It’s hard to beat the glamour of pirates. True, the reality might be fairly grim, but there’s something about the idea of lawless men on the high seas with untold miles of blue water between them and civilisation that captures the imagination.
Then there’s the treasure, looted from other ships by warriors boarding them with cutlasses between their teeth, or dug from the ground where it was buried and found once more with a somewhat unlikely map.
So, which swashbuckling outlaw have I been reminded of today? The heroic Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean? Or perhaps the darker, peg-legged villain of Treasure Island, Long John Silver?
No, silly. Captain Pugwash.
John Ryan’s popular creation is a classic piece of British humour with the not particularly villainous Captain leading his crew on the Black Pig round the seas in search of loot, but lacking a little in the brain and spine departments to manage it.
Indeed Pugwash would have been sunk long ago, especially when facing his more cunning and dastardly archenemy Cut-throat Jake, were it not for his young and modest but razor-sharp cabin boy Tom.
The original comic strip adventures were adapted into a TV series, using cardboard cut-outs filmed in live-action called simply Captain Pugwash, first shown on the BBC in the 1950s. A more traditional animation series, The Adventures of Captain Pugwash followed in 1998.
We’ve recently acquired three wonderful sketches by John Ryan which will evoke fond memories for anyone lucky enough to have grown up with the Captain: One mounted sketch of Captain Pugwash himself, and another of Pugwash in particularly fine condition with a third showing his face with that of Cabin Boy Tom and another Ryan character Harris Tweed.
Oh, and for the last time! There are no names with sexual innuendo in the stories! (Unless you count crewman Willy, of course.) Ryan sued and won over the idea that he’d slip ‘seaman’ puns into a children’s book. It brought him more ‘pieces of eight’ than the Black Pig’s crew could have dreamed of…