Milligan sale fetches £73k

Fevered bidding at Bonhams

An auction of Spike Milligan memorabilia has fetched £73,000, with some items goings for thousands more than expected.

A collection of handwritten notices that Milligan used to leave around his house, including ones reading ‘no smoking, we are trying to give up lung cancer’ and ‘Sorry for being me – I don’t know how to be anything else’, sold for £4,200. Before the sale, auction house Bohnams estimated the lot would fetch no more than £500.

The most expensive item was a collection of seven Christmas cards that ex-Beatle George Harrison sent to Milligan, which sold for £7,200. Meanwhile, a handwritten poem that Sir Paul McCartney wrote for Milligan, The Poet of Dumbswoman Lane, sold for £6,000.

A copy of the book The Primal Scream by Arthur Janov went for £3,500, as it was inscribed with a message from John Lennon saying: ‘Dear Spike, we saw your TV thing – it was very REAL. I think this book might “turn you on” as they say. Lots of love, John + Yoko’.

But Milligan’s copy of Bill Wyman’s biography Stone Alone, signed by the Rolling Stone, fetched just £20.

An archive of Milligan's wartime diaries sold for £5,000 and 40 of the original Goon Show recordings on quarter-inch tape made £1,560.

Although bidding on much of the memorabilia was lively, Milligan’s furniture fared less well. His grand piano for £400, against an estimate of £2,000 to £3,000.

Bonhams spokeswoman Michelle Gonsalves told the BBC: ‘It was a very different set of people in the auction room today and it was absolutely jam-packed.

‘I couldn't get through the door. Some of the lots were very fiercely battled between phone bidders and people in the room.’

The comic's widow Shelagh put the items up for sale because she is moving house, saying: ‘I just don't have the space in my new house to put everything. And the alternative is that I carry on paying these huge storage bills and everything just sits there rotting away.’

But the move reopened old family rifts, after four of Milligan's children said they were ‘deeply distressed’ they had not been consulted over the auction.

After negotiations, Shelagh agreed to withdraw 17 of the 100 lots from the sale.

Published: 26 Nov 2008

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