Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 12:56 UK

Pugwash creator Ryan dies aged 88

Captain Pugwash and Tom the Cabin Boy
Pugwash's crewmates on the Black Pig included Tom the Cabin Boy

Cartoonist John Ryan, creator of the Captain Pugwash TV series, has died in hospital in Rye, East Sussex, aged 88.

The BBC commissioned the first series in 1957 after spotting potential in Ryan's books about the tales of Pugwash and his nemesis Cut Throat Jake.

His agent, Jane Gregory, said there was "a huge amount of love" for the childish pirate and his shipmates, who included Tom the Cabin Boy and Willy.

Mr Ryan is survived by his wife and three children.

Grandparents bought them for their parents and their parents are now buying them for their kids
John Ryan's agent Jane Gregory on the Pugwash books

Captain Horatio Pugwash was created in 1950 while Ryan was an art teacher at Harrow School, shortly after he got married to fellow artist Priscilla.

It was published, in the same year, in the first edition of the Eagle comic.

A book deal followed, before it was adapted for TV by the BBC in 1957, with black-and-white episodes being made until 1967.

Colour episodes were shown on the BBC in a mid-1970s revival.

Ms Gregory told BBC News he was "always enthusiastic, always charming".

"A lot of the character of Captain Pugwash was John, which is probably why we loved him as much.

"He was an absolute gentleman."

Captain Pugwash creator John Ryan
I had to make some money having got married, being a sort of artist, and I think he represented something which is in all of us, which is cowardice and greed
John Ryan speaking in 1998

Ryan had continued to write books until the 1990s, publishing more than 20.

Ms Gregory added: "They're all now republished and they're hugely successful - partly because all the parents and, indeed, grandparents now, remember the delight of Captain Pugwash.

"Grandparents bought them for their parents and their parents are now buying them for their kids."

Speaking to BBC News in 1998 - when the character was brought back to life for a series of cartoons for ITV - Ryan said Pugwash was born out of necessity.

"I had to make some money having got married, being a sort of artist, and I think he represented something which is in all of us, which is cowardice and greed."

'Visual chronicle'

Simple sets and home-made puppetry gave the original BBC series its distinctive look.

Levers were used to provide movement on flat cardboard characters, they were largely controlled by members of Ryan's family.

The earliest episodes were recorded live without editing, and with all the voices being provided by actor Peter Hawkins.

Ryan's daughter Isabel, also speaking in 1998, said: "We had a lot of fun with pieces of coloured card, Indian ink, Copydex glue, staples, pins, putting things together and cutting things out and sharpening pencils - genuinely feeling as though we were part of the whole process."

Ryan also enjoyed success in the late 60s and early 70s with Mary, Mungo and Midge, and The Adventures of Sir Prancelot - both also for the BBC.

He was also a cartoonist for more than 40 years for The Catholic Herald newspaper.

Editor Luke Coppen said Ryan had "created a hilarious visual chronicle of the post-Vatican II Church".

"No other Catholic cartoonist, it is safe to say, depicted the period with such consistent wit and insight. He will be greatly missed," he added.



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