Captain Pugwash was comedy comic strip about an inept pirate that first featured in the boys’ Eagle comic in 1950.
It was taken up in 1957 by the BBC, who commissioned a series of short black and white episodes around 5 minutes long. It seemed to be on constantly throughout the 60’s, and in 1974 was revived by the BBC in colour.
Captain Pugwash became an urban legend when claimed the crew names were, well… naughty.
The origin of these naughty names probably started the Captain’s second-in-command: Master Mate. Although the name seems entirely appropriate; in retrospect it was an accident waiting to happen. With the best will in the world, when plummy voiced Captain Pugwash calls out Master Mate, it sounds so much like Master Bate you do a double take.
As the sorry, seedy, story gathered momentum… no doubt spread by sniggering schoolboys from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, Master Bates, as he was now commonly called, was joined by Seamen Staines.
The crew were rapidly gaining a reputation more suited to the much loved (by sniggering schoolboys) Rugby song ‘The Good Ship Venus’ than any Sunday afternoon TV show, squarely aimed at youngsters.
If you’ve not heard of the song; look it up. As a foretaste, the first verse (concerning the good ship’s rather unique figurehead) unsurprisingly manages to rhyme ‘Venus’ and ‘seen us’ with…
Captain Pugwash’s creator, John Ryan, successfully sued a couple of UK newspapers for printing the urban legend as fact.
The truth is:
No one ever called out to Roger the Cabin boy. His name was Tom.
It was Master Mate and there was never ever Seaman Staines.
Indeed, surprisingly for a pirate’s tale, there was no mention of seamen at all, able-bodied or otherwise.
Although, come to think of it, there was a Willy.