It's Talk Like A Pirate Day, so we're on the trail of our favourite pirates.  Our Lolloping Landlubber of a correspondent remembers the heady days of Watch With Mother.  Yes, she's that old.  And she remembers the great Captain Pugwash and his dirty pirates scandal.

Those of us of a “certain age”  had no Captain Jack Sparrow, no Johnny Depp.  We got our fix of pirates from the great Captain Pugwash.  My sister fancied Tom the Cabin Boy, and why not, he was the most intelligent member of the crew.   On the other hand, always one for the bad boys, I was very fond of Cut-throat Jake.  We had the books.  And then came the TV series.  All good clean fun.

Well I’ll be scuppered

Then along came the dirty version.  Some time during the 1980s it became common knowledge that the characters had rather suggestive names.  People kept telling me that the cabin boy was called Roger (the Cabin Boy).  They were convinced – and convincing – that there were other double entendres too.  Mater Bates and Seaman Staines.  But I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the cabin boy was Tom.  On account of our kid fancying him.  Where had all this come from?

Kipper me capstans

In turns out that the rumours stemmed from joke articles in a student rag in the 1970s.  They’d made them up.  Somehow the articles turned into urban myth.  And the urban myth turned into “truth”.  Broadsheet and tabloid newspapers printed the story.  They told of how the BBC had taken Captain Pugwash off the air because of the risqué names.  The lovable pirates had been smeared!

No good will come of this, mark my words

Author of Pugwash, John Ryan won libel damages from the newspapers.  His daughter has since revealed that he was traumatised by the myths.  He had written innocent children’s books, and they’d been turned smutty. (1)

The Guardian printed a retraction:

“… we stated that the Captain Pugwash cartoon series featured characters called Seaman Staines and Master Bates, and for that reason the series had never been repeated by the BBC.  We accept that it is untrue that there wever were any such characters.  Further more the series continues to be shown on television … We apologize to Mr Ryan ….  We have agreed to pay him damages and his legal costs.” (2)

If only they’d bothered to ask their kids, it would have saved them a shed load of cash.  And  saved Mr Ryan years of heartache.

Blistering barnacles!

If you’re feeling a bit disappointed by this, you’ll be glad to know there was a Pirate Willy.  And a Master Mate, which in a certain light could be quite dirty. But you can still watch it with impunity.

(1) The Mirror online

(2) Snopes.com

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