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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 July 2006, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Fish lover's anger ends eel event
Thelma Etim
BBC News, Dorset

conger cuddling
Conger cuddling attracts thousands of spectators each year
Can it really be disrespectful to swing a dead 20lb fish at a group of men to raise money for lifeboats?

Somebody in Lyme Regis, Dorset, thought so and their complaint has now put an end to the 40-year tradition of "conger cuddling" in the town.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has deemed that using a dead conger eel to try to knock down some of its members is "inappropriate".

The event, traditionally held in Cobb Square in Lifeboat Week, is no more.

The eel has been replaced with a mooring buoy.

An email was sent to the RNLI - we understand someone was upset and thought we were being disrespectful
Andrew Kaye, from the RNLI

Conger cuddling, which attracts up to 3,000 people every year, is not dissimilar from a game of skittles only it is on a larger scale.

Nine humans prepared to do battle with a huge, slippery eel replace the skittles.

Andrew Kaye, from the RNLI, said: "The whole idea was to raise money for the lifeboat. It has been very successful over the last 40 years.

"I think we raised 26,000 last year during Lifeboat Week and it has been rising year on year.

"An email was sent to the RNLI - we understand someone was upset and thought we were being disrespectful."

The buoy, which has replaced the offending sea creature, had its first outing on Friday.

Plastic inflatable

"It was not quite the same," explained Mr Kaye. "We are thinking of having a plastic eel made.

"We think it is a shame because it's a local tradition and everybody looks forward to it - local children come down with water bombs and people throw buckets of water from the windows overlooking the square.

"It's a wet affair and it's great fun."

Retired publican, Richard Fox introduced the people of Lyme Regis to conger cuddling in the early 1970s.

I cannot see how it can be cruel to a fish that has been dead for two months
Conger cuddling inventor, Richard Fox

After the 66-year-old joined the RNLI, he was asked to organise events for Lifeboat Week.

He modelled conger cuddling on mangle dangling with flower pots, a sport played by farmhands in Somerset.

Mr Fox said: "I cannot see how it can be cruel to a fish that has been dead for two months.

"The whole argument is pointless.

"If it were a salmon bought from a supermarket would there be any complaints?

"The public loved it for 40 years and everyone has a hilarious time.

"I think it's all absolute rubbish."




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