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Friday, 18 April 2014

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‘I’ve only been one of the creme de la creme liars since I became a supervisor at Sellafield. Now I’m having to deal with lots of expert liars all the time...’

Glen Boylan is quite shy by nature but put him on a stage and he turns into a different beast – and tells lies like nobody else can.

Glen Boylan photo
Glen Boylan

That’s official. Glen is six feet two and the World’s Biggest Liar.

He tells an audience of 130 a tall tale featuring Prince Charles, a hotly-contested snail race, some odd animals and a couple of cheats from Essex.

And he delivers it all in a completely deadpan tone, with no trace of humour or irony in his voice – the perfect, polished fib.

It’s a skill that won the 46-year-old builder from Maryport the title of World’s Biggest Liar on Thursday.

Every year the unique competition is held at the Bridge Inn in Santon Bridge in the heart of the Wasdale Valley, where the original world’s biggest liar Will Ritson was from – or at least claimed to be from.

Will was landlord of another rural pub, the Wasdale Head Inn, during the late 1800s and was well-known for the preposterous porkies he told, mostly to trusting visitors.

Among other things, he claimed that the turnips in Wasdale grew so big that after locals had “quarried” them for their Sunday lunch, they used the hollowed-out vegetables as sheds for Herdwick sheep from the fells.

He also used to tell the story about a wounded eagle he had found near the inn. He kept it in his chicken coop and nursed it back to health.

Then one night a bitch hound raided the coop. The eagle was unscathed, but five months later the dog gave birth to a litter of winged puppies.

So the annual contest celebrates the art of lying and aims to find a worthy successor to Will, and this year Glen, from Maryport, picked up the top prize.

Glen works for John Stobbart builders in Workington and for the past three years has been supervising a contract at Sellafield. It’s that role which has allowed him to hone his technique.

“I’ve only been one of the creme de la creme liars since I became a supervisor,” he explains. “Now I’m having to deal with lots of expert liars all the time.”

Where does he get his lies from?

“I think about them when I’m out walking the dog,” he explains.

“And the pub I drink in, The Sailor’s Return in Maryport, is always full of characters and liars with stories to tell. Sometimes I’ll write a few of them down, and then as the weeks and months go by I think of other things and interconnect them.”

Liars in the competition are not allowed to use notes, so Glen put in plenty of practice.

“I repeated it 400 times,” he claims.

Although that may have been a lie...

“And then a double Jameson’s whiskey helps.”

It was third time lucky for Glen. He came third in the last two competitions but had never won the top prize before.

But coming in the top three always brings rewards to others. For Glen is a member of Maryport charity fundraisers Extreme 13, and has obtained pledges from 13 local companies that if he makes it into the top three they will each donate £25 for Meningitis Research.

His lies have now raised £325 for the good cause three times – a total of £975.

Who said honesty is the best policy?

With various charity events Glen and the other fundraisers have also raised cash for Macmillan Cancer Nurses, the Cumbria Air Ambulance and Crawford House, where the families of children being treated at Newcastle hospitals can stay.

The team have undertaken sponsored lake swims in England, Scotland and Ireland, raising thousands for cancer research, leukaemia research and Guide Dogs for the Blind, and he says: “We’ll have to do Wales next time.

“We were supposed to be in Ireland for three days but we ended up staying six, because we kept popping into the pub. It was great fun there – but we ended up missing the ferry.

“My girlfriend phoned up to ask where I was, thinking I was going to be coming through Scotland on my way home. I had to tell her I was in a fish and chop shop on Rathlin Island, off the north Antrim coast.”

Glen plans to keep on lying, and hopes to rival the success of champion liar John Graham, known locally as “Johnny Liar”, who has won it eight times in the past.

“I’ll be going after him,” he says. “Hopefully I can win it another eight times and break his record.”

The World’s Biggest Liar contest used to take place at Will Ritson’s old pub, but is now held at the Bridge Inn.

It regularly attracts a lot of media attention – with a reporter from New York’s Wall Street Journal turning up this year – and pub owner Lesley Rhodes-Morrow says there are always visitors from around the world – and beyond.

“All the tickets were sold out, but we could easily sell 20 times as many,” Lesley says.

“We get people from as far away as Australia.

“We get them from the moon as well.”

The fibbing is obviously infectious. Maybe there’s something in the water. Or the spirits.

The competition is organised by Cockermouth brewery Jennings which awards all contestants a case of beer. Judges of the lies were the mayor and mayoress of Copeland, John and Linda Jackson, and Copeland Council leader Elaine Woodburn.

Glen had a special reason to single out Essex in his prizewinning fib, as he was beaten in last year’s contest by Paul Burrows from Southend-on-Sea.

Paul had lied to his audience by holding up his mobile phone and making the preposterous claim: “I’ve got a signal!”

He then went on to assert that the Lake District was formed when Cumbrians stole all the lakes and mountains of Essex and transported them north – leaving his native county flat and desolate.

Which of course is nonsense. Scientists now know it was created not by ice or volcanic action but by giant moles and eels tunnelling and wriggling across it.

Or so they tell you at the Bridge Inn.

Glen’s winning tall tale

Prince Charles was in Cumbria to hand out the prizes in the annual snail race and the odd pets competition. He said he’d be giving his royal seal of approval to three historic buildings while in the area.

I asked him: ‘Which ones?’

He said: ‘The Beacon in Whitehaven, because of its maritime heritage, Curwen Hall in Workington, because of its connections with Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Copeland Council offices, because it’s full of dinosaurs.’

The snail race takes place across a table. It starts at half seven and usually finishes about a quarter to nine.

Just before the whistle, Prince Charles nudged me and said: ‘Take the shell off your snail, it’ll make it more aerodynamic.’ So I did, and I put all my money on it. But it didn’t work – it just made the snail more slug-ish.

The winning snail was owned by a couple from Essex, who also picked up first and second prizes in the odd pets competition. Previous winners had included a large spider from Belfast called Paddy Long-Legs and a cross between a pitbull terrier and a collie, that would bite the legs off sheep and then run for help.

But this year the runner-up was the Essex couple’s cross between a whippet and a mink. It was a very skinny dog with a beautiful coat. They won with their four-foot conger eel that sat there, swaying to the music, staring into space.

But before they were presented with their prizes, a vet suddenly sprang to his feet.

He shook the snail and two batteries fell out. He tugged at the dog’s coat and it came off – it had been attached with velcro. He took a look at the eel and said: ‘This eel has been drugged.’

So they were disqualified and were ejected from the venue.

A man from behind the bar shouted: ‘Take your false snails, your fur coat and your high eels with you.’

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