The Dreaded Lurgy?

SPEAKING recently to jazz impresario, Diana Allen, I learn that she has been suffering from “the dreaded lurgy” for the past three weeks, (hopefully now fully free of the effects).

We ruminated over the origin of this strange medical term.

Spike Milligan

According to the website WORLD WIDE WORDS the dreaded lurgi (so written in the script) struck Britain almost sixty years ago on 9 November 1954, in the seventh programme of the fifth series of The Goon Show. This anarchic and surreal radio comedy series starred Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe; it was written by Spike Milligan, between bouts of depression, though on this occasion Eric Sykes (who shared an office with him at the time) did most of the work.

The plot, such as it was, dealt with an outbreak of a previously unknown disease. It was solemnly announced in the House of Commons that “Lurgi is the most dreadful malady known to mankind. In six weeks it could swamp the whole of the British Isles.” Of course, there was no epidemic — it was a fraud perpetrated by those arch-criminals, Count Jim “Thighs” Moriarty and the Honourable Hercules Grytpype-Thynne (trading as Messrs Goosey and Bawkes, a barely-disguised reference to the music publisher Boosey and Hawkes) who put it about that nobody who played a brass-band instrument had ever been known to catch lurgi: this resulted in their disposing profitably of vast amounts of their merchandise.

2 responses to “The Dreaded Lurgy?

  1. Well, how fascinating Jane, I didn’t know the history of the dreaded lurgi, only know what it feels like not to be able to get rid of it once you succumb. I have to tell you in fact, that it nearly wiped out a large part of the Melbourne jazz scene as we acquired it on Lord Howe Island and at least twenty of us finished up with it including Jo Stevenson and his family. Now if he can’t throw it off, what chance do the rest of us have? However the show went on in spite of his difficulties which carried over to the Noosa Jazz Festival after Lord Howe Island.
    We are all now slowly recovering I’m pleased to say and also pleased to hear that you are also. Every good wish, Diana

  2. Diana is not the only lurgied person – as I personally have had it for a month,(however, now much better, thanks!) and I know of at least two others who have suffered for upwards of 6 weeks. (One drummer and one guitar player.)
    Obviously a kazoo doesn’t count as a brass instrument or I would have escaped the dreadedness.
    I met Spike Milligan once when he was in Melbourne (in the 70’s) and played the dreaded kazoo in his presence, which he appreciated highly. Alas, I cannot divulge the rest of that tale as it may incriminate me …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *