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The Hole in the Elephant's Bottom

Pirate Peter Love born in Lewes Sussex died in Leith Scotland in 1610

Captain Peter Love was a notorious pirate who had a reputation for his plundering raids and a habit for Kidnap. Captain Peter Love was to come undone, however, during a trip to the Hebrides in the early 1600s as he sought a safe place for his cargo of cinnamon, pepper, sugar and 700 hides from the West Indies.

It was his occupation of waters off Lewis that was to lead not just to his proposal of marriage to an islander but also an audacious betrayal - which resulted in the execution of Captain Love and nine of his men on the sands of Leith in 1610.

In more recent times P&O had it’s own Captain Peter Love. Although l never sailed with him as Captain, I did have the pleasure of sailing with him as Deputy Captain on Pacific Princess back in 1975/76. Peter Love was the most charming and entertaining man and a pleasure to sail under.

Deputy Captain Peter Love


The Hole in the Elephant's Bottom

As well as being an excellent deck officer he was a born entertainer and at the drop of a hat would perform his party piece for the passengers on his ship. His party piece being “The Hole in the Elephant’s Bottom".

The origins of this lyric date back to the Good Olde Days of Music Hall and tell of the experience of playing the rear part of a pantomime elephant. Peter told this story with great hilarity, magnified by the fact that he was in the uniform of a senior officer.

My ambition's to go on the stage

And now you can see that I've got on.

In the pantomime I am engaged

To play the elephant's bottom.

Now the girls all think that I'm it

When they sit in the stalls I can spot 'em

And I wink at the ones in the pit

Through the hole in the elephant's bottom.

Now this part doesn't have any words

There is nothing that can be forgotten

I spend all my time pushing property turds

Through the hole in the elephant's bottom.

This is only the first three verses there are many more

I was reminded of Peter and his elephant's bottom when I read the following blog by fellow seadog Nicholas Messinger.

Commander Nicholas Messinger RNR

"From my Oriana Diary, dated December 1963

Nicholas Messinger

The deck crowd had been busy since leaving Melbourne, making a pantomime elephant from canvas and scraps of material, and a colourful blanket, loaned by the ‘queen mother’ herself. All it needed was a tinsel tail and a willing volunteer to play the back-end.

‘You’re fuck-all use on the bridge Messinger, find a tail and report to the children’s nursery at noon, sharp.’ After a couple of practice runs with the Second Officer, living up to his reputation for farting, in the front end, I was all set to unleash myself on the unsuspecting passengers. Since leaving Fremantle, they had proved to be a merry crowd, particularly back aft in tourist class, which was really buzzing with lots of young people, and a lively disco scene.

I packed the newly painted elephant trousers, with their lovely white toenails and heavy duty braces, in a cardboard box, and set off for the bosun’s store in good time, on Christmas morning. I located a length of twine but no tinsel. Then it occurred to me that the stewardesses lived close by, and were certain to have loads of the stuff; which they did.

Fortified with a considerable amount of festive brandy and dry ginger, I stepped into the costume, to be much admired by the ladies, who kindly adorned my behind with a most lavish, long, tinsel bedecked tail. Leaving the stewardesses with the cries of ‘Good luck, Butch!’ ringing in my ears, I realised I still had a good ten minutes before the children’s party, and, clutching my fine new tail, I sank into a deckchair…… and promptly fell asleep.

It was just before one o’clock when I awoke, slightly groggy and somewhat befuddled as I headed for the first-class ballroom, where I remembered the elephant was due to make a grand entrance, to the delight of seven hundred passengers, children, and ship’s staff. Parading once round the dance-floor, with the ship’s social hostess, scantly attired in a harem costume, leading, the children would be allowed to ‘feed’ the elephant sticky buns, which he would grip with his trunk, before placing them inside a basket, which was dangling from his neck, inside the costume. To my horror, my arrival was greeted by the sight and sound of almost a hundred children, screaming and pelting the poor half-elephant with the buns, some of which were sticking to his head and ears.

"You bastard!’ screamed the Captain, ‘you’ve fucking well ruined Christmas!’ Confined once again to my cabin, I ate a solitary Christmas dinner, while my cabin mate and fellow cadet was enjoying himself at Oriana’s lavish gala night party. Every half-hour or so, the Fourth Officer would come down from the bridge, and peer into the cabin, just to make sure I had not absconded. There were so many beautiful Aussie girls onboard, and there I was, on my own and badly hung-over - and on Christmas day of all days......."

Margaret Smith (later Margaret Court) from Perth was the hot favourite, having won the Australian Open, and Helen Plaisted from Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, a member of the Aussie singles squad, and a brilliant squash player to boot, was on board with her cousin, Anne Edgar. Anne was lovely; tanned, with sun-bleached hair and a pretty turned-up nose.

I had been spending time with her, back aft, in the cabin she shared with Helen, and had really got to know her. She was a Catholic, so serious hanky-panky was out of the question, but she was very kind and loving.

I was eating a mince pie, and observing my solitary Christmas cracker when Anne suddenly knocked on my cabin door and let herself in. Bless her. She had climbed the outside stairs, having navigated all the way from tourist class, through first class, and on upwards to the captain’s deck. And now she was in my cabin, kissing me and wishing me a Happy Christmas.

Fortunately, she had locked the door behind her, for, right on schedule, the diminutive Fourth Officer was rattling the door handle. There was a curtain around the sink, just enough to hide a smallish kneeling person, and Anne hid there as I opened the door. ‘Everything all right, bloke? I’m off to the party. Tourist class is heaving and there’s more totty than you can shake a stick at. Happy Christmas!’

Reproduced by the kind permission of Nicolas Messinger


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Oct 10, 2021

Peter Love was the second Staff Captain I served under on ORSOVA after the stern GKH which was a pleasant relief. After the barked orders of GKH, Pete Love's more gentle and humerous approach was truly appreciated. Always a smile on his face, a truly nice man.


Jamie, The Purser
Jamie, The Purser
Oct 09, 2021

Loved the historical story of Pirate Peter Love, never heard of him till today, but researched online and read all about his plundering in Ireland and Scotland. Can just imagine Deputy Captain Peter Love performing the Hole in the Elephants Bottom, he looks a fun loving guy and one who would be respected all the more for performing in uniform! We had a similar character in Shaw Savill, but only saw him perform in the Pig 'n Whistle for the crew. Can relate to the Christmas tale too, although was never confined to my cabin!!

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