were played by Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan. Other pests were played by the starlings themselves. Technical production by Harry Green and Barry Wilson. I am the announcer, Andrew Timothy is the name, and I am asked to say that any resemblance to a Goon Show is due to the laxity of the producer Peter Eton. (Starlings fade out)