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Captain Pugwash
Publication information
Publisher The Eagle, Radio Times
Publication date 1950
Main character(s) Pugwash
Creative team
Writer(s) John Ryan

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 and a traditional animation series, The Adventures of Captain Pugwash, first aired in 1998.[1]

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, and in the 1980s he 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.

The rights to Captain Pugwash were purchased by HIT Entertainment, who from 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.

A DVD containing 'ALL 30 heroic high sea adventures from the classic 70s TV series' filmed in colour (156 minutes running time) was given away with the Sunday Times on 20 January 2008.

A related book by John Ryan was Admiral Fatso Fitzpugwash, in which it is revealed that Pugwash had a medieval ancestor who was First Sea Lord, but who was terrified of water.


Captain Pugwash

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. Despite all this, he usually wins the day – either with the help of Tom the Cabin Boy or through sheer luck. Strangely enough, despite being a pirate, he is rarely seen committing any acts of piracy.

Master Mate

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, 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.

Cut Throat Jake

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

  • Jonah

This character replaced pirate Barnabas, who featured in the older 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.

This character lives at the top of the island in a mansion covered in vines. He talks very loudly 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.

  • Swine

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.

  • Stinka

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.


Captain Pugwash is renowned for his exclamations, owing something to the style of Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin:

  • "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.

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.

Television Episodes

1975 series

  • Down The Hatch
  • Cannon Ball
  • Sea Monster
  • Mouse Amidships
  • Showboat
  • Flood Tide
  • Pirate Picnic
  • Fishmeal
  • Mutiny On The Black Pig
  • The Great Bank Robbery
  • A Shot Across The Bows
  • Wedding Bells
  • Stung!
  • 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

1997 series

  • 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, which ascribes sexually suggestive names – such as Master Bates, Seaman Staines, and Roger the Cabin Boy (meaning to have sex with) – 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. [2]

In a stage show in Frome on 5 June 2009, Richard Digance claimed to have originated this urban legend in a 1970s sketch. A 25-year injunction preventing Digance making any further references to Captain Pugwash expired at the end of 2008 and the material is now part of his act.

See also


  1. ^ Pilling, Jayne (2001). 2D and Beyond. Animation. Hove: RotoVision. ISBN 28-8046-445-5.  
  2. ^ "Pugwash!". Snopes.  

External links

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