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July 29, 2006

Conger Cuddling

There’s always one, isn’t there, ready to spoil the fun:

Last night the finest conger cuddlers in the world should have been gathering at the quayside to compete before a crowd of thousands. Teams of firemen, powerboat racers, fishermen — all were preparing to take their chances against the swinging eel in a tournament that raises about £3,000 for the RNLI. This year, however, an anonymous animal rights activist has scuppered the event after writing to the RNLI, complaining that the event was “disrespectful” to dead animals and threatening to film it and use the footage for a nationwide campaign against conger cuddling.

Disrespectful to dead animals? What was this guy smoking? But what exactly is conger cuddling?

In the annual finale to the town’s Lifeboat Week, nine players or “conger cuddlers”, would mount wooden blocks arrayed in a triangular formation. An opposing team of nine would take turns to swing a dead conger, suspended from a rope, and try to knock their opponents from their perches as if they were human skittles, the crowd assisting with carefully aimed buckets of sea water.

Hhhm. Where on earth could something like this have come from? Dorset is not usually known for such inventiveness.

For Richard Fox, 66, a retired publican, local historian, and former world champion town crier, the demise of the sport he helped to found is little short of tragic. “One person creates a fuss over a dead fish and destroys the enjoyment of a large amount of people who do this every year,” he said.

Mr Fox bestowed the game on a grateful town when he arrived from Somerset, where farmhands play a game called mangel dangling — a similar time-honoured sport involving a mangel-wurzel, a large root vegetable. He sought to translate that tradition into Dorset fishing culture. He told The Times: “The conger is an extremely slippery fish. The chaps try to grab hold of it to try to stay on their stand.”

Aha, that explains a lot. Very, errr, rural, are parts of Somerset and they do have to make their own fun.

July 29, 2006 in The English | Permalink


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A poor decision by the RNLI, I suspect.

If they'd put out a press release outlining the complaint, and announcing that they'd told the animal activist group involved to go f**k themselves, I suspect the donations would have flooded in!

Posted by: JuliaM | Jul 29, 2006 1:56:21 PM

Just down the coast in Bridport, we have the world stinging-nettle eating championships.

The local police do their damnedest to be the ones to win.

Posted by: auntymarianne | Jul 30, 2006 10:50:45 AM

In the U.S., similar events: climbing a greased flagpole and catching a greased pig

Posted by: gene berman | Jul 31, 2006 8:46:01 PM

Mangel dangling is disrespectful to dead turnips.

Posted by: David Gillies | Jul 31, 2006 9:09:11 PM

I would like to say to the rubout who spoilt our conger cuddling thanks alot!!! keep ya self in somerset and dont come to lyme again!!!!! TWAT

Posted by: maybug | Mar 18, 2007 6:42:41 PM