John Ryan, writer and illustrator, and creator of the popular children's character Captain Pugwash
died, aged 88, last Friday.
Ryan's most famous creation, the eponymous, bumbling, pirate and his equally inept crew (with the exception of the ever resourceful cabin-boy) were a staple of British children's television in the 50s and 60s, and even returned to UK screens for a brief revival in the late 90s. But it is for a quite different reason that most people will remember the series. Sometime in the 1970s, when the TV program had been off-air for nearly a decade, the urban rumour started that the characters had all been given double-entendre
names. Pugwash's crew, it was claimed, had included characters called "Master Bates", "Seaman Staines" and "Roger the cabin-boy". In reality, the crew of The Black Pig
, Pugwash's ship, were Master Mate, Barnabas and Willy, along with the cabin-boy, Tom. The legend became so well accepted that it was carelessly repeated as fact by both the Sunday Correspondent
newspapers, leading Ryan to sue, successfully, both papers for libel in 1991 (Obituary - Guardian
The animation style used in Pugwash
, as well as his other programs, Mary, Mungo and Midge
, and Sir Prancelot
, was unusual in that it was not done using stop-frame photography but by making articulated paper figures that could be moved like puppets in real-time.