Story of mythical marine creature takes top prize at Cumbria's World's Biggest Liar competition

Mike Naylor, aka Monkey Liar, defeats tall tales of 11 fibbers to claim £25 prize

The X Factor gave us Leona Lewis; Britain’s Got Talent propelled Susan Boyle to unlikely global stardom. Even New Faces bequeathed the Chuckle Brothers to a grateful world.

Yet although it continues to exert a magnetic effect on the world’s media as a living breathing emblem of English eccentricity, the World’s Biggest Liar competition stubbornly refuses to yield a household name from its growing roll call of winners.

On Thursday night, a packed function room at the historic Bridge Inn in Wasdale, Cumbria listened in slack-jawed disbelief to the tall tales of 11 fibbers – all intent on claiming the title for relaying the most preposterous story.

Clutching his cheque for £25, a battered tin cup and a case of Jennings ales, victorious Mike Naylor aka Monkey Liar had his feet firmly on the ground.

“It’s the third time I have won so I suppose I wouldn’t mind a bash at judging it next time,” he said.  Mr Naylor, 54, a farm health advisor from Wasdale, is typical of previous winners.

His meandering shaggy dog story describing the exploits of a mythical marine creature who splits its time between the inky waters of Loch Ness and the local Wastwater, the deepest lake in England, shows a local man, acting out a local tradition for the noblest of intentions – because he enjoys it.

Citing his comedy heroes as “Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper and David Cameron” he said: “I want to wake up every day and have a laugh. I lost my sister last year at 57 and it was a really sad time. I’ve raised a lot of money for cancer and I always like to help people.”

Competitive lie telling in the Western Lakes dates back to the 19th century when publican Will Ritson used to entertain intrepid upper class outsiders by spinning them a few yarns, typically about the region’s outsize turnips which he claimed locals used as sheds.

The tradition was rekindled following his death and since then has become a global media phenomenon attracting attention everywhere from the New York Times to Japanese TV.

However it continues to stick defiantly to its roots. Organisers have resisted calls to raise the prize money to £500 or to relocate the event to the relative grandeur of Whitehaven’s Civic Hall.

Judge Gaynor Green said there was little appetite for change. “There is something special about a competition that is so local that attracts attention from all over the world,” she said.

To the untrained ear, the West Cumberland dialect with its twangs of Norse, Scots and English can be difficult. Outsiders have generally struggled. The first “foreigner” to prevail was South African Abrie Krueger in 2003. The only woman to emerge victorious was comedian Sue Perkins who in 2006 regaled the audience with her story about flatulent sheep – “muttons of mass destruction” – and the demise of the ozone layer.

Last year’s winner Jack Harvey, 26, from Whitehaven, is the youngest person to lift the tin cup. This year he was squeezed into third place by seven-time winner Johnny “Liar” Graham.

Mr Harvey’s surreally entertaining untruth about finding himself in a rap contest with John Paul Jones – the American sea captain who pummelled Whitehaven during the revolutionary wars – perhaps failed to chime with an older crowd.

With at least three decades separating him from the rest of the all-male contestants, he agreed that the competition was in need of fresh blood.

“It is something that should be encouraged. People are happy with the way things are. Tradition is OK. Tradition is comfortable. That is fine. But we need to celebrate and encourage diversity. It (the competition) needs to generate the idea that you don’t have to be a 65-year-old man to win,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Recruitment Genius: Full Time and Part Time Digital Designer - North Kent

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful web design/deve...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders