Belfast Telegraph

Guzzling 198 oysters in three minutes gives me flashbacks, admits festival winner

By Amanda Poole

A "slightly queasy" Co Down salesman has admitted he doesn't even like oysters despite retaining his world champion title for guzzling the slimy critters.

Colin Shirlow, from Dromore, took the title at the World Oyster Eating Championships - for the eighth year in a row.

He consumed a staggering 198 in just three minutes as part of the 19th Hillsborough International Oyster Festival over the weekend.

While the 55-year-old didn't quite beat his 2005 Guinness World Record of sliding 233 oysters down his throat, he still managed to see off tough competition from Michael Ramage of Canada and Soon-Ok from Korea.

Colin admitted to feeling a little queasy following his shellfish banquet, but vowed to return next year and smash his 2005 record, set just days after he tried his first oyster at a friend's barbecue.

He admitted his throat is still a little tender from guzzling so many at lightning speed.

"My throat was a bit sore from the salt water, but I'll survive. I'm in fine fettle now," he said.

Colin is concerned his technique is getting a little rusty, but reckons there is a reason he hasn't been able to beat his 2005 record.

"The oysters are definitely getting bigger," Colin said.

He described his two-handed technique for gobbling the slimy delicacies.

"I stay as low as I can to the table, but you do have to stick to certain criteria.

"The oyster has to be lifted by the shell and scooped into the mouth, usually by a sucking motion, but you can only put one shell to your mouth at a time. I use both hands and get a motion going."

Colin said his wife Carole is glad his oyster swallowing prowess helps support the RNLI, but he's on his own for the night after the competition.

"Carole thinks it's a bit of fun, but I am banished to a darkened room the night afterwards," he revealed.

"I don't eat oysters at any other time of year. I don't like them and I tend to get flashbacks." The event was compered by Belfast Telegraph columnist Nuala McKeever and former world champion Sean Hall.

Colin said: "During the three minutes, I could hear the buzz of the crowd and Nuala and Sean talking about how Michael and I were neck and neck.

"I always just hope and pray the three minutes goes in quick and can't wait to hear the 10, 9, 8, 7 countdown.

"Then I'm done and put the shells aside for another year."

The four-day annual event saw 10,000 festival goers enjoy live music, golf, an iron man challenge, soap box derby and a fashion show, including the crowning of Miss Oyster Pearl, Michelle Liggott from Lisburn.

Apprentice star Jim Eastwood told the Belfast Telegraph he had lots of fun at the Pirates Of The Caribbean gala ball in support of the festival's nominated charity, the RNLI.

"I thoroughly enjoyed Friday night's gala ball at the Hillsborough Oyster Festival," Jim said.

"The organisers put on a really fabulous event and kept us entertained throughout the whole evening, so I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my thanks and congratulations.

"It was wonderful to see so many people out to support the RNLI, which is a fantastic charity."

Sunday's Supercar dream ride event at Sprucefield Park and Ride concluded the festival, giving car fans the opportunity to have a ride in luxury marques like Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley and Maserati.

Five facts

  • Oysters have been eaten in Britain for at least 2,000 years, and were sent home to Italy by the Romans.
  • Oysters can change sex a number of times during their lifetime.
  • They produce a pearl when a parasite or other foreign material gets trapped in the oyster's shell.
  • It was once believed that oysters were only safe to eat in months with the letter 'r' in their names.
  • Oysters are filter feeders and can store contaminants like bacteria.


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