Fans of Lorna Doone believe that Exmoor is a romantic place and so many of them come with a dandelion and play the “She loves me, she loves me not” game – men blow the dandelion and say “she loves me” and then blow it again and say “she loves me not.” The blowing continues until no seeds are left on the dandelion – then she either loves you or she doesn’t. The same applies for the ladies.
In 1782, Amanda Barron and Elizabeth Bargeman both wanted a certain Amos Edwards to love them, so they stood side by side and played the dandelion game. Sadly, the dandelions showed that neither of them were loved by Amos, which was a relief to his wife and their four children. Thus, a contest was born.
Each contestant must bring a ready supply of dandelions that have their seeds showing. There are many rounds. The Shouting Judge shouts a number between 2 and 12 and then the Blowing Judge bids each contestant step forward in turn. This judge then shouts “Dandelion be gone” and the contestant has to blow away all the seeds in the number of blows decreed by the Shouting Judge. If they achieve this, they are through to the next round. This process continues until there is only one person left who wins the Amos Love Cup.
There are separate contests for men and women. Only one person has won more than once: Eliza Bradley in 1803 and 1872.
A separate contest was spawned in 1898 when a distance element was introduced with contestants having to blow away all the seeds from a dandelion in one puff while standing further and further away from the dandelion. This idea was born when a local called Ben Mergion was asked to blow out the candles on his birthday cake; Ben not only blew them out, he blew them off the cake along with half the icing. Luckily, everyone whose face was covered in icing was feeling quite hungry that day. One of those present was the previous year’s Shouting Judge, Barry Morgan, and he decided that the dandelion contest shouldn’t just be about accuracy but about distance too.
Not surprisingly, Mergion won the first five distance contests with his record being 140 feet 8 inches in 1901. Later in life Mergion was employed by the RAF to start troublesome propeller-driven aircraft.
This is an extract from the book 40 Humourous British Traditions by Julian Worker