After 28 years in the job, Warwick’s town crier Graham Sutherland has decided the time has come to ring the changes.
Graham, who also serves as the town’s beadle, looking after the mayor and keeping order at council meetings, said: “I’m going to officially give up my two roles on the last stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.”
The town council is currently looking for Graham’s replacement.
So what does a town crier do? Historically town criers - or ‘Bellmen’ as they were sometimes called - were the original newsmen. The first criers were the Spartan Runners in the early Greek Empire and as the Roman Conquest spread through Europe the position increased in importance until it became a position of the court.
As the British Empire spread, the position of the town crier spread with it. Before people could read, town criers brought the news to the people, and served as spokesmen for the King.
Town criers were protected by law. “Don’t shoot the messenger” was a very real command. Anything that was done to a town crier was deemed to be done to the King and was therefore a treasonable offence.
Usually people of standing in the community were chosen as criers, for they had to be able to write and read the official proclamations. Often they were a husband and wife team with the wife ringing the large hand bell and the husband doing the shouting.
The town crier would read a proclamation, usually at the door of the local inn, then nail it to the doorpost of the inn. The tradition has resulted in the expression “posting a notice” and the naming of newspapers as “The Post”.
Each town crier is officially appointed by the mayor and the style of uniforms is authentic and dates back to the 17th century.
The town crier’s robes are similar to those of the mayor, and uniforms are usually designed, incorporating the colours of the crier’s town.
Announcements are always preceded by the traditional “Oyez Oyez Oyez” (which is “listen” in French) and conclude with “God save the Queen/King”.
Anyone interested in the position should apply to Warwick Town Council.
Pictured: Warwick’s town crier visits Warwick School in the 1950s and Graham Sutherland in his robes.