For history buffs: what is being said during this Goon Show cannon loading scene...?

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by Helen Back, Aug 10, 2016.

  1. This is a question about a line in The Goon Show. In this scene, Harry Secombe's character is supervising the loading of a bombardon / cannon.

    You'll hear Secombe say "Right. Put a case of liquorish powder down the barrel!

    To which Valentine Dyall's character replies something like "Three nonet" or "Ring danet", I can't make it out. Was there something that cannon loaders always used to have to cry out to signify loading? Can anyone discern what Dyall says?

    This link will take you to the lines in question:
    DaveCinzano likes this.
  2. Hocus Eye.

    Hocus Eye. Snap, crop, scrap crap R.I.P.

    It sounds more like "been done it". Trying to follow the details of script of The Goon Show is a surefire way to achieve madness.
    likesfish likes this.
  3. I don't think it's that although again, it sounds something like that. By the way, the fan transcripts on various sites are where I got the "Three nonet" from. I've Googled "cannon loading procedures" and got nowhere.
  4. Cid

    Cid 慢慢走

    It's a line from Queen's Under Pressure isn't it?
  5. Throbbing Angel

    Throbbing Angel Gabba Gabba-pentin

  6. Sprocket.

    Sprocket. Fishing in the River of Life....

    Possibly something used by gunnery crews, Milligan was from a long line of military forebears and he served in the Royal Artillery in WW2.
    Anything is possible.
    coley and Spymaster like this.
  7. Yes, I've seen that but those transcripts were done by various fans simply listening to the shows and writing down what they think they hear, hence the (sic) after "Three nonet".

    What we need is an honest to goodness military historian or someone with a copy of Milligan's actual script. :)
  8. Ponyutd

    Ponyutd Greebo likes this....r.i.p.

    Radio 4 runs the goon show on Sundays. The Burning Embassy was last week. They were posting water to put the fire out.
    Someone said the fire will be out by the time the water gets there.
    Milligan "I'll try and keep it going till it gets here."
  9. bluescreen

    bluescreen Je est un autre

    I have it on good authority that it's "We've done it!"
  10. I don't know, to me it doesn't sound like "we've done it" either. Close, though. Out of interest, what is your good authority?
  11. bluescreen

    bluescreen Je est un autre

    Old person who used to listen to the Goons, that's all. He said it was obvious.
  12. bluescreen

    bluescreen Je est un autre

    I wondered if it was an anagram of tonne, because wordplay. But not, because them times were pre-metric.
  13. Hmmm, ok. Possible then. Thank you for asking him and thank him for me, too.
    bluescreen likes this.
  14. Sirena

    Sirena Don't monkey with the buzzsaw

  15. coley

    coley Well-Known Member

  16. Sirena

    Sirena Don't monkey with the buzzsaw

    I've got a friend who's in a cannon crew (I think she might actually be in charge of loading....). She might know.

    She does re-enactments.......
    Ponyutd and coley like this.
  17. Ponyutd

    Ponyutd Greebo likes this....r.i.p.

    "TAke and lay it on a board, and put a coale unto it, if it raise an azure scum, it is yet greasie, if it leaves pearles it is yet earthly: but if it burne into the board, and leave nothing but a blacke colour, and rise with a long flamed ventosity and exhalation, it is well refined."

    At least I won't be deceived when I go to but my salt peter now.
    What an interesting book! Thanks Sirena
    instape and Sirena like this.
  18. I've had a look at the sections dealing with loading but there's nothing there that would indicate what Dyall might be saying.
  19. That would be great if you could ask her, thanks! :)
  20. Sirena

    Sirena Don't monkey with the buzzsaw

    She has replied thusly....

    "soo, I listened to it.

    Their gun loading routine is not like a medieval one, where you put your coarse black powder in loose with a scoop (and estimate the amount you need), then the wadding to make it airproof, then (in theory) the cannonball on top, ram it all down, add a bit of fine Black Powder via the touch hole at the back and then fire via there with a linstock fuse (smouldering piece of string held on the end of a stick with a grip). If we try to do ours as quickly as possible, we do it with three people, one puts the powder in the scoop, the second puts the scoop down the barrel, then, one stuffs in wadding, the other rams it down, and a third stands behind the cannon and holds his thumb on the touch hole, so the powder isn't blown out again by the impact!

    The fuse is held and the cannon fired by the fourth, who shouts "have a care" so the audience knows it's going to get loud very soon [​IMG] of course we have to step back on the side of the cannon's wheels first, as the powder is quite powerful and I've seen a cannon jump a foot and more off the ground when being fired with excess powder. (and the barrel alone of our large cannon weighs 16 stone, just for weight comparisons)

    The army, where things rely on speed, do it all a bit quicker:

    A Napoleonic or later style cannon has the powder ready packed in a wrap of paper, which is then pierced when it's in the barrel, and via the touch hole, you add more fine powder to fire.
    A Napoleonic gun crew is usually made out of five people (following pinched from Wikipedia):
    During the Napoleonic Wars, a British gun team consisted of 5 numbered gunners - fewer crew than needed in the previous century. The No.1 was the gun commander, and a sergeant, who aimed the gun. The No.2 was the "spongeman" who cleaned the bore with the sponge dampened with water between shots; the intention being to quench any remaining embers before a fresh charge was introduced. The No.3, the loader, inserted the bag of powder and then the projectile. The No.2 then used a rammer, or the sponge reversed, to drive it in. At the same time, the No.4 ("ventsman") pressed his thumb on the vent hole to prevent a draught that might fan a flame. The charge loaded, the No.4 pricked the bagged charge through the vent hole and filled the vent with powder. At the No.1's command the No.5 would fire the piece with his slowmatch

    And then I found this: how to fire a cannon American Civil War style. The positions where the crew stand are slightly differently numbered: images are here - Cannon fire demonstration

    And the person who holds his thumb over the touch hole is nr 3. So, what the other guy says is something in the direction of "Three, thumb it", i.e nr 1 at the front is ready to ram, and Three has to make sure no powder escapes via the touch hole, and no flying sparks can get in and ignite too early, killing the loaders in the process.

    Btw, a bombard is a huge siege cannon with a barrel bore of about the size of a football. Theirs is made out of leather, which you couldn't fire anyway. Liquorice powder is used as a medical help for coughs, by the way.... and constipation.

    I have the sneaky suspicion this is a riff on something completely different, just as the sergeant major saying "hands off your socks" earlier and meaning something else entirely, all hail rhyming slang [​IMG]
  21. Wow, what a fantastic answer! Thank you, Sirena, and your friend! I don't think we can get any closer than this. This confirms the first word is "Three" but it still sounds like the first consonant of word two is "D" rather than "Th...". The third word sounds like "it".

    Incidentally, I know one line from a Goon Show is a very trivial matter to be investing so much time, effort and brain power in but it's actually been quite an interesting exercise. I've learned a lot from this. And yes, I was aware of the meaning of the "socks" comment, having read Milligan's war books. ;-) As I listen through more of the Goon Show as a relaxer between doing units of an OU module I'm looking forward to spotting more references to his army days that I didn't get when I first listened to them about 10 years ago.

    Sirena, you are a star and thank your friend very much for me. That answer was certainly above and beyond.
  22. two sheds

    two sheds Least noticed poster 2007

    You take that back :mad:

    It's all intensely sane, just not always in appropriate situations.
    coley likes this.
  23. DaveCinzano



    purves grundy, two sheds and Sirena like this.
  24. I contacted the Goon Show Preservation Society and the actual words in the script are... (drum roll)...

    Ray: It's been done, mate.

    Now if Ray Ellington (one of the two musicians who play in the musical interludes in the show) had played that part I think it would have been said a lot more slowly and clearly than when Valentine Dyall did it.

    Phew! I'm done with this and ready to move on with my life! Thanks everyone! :)
  25. two sheds

    two sheds Least noticed poster 2007

    I was going to ask whether there were any surviving episodes of the Telegoons because I remember a couple from yearsnyears ago but last time I checked there was nothing but

    And there are filmed versions of the goons (The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn - 1956).

  26. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model Starry Wisdom

    surely 'licorice' or 'liquorice'
  27. I can't stand the filthy stuff so I don't care how it's spelt. Spelled. Spel... oh!
    dylanredefined likes this.
  28. Sirena

    Sirena Don't monkey with the buzzsaw

    I'm quite proud of my spelling ability and I would have put the -ish ending too. :facepalm:

    And just in the spirit of random, pointless scholasticism....

    Online Etymology Dictionary
    petee likes this.
  29. IanOfDoom

    IanOfDoom New Member

    Not sure if I should make a new topic, but it seems this might a good place to start.

    I remember a goon show (quite sure it was a goon show) replay on the radio in my youth, but i cannot find any reference to what I remember with googling.
    The episode detailed the story of a prince who would be king. he had an older brother, tom thumb, who at 29 cm tall was to short to be a ruler.
    while trying to find a bride, he gets kidnapped by the green witch (who can be tracked from the green witch observatory).
    One of his potential brides, prickly pear, goes on a quest to rescue him.
    So, does anyone know which episode this is? The radio rebroadcast was in the late eighties in johannesburg, south africa.
  30. bluescreen

    bluescreen Je est un autre

    Hi IanOfDoom One of those details doesn't fit: Britain wasn't metric when the Goon Show was broadcast so that measurement would have been in inches. Not that this helps much. :confused:

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