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Monday 30 January 2012

The Game Of The Name

    I was going through some issues of Number Six and in The Village magazines the other day, and this item will be of interest to those fans of the Prisoner who have been curious about, or have thoughts and have ideas of their own as to the name of the Prisoner. In fact it was a comment from Anthony Rooney about Peter Smith being the Prisoner's name, that reminded my wife of three letters in Number Six which deal with this very subject. I shall quote the three letters

Number Six magazine issue 36 1993, B.G writes "No.6's name is NOT Peter Smith, as mentioned in Many Happy Returns. I doubt that No.6 would give his real name to anyone until he's sure he can trust them. Smith is a very common name and No.6 uses "Peter" hesitatingly - perhaps John Smith would have sounded too obviously fake. It doesn't matter about mail or the lease of the house or car logbook - the Village would surely have taken care of all that, judging by Mrs Butterworth driving KAR 120C. Here's another joke - Mrs Butterworth = Baker of cakes."

Number Six magazine issue 36 1993 K.I writes "Being a new member, I don't feel qualified to join in the "higher critisism" in your pages. I'll confine myself to the perennial question of "Was No.6 John Drake?"
   This is really quite simple! In Many Happy Returns, our hero has to think quick, alas for Mrs Butterworth. He says "Smith...Peter Smith." Now in this situation, the obvious response would have been "John Smith."
   No.6 clearly shied away from using his real first name. Case Proven!"
{Case proven, I wonder? Bit arrogant to have said that I feel}

In The Village magazine 1uue 2 1994 P.G replies to both the above letters "The contributions of K.I and B.G in issue 36 {Nujmber Six} prompted me to do a little research on the derivation of the name "Peter Smith."
    "Peter", originally from the Aramaic "Kepa", is the name given by Jesus to his disciple Simon "Peter" was a nick-name meaning "stone" - Peter was the rock on whom the Church was founded. But "Peter" is also a slang word for a prison cell, and a "Peter-man" is a safe-breaker.
   According to the Guiness Record Book Of Names, "Gowan" or "McGowan" is the Gaelic equivolent of "Smith." Given that "McGoohan" is a version of "McGowan," it is perhaps not surprising that Number 6 told Mrs Butterworth his name was Peter Smith.
    What's in a name? In this case a little more than meets the eye."

   Well I trust you find that of interest, no I'm not trying to prove anything either way, it is just out of interest, although readers of this piece may have interesting views of their own they wish to comment. In a way Peter Smtih equals Patrick McGoohan, yes, I like that, it's clever. But whether Patrick McGoohan, or indeed the script writer Anthony Skene, was aware of that at the time, we shall never know. But if they were, it was very clever of them.

I'll be seeing you


  1. Interesting to hear what other people think about this. My own thought is that Number Six was giving his real name because he was desperate to prove his identity to Mrs Butterworth. He does everything in his power to convince her that he was the previous owner of the house and KAR120C, so it seems odd he would lie about his name in that context. But, like so much about The Prisoner, it is up to the individual viewer.

  2. Hello Anthony,

    You make a very valid point in your comment, that Peter Smith was desperate to prove his identity to Mrs Butterworth via the log book of the car, and the lease of the house, which has to be right. Otherwise why ask to be shown both the log book and the lease, if Peter Smith was not the prisoner's real name? Had the log book of the Lotus 7 shown the name of the former owner, then the Prisoner's name would have been confirmed, or not as the case maybe. But if not, what would be the point in asking to see the log book of the car and the lease of the house in the first place.......mmmmmmm, food for thought indeed. It would seem that you put forward a compelling case in favour of Peter Smith. Having looked at the evidence again, and having mulled it over, I take you point. But one question does remain - how forward looking was the Prisoner when he gave the name Peter Smith? I mean had he thought at that moment tht later he would be asking to see the log book of the car, and the lease of the house?

    Be seeing you