TRURO Cornwall TR3 6LQ
Falmouth has long been a town that has been rooted in its traditions. With the likes of the sea shanty festival and the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth’s celebration of its history is much a part of its culture than its emerging status as an artist’s hub. The tradition of the town crier has a long-standing in English history, and Falmouth is proud to still have it as a regular feature of the town.
A town crier is an individual who is appointed by the town council to make public announcements in the main streets of the town or city. The town crier could also be called on to be used in court or to make official announcements. Dressed in elaborate costumes made up of red and gold robes, white breeches, a tricorne hat and black boots, this is a tradition that has stuck since the 18th century.
Town criers shout the words “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!” or “Hear ye, Hear ye” before making their announcements, to call for silence and attention. The word ‘Oyez’ derives from the Anglo-Norman word for ‘listen’. They also make the use of their hand bells that they carry around to draw people’s awareness.
So, who were appointed the very important position? Usually, the citizens of high standing within the community were chosen as the town crier because they had to have a high level of education, needing to read and write as part of their duties. Most town criers consisted of a husband and wife team, where the woman would ring the bell and the man would make the announcements.
The town crier were the original newsmen back in the day. The first town criers originated from the early Greek Empire, as the Roman Conquest dominated Europe the role of the town crier increased in relevance and importance, even having responsibilities in court.
As Great Britain colonised the world, the role of town crier developed. Town criers were the first port of call for the news, even serving as spokesmen for the king. Protected by the law, the saying ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ derives from this command. If a town crier was harmed in any way, it was seen as an attack on the king, therefore becoming a treasonable offence.
The town crier would traditionally make his announcements at the door of the local inn, he would then nail the announcements to the door for people to read (who could).
The council in Falmouth have now appointed a new town crier this week. Tom Clements, 24, has now officially taken over the services of Gemma Garwood, who has retired as the town crier after a year’s service. Tom Clements will now be the youngest town crier in the UK, taking the title away from his predecessor.
Tom had a clear desire to become the new town crier, explaining his reasoning for taking up the role, Tom said: “I have been in Falmouth all my life and have been part of the community forever, so I just wanted to let everyone know more about Falmouth. I think I am the right person to tell them what is happening in Falmouth.”
Expanding on his reasons on his radio show for Source FM, Tom said: “I think this will give me more confidence as I have learning disabilities and that is a barrier between me and public speaking. This will also get the word out about disabilities.”
Gemma had nothing but praise for Tom, the new town crier: “Just being friendly and having enthusiasm for the role is the main thing and Tom has friendliness and enthusiasm in abundance and he’s also passionate about Falmouth…What I’m hoping Tom can do by stepping up, is prove that anyone can do it. Falmouth has such a supportive community so I know it will support Tom.”
“Having another young person in the role is also brilliant, holding onto that title is wonderful and hopefully it will really encourage other young people to volunteer in the community. Having someone younger in the role makes it seem even more accessible.”
Tom is an active member of the community, with his contributions on the Source FM radio show and appearances on stage for the Falmouth’s youth theatre company, Young Generation. In addition to these great works, Tom also volunteers at The Poly and ran charity fundraisers for Cancer Research.
Tom will officially begin his duties as town crier on the 16th May, although he has already taken to the streets of Falmouth with Gemma to inform the passers-by about Falmouth. You can catch Tom in action on your luxury Falmouth holidays every Tuesday in the main Falmouth town, so keep an eye (or ear) out for him!
Image credit: Suguri F, available under creative commons.