Captain Pugwash Creator Traumatised Before Death

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Here at Jammy Toast we have heard from the daughter of Captain Pugwash creator John Ryan and she has revealed how her father was traumatised by urban myths about rude character names that never existed. Isbael Ryan said her father’s childlike innocence was lost after student newspapers in the 1970s created malicious rumours about the supposed smutty names of the TV show’s characters. While it did feature a Master Mates and a Pirate Willy, characters like Seaman Staines, Roger the Cabin Boy and Master Bates just did not exist on board the Black Pig pirate ship. However, the myth endured for years, and even found their way into news reports.

Mr Ryan won libel damages from two newspapers in 1991 after they published stories that the BBC had taken Captain Pugwash off the air because of the risqué names.

“Those stories are completely inaccurate,” Ms Ryan told the Coventry Telegraph. “They’re urban myths that have been rubbished. My father was a very charming and innocent man. He would be the last person to make up such names. It really had a bad effect on my father for some time. These stories were entirely invented by a student rag. If you read a book or look at one of the strips, you will see that the character’s names are Tom the Cabin Boy and Pirate Barnabas.

“Yes there was a Pirate Willy, but back in those times people didn’t think that way.”

John Ryan

John Ryan

Mr Ryan’s family were forced to turn to the courts to salvage the reputation of his life’s work, which he began creating in 1950 on a shoe string budget with his wife Priscilla. Isabel said: “We had to sue the papers and the stories were retracted. He gave the money from the courts to lifeboat charities.”

Edinburgh-born Mr Ryan drew Pugwash as a comic strip for The Eagle in 1950 while an art teacher at Harrow. The BBC commissioned a series of animated shorts featuring the bumbling pirate using cut-out characters moved by hidden levers. Mr Ryan also created Mary, Mungo & Midge and was the Catholic Herald’s cartoonist for 40 years.

There were 21 Captain Pugwash books but the character is best known for the mid-1970s animated TV series. There was also a black and white cartoon in the 1950s and 60s and the character was revived for a further series in the late 1990s.

The character’s creator passed away in 2009 aged 88.

The devastation caused to Mr Ryan by the malicious rumours has a huge impact on the way his daughter looked at children’s television. She said: “It tells you a lot about human nature. It made me think that everyone has a right to laugh, but we should consider what we are laughing at. To spoil childhood innocent is a sad thing to do.”

Now a curator of her father’s work, she would like to see the historic cartoon back on our TV screens. “I got back the copyright on some of the films,” she said. “It would be great to see them again.”

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The Bearkeeper

A sad and lonely old man who used to have a life but it has now been taken over by his dedication to the cause of saving Renault Bears, running Jammy Toast and searching eBay, car boot sales, charity shops, lofts and even under beds for his beloved bears. He has even now taken in Flat Eric to save him from homelessness – his life is no longer his own!


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