Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Tom Shufflebotham Charmed 511 Earthworms

Tom Shufflebotham Charmed 511 Earthworms (Despite A New Zealand Pest)


By Eric Shackle, in Sydney, Australia

Villagers in Willaston, near Nantwich, Cheshire (UK) made a thorough security check for eight weeks before the annual World Worm Charming Championships were held there last week. They were not looking for terrorists, but for New Zealand flatworms.

First sighted in Ireland 40 years ago, NZ flatworms are multplying alarmingly, spreading through many parts of Ireland, England and Scotland, where they are regarded as a pest.

"When the flatworm locates an earthworm it secretes digestive juices which dissolve the earthworm into a ‘soup’ which is then sucked up by the flatworm," says The Local Planet editorial team. "Once the flatworm becomes established on a piece of ground, the native earthworm population can decline to a level at which earthworms are barely detectable."

Of all the world's weird and wondrous sporting events and pastimes, the gentle art of worm-charming surely takes the cake as the most bizarre.

On the New South Wales Central Coast, 80km. north of Sydney, I've often seen fishermen dragging hessian bags containing putrid offal or long-dead fish over mangrove swamps, to attract giant beach worms to the surface (I did it myself as a teenager). As soon as a worm pokes its head above the mud, the fisherman grabs it, and drags the wriggler (which may be 2.5 metres long) from its lair, to use as choice bait. But there's nothing charming about that.

They catch earthworms differently in Britain. Best results seem to be achieved by vibrating the tynes of a garden fork driven 15cm. into the turf, a method they call twanging. Some stamp on the ground, while others, emulating Indian snake charmers, play music to the worms (perhaps the 1966 pop song Good Vibrations).

"On Saturday 5th July 1980 local Willaston farmer's son, Tom Shufflebotham amazed a disbelieving world by charming a total of 511 worms out of the ground in half an hour," says an article on a Cheshire website.

"True, there had been rather dubious unsubstantiated reports of a similar activity in Florida, USA some 10 years previous, but this was the first time a true competition with strict rules had been held. The village of Willaston, near Nantwich, Cheshire has been the venue for the annual World Championships ever since.

"A regulatory body of control was formed to compile and enforce a total of 18 rules governing all aspects of Worm Charming. The International Federation of Charming Worms and Allied Pastimes (IFCWAP) not only exists for Worm Charming, but will look after the interests of other zany sports such as indoor hand gliding, underwater Ludo and ice tiddly-winks (similar to curling but the tiddles go further).

"The International Committee ... is formed by Mike Forster, Chief Wormer, and Mr Gordon Farr, Former Headmaster of Willaston School, who now enjoys life long Presidency and meets only once a year and at other times of national crisis.

"For example, when the New Zealand flat worm was discovered a number of years ago in some parts of the country, the threat to the common earthworm was of great public interest in Willaston and volunteers from the village still regularly patrol the site of the Worm Arena for at least 8 weeks prior to the event leaving no stone unturned, for that is where this hideous creature preyed on Willy Worm."

Two years ago, according to a report in the Chester Chronicle, Tim Holmes flew from Sydney to take part with his friend Phil Morris, of Chester.

"Their unique method of didgeridoo-playing, coupled with a samba drum-beat, yielded only three worms," the newspaper reported. It quoted Tim as saying, "We did appallingly. It was only when a neighbouring charmer came to help us with a pitchfork that we managed to get into double figures. It was still worth the trip though. I had a great afternoon."


Voice of a sceptic

SO... the so-called "Tom Shufflebotham" [cough] "charmed" 511 worms in half an hour? [cough] I've tried this several times on a nice damp loamy lawn and blanked, apart from one scrawny worm I'm convinced it's all a long-running April fool's prank.
-- GlennB, in a UK forum, Anglers' Net April 10, 2006.


The 2006 world championship was won by Geoff and Davina Sandburg, who captured 127 worms.

Links
The International Federation of Charming Worms and Allied Pastimes
Do flatworms threaten soil fertility?
They've All Caught Worms Chester Chronicle
Darwin's worms page

*************

* This story will be featured in the August edition of

The World's First Multi-National e-Book, http://bdb.co.za/shackle

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news