Monday, March 03, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Captain Pugwash Double Entendres


In his 1992 book The Golden Age of Children's Television, Geoff Tibballs mentioned that some of the names in the BBC cartoon Captain Pugwash were a little rude. It was hardly a controversial claim. When I was a student, everyone I knew joked about the nautical double entendres that went over their heads when they were kids.

Little did Tibballs realise that his casual reference would nearly result in the book being pulped within weeks of publication.

Apparently the creator of Pugwash, John Ryan, got wind of Tibballs' anecdote and took great offence. It was, he claimed, completely untrue that there were any sexual innuendos in Captain Pugwash and Ryan was outraged that these rumours were given credence by appearing in print. Ryan decided to take matters further. Legal action was threatened and Titan Books were faced with the prospect of having to withdraw the book and pulp it.

Fortunately a compromise was reached (albeit a rather silly one) and stickers were sent out to every bookshop in the land accompanied by a letter asking for them to be placed in every copy. I kept a spare one and have treasured it ever since!


So apparently we were all wrong. There were no rude names in Captain Pugwash and the rumour must have been an urban myth. How disappointing.

I forgot all about this story until yesterday, when I decided to watch a DVD of Pugwash that came free with a newspaper a few weeks ago. After the opening credits had finished, Captain Pugwash appeared on the ship's deck and started issuing orders to a character called Master Bates.

Master Bates?

I pressed rewind just to make sure that I wasn't mis-hearing it.

So was Ryan fibbing when he denied the innuendo, or did he and the crew responsible for Captain Pugwash fail to spot the obvious unfortunate connotations? I know that it was a more innocent age, but even so...

I watched the remaining episodes, desperately hoping that the mythical Seaman Stains would appear, but sadly he didn't exist.

POST SCRIPT - I have informed by more than one source that it is Master Mates, not Bates (although it sounds suspiciously like Bates), so I stand corrected. However, I forgot to mention that one of the other characters was called Pirate Willy, so as far as I'm concerned the jury's still out!

17 comments:

John Self said...

This is the sort of thing we normally turn to Snopes for, but I don't think it deals in UK-only urban myths. I did manage to persuade a relative recently though that a Munchkin didn't hang himself on the set of The Wizard of Oz however, and also put right two friends who told me about the terrible incident in (two different) local shopping centres, where a child had been abducted and found in the toilets with her hair shaved off and changed into boys' clothes. Generally, if it sounds too wild to be true, it is.

Master Bates though? Seriously?

John Self said...

Hey, whaddya know, Snopes does cover it! They say there's no Master Bates either (so careful before Mr Ryan's libel lawyers are onto you), it's Master Mate. They have an audio clip where Pugwash says, "I certainly did, Master Mate," and frankly it does sound a bit ambiguous.

Steerforth said...

One urban myth actually happened to me and it was very frustrating to be met with complete incredulity every time I related the appalling incident. The police were useless and friends generally unsympathetic.

It was only when the first book about urban myths was published that I discovered why my story failed to elicit a sympathetic response.

John Self said...

Ah, the old icy-bath-kidney-extraction eh? My commiserations.

Sara said...

Oh you can't leave it at that, surely?
I admire John Self's restraint enormously, but I have to ask...which urban myth? What happened to you?

Steerforth said...

I collected some photos from Boots and amongst the various snapshots was a picture of someone's genitals taken from above. Then I recognised my carpet...

There is an urban myth about a couple picking up their honeymoon snaps and finding a picture of two men with the couple's toothbrushes up their arses.

As far as I know my toothbrushes weren't abused, but it was a pretty disturbing incident. The police were useless.

In hindsight, I think it had something to do with the very dodgy Moroccan drug dealers who lived upstairs, but that's another story.

Sara said...

Oh blimey...that is so, so, so, so creepy. Ugh!

But a good anecdote...I'll bet it's a real winner at dinner parties ;)

qtipquip said...

I don't care if the official name of the character is Master Mates. When I've heard it, it's definitely Master BATES. Tell me--WHY name a character Master Mates when it so closely resembles and can be mistaken for Master Bates?? Of course the guy's not going to admit it--his name would be ruined. But he was definitely chuckling to himself and he was definitely taking the piss.

Anonymous said...

Did he not also have a character
Roger the cabin-boy

Nuttybott said...

qtipquip said...
"I don't care if the official name of the character is Master Mates. When I've heard it, it's definitely Master BATES."
No it isn't...the character's name is Master MATE, not Mates (as in the first mate on a ship). That is quite clear when you listen to it...I suspect you are hearing what you WANT to hear, rather than what is actually there.

Anonymous said...
"Did he not also have a character
Roger the cabin-boy"
No, he didn't. The cabin boy's name was Tom, not Roger.

Anonymous said...

I used to watch Captain Pugwash 40 years ago in the land of cold (Scotland) We have just recently purchased a DVD of the same for my grand kids and I used to think it was Master Bates also but it is Master Mate

pirate pete said...

So there was no 'Roger-the-cabin boy' then... shame.

Anonymous said...

Funny read peoples, the whole text comments and all certainly made me smile (Shame bout your toothbrushes mate)

witteringjohn said...

Master Bates, Master Mates, Master Mate? Surely the answer to this question is in archive copies of The Eagle comic. where Captain Pugwash first appeared in print. I was reading The Eagle regularly in the early 1950s, and definitely remember it being Master Bates, although I was too young and innocent to think anything of it at the time.

Brett Gavin said...

Seaman stains-Semen Stains?

Anonymous said...

When I were a lad in the early 1960's I remember my father getting in early from work one evening and sitting down to watch Captain Pugwash with me and my brother. For some rearson, within minutes, he was rolling on the floor laughing and repeating the leading charecters names. We just could not understand what was so funny.

Anonymous said...

After reading the comments and wondering what all the fuss was about. I decided to agree that people hear what they want to hear and Master Bates was probably misheard . That was until I found out, hot on the heals of reading these comments that there is Captain Pugwash DVD out called "Sticky Moments" , nearly bust a gut !