Captain Pugwash, from the title sequence of the 1974–75 series
|Publisher||The Eagle, Radio Times|
Captain Pugwash is a fictional pirate in a series of British children's comic strips and books created by John Ryan. The character's adventures were adapted into a TV series, using cardboard cut-outs filmed in live-action (the first series was performed and broadcast live), also called Captain Pugwash, first shown on the BBC in 1957, a later colour series, first shown in 1974–75, and a traditional animation series, The Adventures of Captain Pugwash, first aired in 1998.
The eponymous hero – Captain Horatio Pugwash – sails the high seas in his ship called the Black Pig, ably assisted by cabin boy Tom, pirates Willy and Barnabas, and Master Mate. His mortal enemy is Cut-Throat Jake, captain of the Flying Dustman.
Captain Horatio Pugwash made his debut in a comic-strip format in the first issue of The Eagle in 1950, then appeared regularly as a strip in Radio Times. In 1957 the BBC commissioned a series of short cartoon films produced by Gordon Murray. Ryan produced a total of 86 five-minute-long episodes for the BBC, shot in black-and-white film, but later transferring to colour. Ryan used a real-time technique of animation in which cardboard cutouts of the characters were laid on painted backgrounds and moved with levers. The characters' voices were provided by Peter Hawkins. The last series of Pugwash shorts by Ryan was produced in 1975.
Although there are many anachronisms in the series, the book The Battle of Bunkum Bay gives some useful clues as to the era in which the stories are set. In this book, the King of Great Britain strongly resembles George I and the King of France resembles Louis XIV, suggesting that this story took place in 1714–15. However, one of the few direct references to a date is in the original TV series is the episode 'Pirate of the Year' where Pugwash enters the "Pirate of the Year contest 1775"
A number of spin-off books were written by John Ryan, who in the 1980s drew three new Pugwash comic-strip storybooks: The Secret of the San Fiasco, The Battle of Bunkum Bay and The Quest for the Golden Handshake.
Prior to the 1974–1975 series, the first generation of Captain Pugwash episodes were filmed in black and white and were first shown on British TV, between 1957–1966. These early episodes, numbering a total of 87 episodes, with the producers using the production codes of CP001 to CP087. These earlier episodes are in addition to the later 30 episodes, from the second generation of the series, which was produced in colour, between 16 September 1974 and 11 July 1975. Captain Pugwash also sold overseas, to various TV stations, including Australia's ABC Television. There the show was screened during weekday afternoons, in the 1970s and '80s.
The rights to Captain Pugwash were purchased by HIT Entertainment, who since 1997 have issued a number of digital and part computer-animated cartoon films based on the Pugwash character, set on the island of "Montebuffo", "somewhere in the Spanish Main". Peter Hawkins did not provide the voices, HIT Entertainment instead employing character actor James Saxon.
The pompous but likeable captain of the Black Pig. Although he boasts of being the "bravest buccaneer", he is actually quite cowardly and stupid. His greed often gets him into trouble. Nevertheless he usually wins the day – either with the help of Tom the Cabin Boy or by sheer luck. Despite being a pirate, he is rarely seen committing any acts of piracy.
A somewhat dopey character, who has a tendency to use malapropisms and to mispronounce common words. He has a teddy bear in his bunk and is quite mild-mannered. It is not entirely clear why he is the mate, as he does not appear to have any authority over the rest of the crew. He was present in the first ever Pugwash story, in which he was depicted as being constantly sleepy.
The most aggressive of the pirates, but in reality just as harmless. He is quite rebellious and grumpy, and is perhaps marginally more intelligent than Willy, the Mate or the Captain. He was not present in the 1997 series.
A simple sailor from Wigan. He appears to be the youngest crew member (apart from Tom). He is a gentle soul, and is against using violence. He does, however, have the occasional brainwave and has been the crew's saviour (admittedly sometimes more by luck than by design). "Just you wait till we get back to Wigan – we won't half have a 'tail' to tell!"
Tom the Cabin Boy
It might be argued that without Tom, Pugwash would have been sunk long ago. He is the most intelligent and resourceful member of the crew, the only one who can cook and the only one who can actually sail a ship. Although Pugwash would never admit it, Tom's ability to think up schemes is probably the only thing that prevents him from being a total failure as a pirate. Tom is an expert concertina player, despite this being a 19th-century anachronism for an 18th-century pirate, and part of his repertoire is The Trumpet Hornpipe (the Captain Pugwash theme).
He was portrayed with a Home Counties accent in the first television adaptation, and with an Irish accent in the 1997 series.
Captain Pugwash's fearsome arch-enemy, captain of the Flying Dustman (a pun on the Flying Dutchman combined with a reference to the occupation of dustman). When he is not scheming to bring about Pugwash's downfall, he is a rather more competent pirate than his enemy, and always seems to have plenty of treasure. He speaks with a stereotypical West Country accent, and is easily recognisable by his eye patch and enormous black beard.
Characters added in the later series
This character replaced pirate Barnabas, who featured in the earlier series. His catchphrase is "No good will come of this, mark my words!" Jonah appears to be of a Jamaican origin. He is the tallest of the crew as he often hits his head on the ceiling of the ship's lower deck. He is also one of the strongest of the crew as he serves as the Black Pig's carpenter.
- Governor of Portobello
This character lives at the top of the island in a mansion covered in vines. He talks very quietly and his head of guard, Lt. Scratchwood, usually acts as a megaphone. He is deeply in love with Donna Bonanza and attends to her every need.
- Maggie Lafayette
This pirate queen appeared in the second series when she hijacked the captain's ship to escape from the authorities.
An Australian pirate who works for Jake. He almost always has a mug of grog in his hand. This character appeared in the original series, but never spoke, nor was he named.
A Mexican who works for Jake who speaks little English. He repeats everything that Jake says, annoying him greatly. Again, this character was an unnamed, unspeaking character in the earlier series.
- Lieutenant Scratchwood
The voice for the governor and the law for the town of Portobello. In charge of the guard and collecting taxes, he also spends his time chasing thieves.
- "Dolloping doubloons/dolphins!"
- "Coddling catfish!"
- "Lolloping landlubbers!"
- "Suffering seagulls!"
- "Staggering stalactites!"
- "Nautical nitwits!"
- "Plundering porpoises!"
- "Kipper me capstans!"
- "Tottering turtles!"
- "Dithering dogfish!"
- "Scuttling cuttlefish!"
- "Stuttering starfish!"
- "Blistering barnacles!"
Cut-Throat Jake has occasionally been known to utter the similar exclamation, "Scupper me skull-and-crossbones!"
The series had a memorable signature tune The Trumpet Hornpipe which was played by accordionist Tom Edmundson and arranged by Philip Lane. He had learned the tune from Jimmy Shand. The tune appears to have been popular from the mid-19th century, but its composer and country of origin are unknown. In the United States it is known as the Thunder Hornpipe. Other background music was provided by BBC music arranger and pianist Johnny Pearson.
Captain Pugwash books
- Captain Pugwash: A Pirate Story (1957)
- Pugwash Aloft (1960)
- Pugwash and the Ghost Ship (1962)
- Pugwash in the Pacific (1963)
- Pugwash and the Sea Monster (1976)
- Captain Pugwash and the Ruby (1976)
- Captain Pugwash and the Treasure Chest (1976)
- Captain Pugwash and the New Ship (1976)
- Captain Pugwash and the Elephant (1976)
- The Captain Pugwash Cartoon Book (1977)
- Pugwash and the Buried Treasure (1980)
- Pugwash the Smuggler (1982)
- Captain Pugwash and the Fancy Dress Party (1982)
- Captain Pugwash and the Mutiny (1982)
- Pugwash and the Wreckers (1984)
- Pugwash and the Midnight Feast (1984)
- The Battle of Bunkum Bay (1985)
- The Quest of the Golden Handshake (1985)
- The Secret of the San Fiasco (1985)
- Captain Pugwash and the Pigwig (1991)
- Captain Pugwash and the Huge Reward (1991)
- The books were 32 pages each, alternating two pages full colour and two pages black, blue and white, by Puffin Books.
- Down The Hatch
- Cannon Ball
- Monster Ahoy
- Mouse Amidships
- Flood Tide
- Pirate Picnic
- Mutiny On The Black Pig
- The Great Bank Robbery
- A Shot Across The Bows
- Wedding Bells
- The Golden Trail
- Diamonds On Ice
- Birthday Cake
- Witches Brew
- Six Foot Deep
- Riddle Of The Rubies
- Pirate Of The Year
- Easy Money
- The Plank
- A Fair Exchange
- Voyage Of Discovery
- Smugglers Cove
- The Flying Buccaneer
- Island Of The Dodos
- Caught In The Act
- A Tell Tale Tail
- Off With His Head
- The Stowaway Sheep
- The Portobello Plague
- The Doubledealing Duchess
- The Emperor's New Clothes
- The Boat Race
- The Dingly Dangly Crab
- Chest Of Drawers
- The Vanishing Ship
- Hot Chocolate
- The Fat Cat
- The Pandemonium Parrot
- The Brush With Art
- A Hair-Raising Day
- Fiddle De Diamonds
- The Melodious Mermaid
- The Titanic Teapot
- The New Cabin Boy
- Treasure Trail
- Peppercorn Pistols
- Sticky Moments
- Muddling Monsters
- The Megamango Monkeys
- King Pugwash
- The Devil's Dog
- Perfumes Of Arabia
- The Admiral's Fireworks
Libel case regarding double entendres
There is a persistent urban legend, repeated by the now defunct UK newspaper the Sunday Correspondent, that ascribes sexually suggestive names – such as Master Bates, Seaman Staines, and Roger (meaning "have sex with") the Cabin Boy – to Captain Pugwash's characters, and indicating that the captain's name was a slang Australian term for oral sex. John Ryan successfully sued both the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian newspapers in 1991 for printing this legend as fact. The origin of this myth is likely due to student rag mags from the 1970s.
- Pugwash website by HIT Entertainment
- Captain Pugwash (1957) at the Internet Movie Database
- The Adventures of Captain Pugwash at the Internet Movie Database
- Captain Pugwash Interactive Storybook
- Toonhound Captain Pugwash page
- Captain Pugwash at Nostalgia Central
- Captain Pugwash at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012.