FACIAL contortions pulled by a Lyth Valley woman earned her a runners-up spot in the World Gurning Championships.

Freelance photographer Tiree Dawson's grotesque grimace, a pout she has perfected over many years, impressed the judges at the annual Egremont Crab Fair.

It was the first time that Tiree had entered the competition and she was delighted that her toe-curling pate posturing was so well received.

"I have been doing it (gurning) for 30 years, just to be silly," said Tiree, of Crosthwaite. "I have been practising with my daughter, Summer, who also entered the competition. Sadly, she did not make it through the heats."

The gurning competition is extremely popular and is the highlight of the Crab Fair for many. To gurn means to 'snarl like a dog, look savage, distort the countenance' and competitors pull their face through a horse collar known as a baffin.

Tiree was competing at the 751st Crab Fair and said: "It was a really good laugh. I have never seen anything like it. They had horn blowing, pipe smoking and comic hunting songs."

Through the centuries the event has been reported by newspapers under various titles. In 1852 it was described as Grinn for tobacco, in 1884 it was more colloquially known as Grinning for 'bacca. In the twentieth century it became Gurning through a braffin and is now known as the World Gurning Competition.

Gurning is reported to have originated from the mockery of the village idiot - the townsfolk would throw a horse's collar over him and make him pull funny faces in exchange for a few pints of ale.

The Crab Fair was first held in 1267. It is believed that the traditional fair has been held continuously since this time, except for unavoidable interruptions during the war years.

The Lord of Egremont started a tradition of giving away crab apples, from where the fair gets its name. The modern day fair begins with a number of sporting events with Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling featuring prominently.