Story-telling Custom

A medal for a noted liar

The noted liar medal
Photo by Peter Harmer

Enid Porter’s book Cambridgeshire Customs and Folklore  tells the reader about the way people have always found pleasant relaxation at the end of a day’s work in either listening to or narrating good stories over a glass of ale. Many of these were originally told in villages and riverside inns.

As the evening progressed the tales tended to become more exaggerated and improbable, and many Cambridgeshire people, as well as W.H. Barrett, have recalled that it was customary to reward the narrators with some token of their listeners’ appreciation. The award usually took the form of free beer, but there were other prizes – a ‘silver’ cup, crudely made of thin tin and suitably inscribed; a ribbon rosette or a medal. These were usually kept in the public house and solemnly handed to the teller of the story which was judged to be the ‘tallest’ of the evening.

The blacksmith-made iron medal (pictured), bearing the words ‘A Noted Liar’, was found in the garden of the Pike and Eel pub at Chesterton in 1964. This inn was a popular meeting-place not only of local people but also of the watermen who used to work on the barges and lighters which carried goods between Kings Lynn and Cambridge. It is very probable that this medal was pinned to the coat of many a good story-teller.

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