Captain Pugwash sails in to Tall Ships Regatta

Captain Pugwash and Tommy Edmondson. Picture by John Ryan estate.
Captain Pugwash and Tommy Edmondson. Picture by John Ryan estate.
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A Northumberland musician whose tune became the theme to the Captain Pugwash TV series is to be remembered at the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta Blyth 2016.

Accordionist Tommy Edmondson’s version of The Trumpet Hornpipe, a traditional folk tune, was recorded at his home in Harbottle in 1954 when Peter Kennedy, a BBC music archivist who was touring the country in search of folk music, visited him.

Tommy was out chopping wood in the garden when Mr Kennedy and his wife arrived at the farmhouse and Tommy offered to play some tunes.

As the house had no mains electricity, the recording equipment had to be powered by Mr Kennedy’s car in the farmyard and Mrs Kennedy is said to have ‘danced around the kitchen’ as Tommy played his tunes.

He accepted a payment of 30 shillings for the recording, about £1.50 at the time, waiving his right to any royalties.

Tommy’s rendition was picked up by cartoonist, John Ryan, who was listening to BBC archive folk recordings in his search for a theme tune for the launch in 1957 of the television series of his cartoon, Captain Pugwash.

The Trumpet Hornpipe was selected and Captain Pugwash became a TV hit.

Organisers of the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta want to celebrate Tommy’s Captain Pugwash recording and plans are being made for local musicians to take to the stage to play it at the four-day event in August.

Northumberland County Council, in partnership with the Port of Blyth and Sail Training International, is hosting the prestigious Regatta. Fergusons of Blyth has been confirmed as the principal sponsor.

Coun Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at Northumberland County Council, said: “I am delighted to hear that one of our county’s much loved musicians will be remembered in this way during the Regatta celebrations. It will be one of the highlights of the Tall Ships weekend.”

Tommy was inspired by the legendary Scottish folk musician Jimmy Shand, who offered a young Tommy, aged 12, the chance to join him on stage and play the accordion.

Tommy’s older brother Joe became a pupil of Jimmy Shand and started his own band, with Tommy playing the drums. When Joe was killed in a flying accident, Tommy took over playing the accordion.

He went on to be an incredibly popular folk musician, playing at dances across Northumberland.

He worked as a shepherd, gardener and superintendent of Rothbury Cemetery and loved ‘home,’ which was around Harbottle in the Coquet Valley.

He died in 2001, aged 67, leaving two daughters, and his wife Angela and grandchildren.

Denise Brown, 55, Tommy’s youngest daughter, said: “People used to always ask my dad to play Captain Pugwash at the local dances and he never got sick of it.

“I am delighted that the tune will be played at the Regatta as a tribute to him.

“My dad would have loved it and I think I might have to come along and have a dance just like the old days.”

Captain Pugwash started life as a comic strip in the Eagle comic and then in the Radio Times, before being animated for broadcast on BBC TV, in black and white from 1957-66, and in colour from 1973-75.

The North Sea Tall Ships Regatta at Blyth will welcome up to 30 ships and crews from across the world and the nautical tales of Captain Horatio Pugwash and his crew, and their battles with Cut-Throat Jake will be fondly remembered in musical form on stage.

Martin Lawlor, chief executive, Port of Blyth, said: “The Regatta is a celebration of the sea, magnificent ships and maritime history and culture, and the classic Trumpet Hornpipe is sure to be a hit with the crowds and the ships’ crews.”

The Regatta will feature five zones of free family entertainment including music and theatre during the August Bank Holiday weekend (Friday, August 26, to Monday 29).

For more information about the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta Blyth 2016, visit www.facebook.com/tallshipsblyth2016 or on Twitter @TallShipsBlyth or email info@tallshipsblyth2016.com