“Now you're not going to believe this,” said Glenn Boylan as he took to the stage at the Santon Bridge Inn in the Lake District valley of Wasdale. But, of course, that was the whole point. Glenn was defending his title of World's Biggest Liar in the competition that is held annually in the pub.
His tale of going for a job interview with only a cycling proficiency test certificate and a qualification as the world's biggest liar was typical of the roller-coaster tall tale told by many of the applicants. It involved a brother drowning in a vat of Jennings' Beer (a shameless attempt to flatter the judges which included the sponsors Jennings Brewery). "The odd thing is" said Glenn "is that he got out twice for a pee".
The contest honours the memory of 19th century Wasdale Head Inn landlord Will Ritson whose stories had visitors to his Inn either laughing or puzzling over his almost believable tales. Like the turnips in Wasdale which grew so big people hollowed them out to live in.
The 12 entrants last night kept the packed pub entertained all evening with their incredulous tales of sheepdogs that could round up fish, chips shops on top of Scafell Pike, the local La'al Ratty steam train service being extended to London and the discovery of the 'marrapuss', a web-footed tabby cat wandering the fells. But in the end it was the young Jack Harvey of Harras Moor, Whitehaven who won the title.
Jack, 25, wasn't the only one to include the topical subject of badgers in his yarn but the revelation that badgers had once helped the Roman army stationed in Cumbria and that - as a result of some late night shenanigans - many Cumbrians were now at least two per cent badger, tickled the judges' fancy.
The Contact Centre adviser revealed afterwards that he had honed his stand-up skills while a student at Liverpool Hope University but said he still couldn't believe he had won the title. Pointing to the trophy he said "Perhaps all this is a lie as well."
Jack had beaten some famous liars to win the title: Previous winner James Mason (honest!) with his claim to being an Ambassador for the Big Society, Howard Christie with the claim local ferns were a cure for constipation ("with frongs like this, who need enemas" was the awful punning punch line) and Mike Naylor claiming he'd had a drink down the pub with Michelle Obama.
No doubt people could nominate their own "World's biggest liar" but it's worth remembering that journalists and politicians are excluded on the grounds that they are too practised in the dark art of fibbing. The clergy, however, are welcome to enter and legend has it that a Bishop once called at the pub while the competition was taking place and declared "Well, I have never told a lie in my life." And with that he was promptly awarded the title.