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Town crier of Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1909

A town crier, or bellman, is an officer of the court who makes public pronouncements as required by the court Black's Law Dictionary. The crier can also be used to make public announcements in the streets. Criers often dress elaborately, by a tradition dating to the 18th century, in a red and gold robe, white breeches, black boots and a tricorne hat.

They carry a handbell to attract people's attention, as they shout the words "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!" before making their announcements. The word "Oyez" means "hear ye," which is a call for silence and attention. Oyez derives from the Anglo-Norman word for listen. The proclamations book in Chester from the early 19th century records this as O Yes, O Yes!

Contents

History

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England

Peter Moore, late Town crier to the Mayor of London and The Greater London Authority.

In Medieval England, town criers were the chief means of news communication with the people of the town since many could not read or write. Royal proclamations, local bylaws, market days, adverts, even selling loaves of sugar were all proclaimed by a bellman or crier throughout the centuries—at Christmas 1798, the Chester Canal Co. sold some sugar damaged in their packet boat and this was to be advertised by the bellman.

In 1620, there was a fight at the cross between the butchers and the bakers where the 'Cryer brake his Mace in peeces Amonge them'. In 1607, one public notice read by George Tunnall, the bellman, forbade tipping rubbish in the river. In 1715, a local man recorded that the 'Belman at the Cross ... Reads publicly a proclamation in the Mayor's name, commanding all persons in the City to be of peaceable and civil behaviour, not to walk around the Streets or Rows at unreasonable hours of night'. In 1743, John Posnitt took over as 'Day and Night Bellman'.

In 1792, Chester had a day and night bellman, John Yarwood and a crier, William Ratcliffe, but by 1835 there seems to have been only one position. It was not until 1998 that Chester had a crier and a bellman again.

Town criers were protected by the ruling monarch, as they sometimes brought bad news such as tax increases. To this day, any town crier in the British Commonwealth is protected under old English law that they are not to be hindered or heckled while performing their duties. To injure or harm a town crier was seen as an act of treason against the ruling monarchy. The term "Posting A Notice" comes from the act of the town crier, who having read his message to the townspeople, would attach it to the door post of the local inn.

Europe

As in England, town criers were the means of communication with the people of the town since many people could not read or write. Proclamations, local bylaws, market days, adverts, were all proclaimed by a bellman or crier.

Criers were not always men, many town criers were women. Bells were not the only attention getting device - in Holland, a gong was the instrument of choice for many, and in France a drum was used, or a hunting horn.

North America

The office of town crier persisted into the early 20th century in some places. At least as recently as 1904, Los Angeles and several adjacent towns had official town criers.[1]

Modern town criers

St. George's, Bermuda town crier, Major D.H. "Bob" Burns, MC, the Guinness World Record holder for the loudest human speaking voice, recorded on a film set, of 113 decibels[2][3]

The best dressed town crier at the World Championships in 2008 was Daniel Richer dit La Flêche representing the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, in Canada.[4] He also won the titles of Best Dressed International Town Crier at the Bermuda competition in 2009 and Best Dressed in North America. The Best Dressed Couple were Peter and Maureen Taunton [1] from the county town of Stafford, England. They also won the title of Best Dressed Town Criers in Britain in 2008 at the Alnwick competition for the Loyal Company of Town Criers. They had been chosen the Best Dressed Criers at the National Town Crier Competition in Hastings in 2007.

Alan Myatt

Peter Moore, the London Town Crier,[5] held the position for more than 30 years. He was Town Crier to the Mayor of London, the City of Westminster, and London Boroughs, and was also a Freeman and Liveryman of The City of London. He died on 20th December 2009[6] and is yet to be suceeded.

Alan Myatt held two Guinness World Records. Besides recording a cry of 112.8 decibels, he set the record for endurance, issuing a one-hundred word proclamation every 15 minutes over a period of 48 hours.

Daniel Richer dit La Flêche, who is an Abenaki Indian, is a full-time bilingual town crier. Lloyd Smith, town crier for Windsor, Nova Scotia, is the senior town crier in North America, with 31 years of service to his communities.

When need for a town crier disappeared, the position passed into local folklore. European, Canadian, American. North American and Australian championships are held in alternating years with the World Championships. The current world champion is the town crier of Ninove, Hans Van Laethem.

Eliza Mowe, Town Cryer for Barnoldswick, Lancashire, became the first female European town crying champion in 2007, retaining her title in the following year.

See also

  • Vic Garth, reputed in 2005 to be the oldest town crier in the world.
  • Dead bell used to announce deaths and funerals.

References

Further reading

  • Gordon Emery, Curious Chester (1999) ISBN 1-872265-94-4

External links


Simple English

A town crier is a person who is employed by a town council to make public announcements in the streets. The crier can also be used in court or official announcements. Criers often dress elaborately, a tradition known from the 18th century, in a red and gold robe, white breeches, black boots and a tricorne hat.

They carry a handbell to make a loud noise and they shout the words "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!" before making their announcements. The word "Oyez" means "hear ye," which is a call for silence and attention. Oyez is from an Anglo-Norman word for listen. Some town criers announcements are recorded in books called a Proclamation Book The proclamations book in Chester from the early 19th century records the town criers call as "O Yes, O Yes!"

Contents

History

England

File:Town crier Peter
Peter Moore, town crier to the City of Westminster.

In Medieval England, town criers were the most important way of spreading news with the people of a town. Many could not read newspapers. Royal proclamations, local bylaws, market days, advertisments and even selling loaves of sugar were all proclaimed by a bellman or town crier for centuries. During Christmas 1798, the Chester Canal Company sold some sugar that was damaged in their packet boat and this was advertised by the town crier.

Chester's first 'belman' was in 1540. His was paid one (old) penny for 'going for anything that is lost' and 4 old pennies for leading a funeral procession. In 1681, a fire safety law that all houses should have tiled rooves, not thatched, was to 'be published throughout the city by the day bellman. In 1553, the crier was paid 13 old pennies for 'ridunge the banes' (reading the banns or adverts) for the Chester Mystery Plays. In 1598, bellman Richard Woodcock must have been dressed in a similar way to the London bellman, for he had 'a tymber mast typt at both endes and embellished in the middest with silver' (a wooden stick with silver decorations).

In 1620, there was a fight at the crossroads between the butchers and the bakers where the 'Cryer brake his Mace in peeces Amonge them'(broke his silver stick among them). In 1607, one public notice read by George Tunnall, the bellman, that putting rubbish in the river was illegal. In 1715, a local man recorded that the 'Belman at the Cross ... Reads publicly a proclamation in the Mayor's name, commanding all persons in the City to bee of peaceable and civil behaviour, not to walk around the Streets or Rows at unreasonable hours of night'. In 1743, John Posnitt took over as 'Day and Night Bellman'.[needs proof]

In 1792, Chester had a day-time and night-time bellman, John Yarwood and a crier, William Ratcliffe, but by 1835 there seems to have been only one position. It was not until 1998 that Chester had both a crier and a bellman again.

Town criers were protected by royalty, as they sometimes brought bad news such as tax increases. To this day, any town crier in the British Commonwealth is protected under old English law that they are "not to be hindered or heckled while performing their duties". To injure or harm a town crier was seen as an act of treason against the ruling monarchy. The term "Posting A Notice" comes from the act of the town crier, who having read his message to the townspeople, would attach it to the door post of the local inn.

Europe

The same as England, town criers were the most important way to deliver news to the people of the town because many people could not read newspapers or write. Proclamations, local bylaws, market days, adverts, were all proclaimed by a bellman or crier.

Criers were not always men, many town criers were women. Bells were not the only way to make noise - in Holland, a gong was often used, and in France a drum was used, or a hunting horn.

Modern town criers

The best dressed town crier and escort at the last World Championships (date of entry 2008) are Peter and Maureen Taunton [1] from the county town of Stafford, UK. They also hold the title of the best dressed town crier in Britain 2008 Competition held at Alnwick for the Loyal Company of Town Criers. They are also the Best Dressed Crier at the National Town Crier Competition in Hastings 2007.

Peter Moore has been The London Town Crier[2] for more than 30 years. He is Town Crier for The Mayor of London, The City of Westminster, and London Boroughs. He is also Freeman and Liveryman of The City of London.

Alan Myatt holds the world record as the loudest town cryer at 112.8 decibels.[1]

The need for town criers has disappeared and they became part of the local folklore. There are European and World Championship competitions for modern town criers. The World Champion town crier is the town crier of Ninove, Hans Van Laethem.

References

Books

Other websites


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