Captain Pugwash

Captain Pugwash

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Captain Horatio Pugwash was a classic 70’s British children’s television show about the exploits of a pirate captain and his crew. Created by author John Ryan, the character was first introduced in a comic strip in 1950 and gained widespread popularity over the years. The television series ran from 1957 to 1967 in Black and White, before being re-released in colour in 1974-1975 with a brand new series of episodes. In 1998 it was again remade, but this time using “traditional” animation techniques.

Origins of the Character

The origins of Captain Pugwash can be traced back series of British children’s comic strips and books created by John Ryan. The character’s adventures were first published in 1950 in the first issue of “Eagle,” a popular British comic for children.

A series was then commissioned by the BBC and debuted on the BBC in 1957, using a distinctive form of animation created by John Ryan known as “cardboard cut-out” animation. This distinctive style was also used on another classic of his: Mary, Mungo and Midge.Theme Tune **

Theme Tune

The iconic theme tune is known as the “Trumpet Hornpipe,” played on an accordion in the style of a sea shanty and instantly brings to mind images of pirates and seafaring adventures.

The “Trumpet Hornpipe” itself has been a part of English traditional music for many years. It is often played on the concertina or melodeon (types of accordions), fiddle, and other traditional instruments. The origin of its name is unclear, but it’s speculated that it might be derived from an older dance form known as a hornpipe, which was popular in the British Isles. Sailors often performed this dance and it had a lively, rhythmic quality, much like the tune itself.

Animation Style

One if the things I remember most about Captain Pugwash was its unique and simple animation style. The original series that ran from the 1950s to the 1970s used a form of animation known as “cardboard cut-out” animation.

This technique involved using flat cut-out shapes, in this case, drawn characters and elements, which were laid out on a flat surface and moved manually or with simple machines. Incredibly, using this technique, the early series was filmed and broadcast in real time.

The artwork was primarily in black and white (the original series was broadcast in black and white), with the characters, ships, and settings all composed of simple, bold, yet expressive lines. This lent the series a particular charm and a distinctly old-fashioned comic strip aesthetic akin to a moving storybook.

Each character and element was separate and was moved in real-time in front of the camera. The scenes would change by moving the pieces, altering their arrangement, or replacing them with others. This animation style is quite labour-intensive, requiring a lot of careful manual work. However, it also offers a certain charm and tactile quality not found in more advanced types of animation.

The characters themselves were very exaggerated and cartoony in design. Captain Pugwash, for example, was portrayed with a large, round belly, a huge black beard, and a big pirate hat, while other characters also had their own distinctive, exaggerated features. This all added to the series’ light-hearted, humorous tone.

Making Captain Pugwash

Urban Myths

However, the show was not without its controversies, with some naming controversies and double entendres surrounding the character names and various catchphrases used throughout the show.

Smutty Character Names

Perhaps the most persistent myth surrounding the show was that the characters had smutty names such as Seaman Staines, Master Bates, and Roger the Cabin Boy (although One-eyed Willy was actually in The Goonies). These rumours allegedly originated from student newspapers in the 1970s and 80s and have been perpetuated by various media outlets and internet forums over the years. However, these names never appeared in the original TV series, and the show’s creator, John Ryan, vehemently denied their existence.

Despite this, the urban myths surrounding the show greatly impacted its creator, John Ryan, who was traumatised by false allegations and malicious rumours. He felt that these smears caused significant damage to his reputation and portrayed him as someone with no respect for childlike innocence.

Captain Pugwash rude episode in which all the smutt is gleefully added back in.

Slang Meaning of “Pugwash”

Despite its innocent and adventurous nature, the show’s name has been muddled in controversy due to its association with a slang term in Australia.

The term “Pugwash” in Australia is a slang term for a form of oral sex. It is unlikely that the show’s creator, John Ryan, was aware of this slang meaning when he named the character, but it has undoubtedly led to misconceptions about the nature and character of the show.

It is important to note that the slang meaning of “Pugwash” is limited to Australia and is not widely known in other parts of the world. However, it has undoubtedly affected the show’s perception in some circles and caused unnecessary controversy.


The series revolves around the adventures of Captain Horatio Pugwash and his loyal crew of pirates aboard the Black Pig. The main characters include Tom the Cabin Boy, Willy, Barnabas, and Master Mate. The Black Pig is a symbol of power, sailing the high seas and constantly searching for adventure.

The show’s plot revolves around Captain Pugwash and his crew navigating the treacherous seas while avoiding Cut-Throat Jake and other dangers. They encounter angry ghosts, navigate botany bays, and overcome obstacles threatening their existence.

The crew’s main adversary was Cut-Throat Jake, Captain Pugwash’s arch-enemy. Jake was a ruthless pirate who would stop at nothing to steal the treasure and defeat his sworn enemy. However, despite Jake’s best efforts, Captain Pugwash always managed to outsmart him and save the day.

Despite the show’s portrayal of pirates, it has always maintained a certain level of childlike innocence and never showed any violence. It was a show with heart, humour, and swashbuckling adventure.

Classic Quotes

One of the most famous catchphrases from the show was spoken by none other than Captain Pugwash himself. “Blistering Barnacles” was his go-to exclamation when something exciting or unexpected happened. Other favourites include:

“Suffering seagulls!”

“Kipper me capstans!”

“Dithering dogfish!”

“Scuttling cuttlefish!”

“Stuttering starfish!”

Another memorable line from the show came from Master Mate, the first mate of the Black Pig. Whenever the captain made a particularly foolish decision, Master Mate would often exclaim, “You can’t do that, Captain, it’s against the rules!” This line became so popular that it has been referenced in various forms in other media over the years, cementing its place in television history.

Pirates Barnabas and Willy also had their fair share of memorable lines throughout the series. Barnabas was known to say “Oh, Arrr!” whenever the crew encountered a difficult challenge, whereas Willy’s catchphrase was “Shiver me timbers!” whenever something particularly surprising happened.


The first episode – Down the Hatch

Episode 20 – Pirate of the Year

Cast and Characters

Captain Pugwash: The titular captain of the Black Pig was a bumbling, often clueless and accident-prone always dressed in his distinctive outfit, including a hat with a skull and crossbones. Despite his faults, he was a beloved and endearing character whose childlike innocence endeared him to viewers.

Tom the Cabin Boy: Tom was the young cabin boy of the Black Pig and proved to be a reliable, clever companion to Captain Pugwash. He was the level-headed character, in contrast to the often-absent captain.

Barnabas: Barnabas was the ship’s cook, and his love for food was only matched by his fear of danger. He was a loyal member of the crew and a crowd favourite.

Wilfred: Wilfred was the brainy one in the crew, and his intelligence always came in handy when the pirates got into trouble.

Master Mate: Master Mate was the first mate of the Black Pig, and his job was to keep the crew in line and ensure the ship ran smoothly. As the sensible one, he was often called upon to help the captain out of a jam.

Cut-Throat Jake: Cut-Throat Jake was the crew’s mortal enemy and a fierce enemy of the Black Pig. He was always trying to steal Captain Pugwash’s treasure and was the show’s resident villain.

Episodes 1974-1975

Despite there being much earlier original series, for me the prime nostalgia resides in the 1974-1975 series. It aired for 30 episodes from 1974-1975, and below are the 30 episode titlese.

Episode No.Title
1Down The Hatch
2Cannon Ball
3Monster Ahoy
4Mouse Amidships
6Flood Tide
7Pirate Picnic
9Mutiny on the Black Pig
10The Great Bank Robber
11A Shot Across The Bows
12Wedding Bells
14The Golden Trail
15Diamonds on Ice
16Birthday Cake
17Witches Brew
18Six Foot Deep
19Riddle of the Rubies
20Pirate of the Year
21Easy Money
22The Plank
23A Fair Exchange
24Voyage of Discovery
25Smugglers Cove
26The Flying Buccaneer
27Island of the Dodos
28Caught in the Act
29A Tell Tale Tail
30Off With His Head
Episode List Series 1974-1975

Where Can I Watch it?

Captain Pugwash is not that available on streaming platforms in the UK. You can find episodes on YouTube, and of course you can buy the Complete Series on DVD on Amazon.