The Ontario Guild
of Town Criers
 
 


The History of The Ontario Guild of Town Criers


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What is a Town Crier?

A Town Crier makes proclamations and announcements for his or her town or community.

Criers attend functions or celebrations and ring their bell to get everyones attention before reading a special announcement or proclamation from a scroll. Criers normally cry loudly and clearly so that all can hear.

They use the traditional opening word "OYEZ! [oh yeah!] which is a very old french term meaning "To Hearken" or "Hear YE!"

Once having read the "Cry" or message in a suitable fashion to all assembled, the Crier traditionally finishes with the words "God Save The Queen" or "God Bless Canada!" whilst raising their hat.

Why do Town Criers wear a historical uniform or costume?

Town Criers wear a uniform from a period of history of their own choosing. Some prefer the 18th century dress and others victorian or renaissance style.

Uniforms often depict the colours of a city crest or coat of arms. Years ago many criers were old soldiers or sailors. Some of today's criers choose similar outfits.

History of Town Crying:

Town Criers go way back in history to when people in towns and villages where mainly illiterate. The Crier was the latter-day newsman, reading the proclamations and news to all in the village square.

Ancient Greeks maybe have used this system of communication far earlier than this, but no documentation of this exists. However, the first ever documented Criers go back to 1066, after the Norman Invasion of England.

Criers were regularly used after this by the ruling King or Queen to inform all the citizens of their orders and decrees. To this day old English law still protects Criers from being Hindered or Heckled whilst carrying out their duties.

A Little known fact is that the term "Posting A Notice" actually 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 or Tavern, so that it could be read by anyone who could read it for themselves. (Normall only the clergy and wealthy land owners could do this).

For the most part the citizens of the towns relied on the crier for the latest information, be it good or bad news. These could include Famine, War, Feast, Taxation Changes, etc.. Remember there was no radio or TV in olden Days!

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 they used a Drum, or a Hunting Horn.

Criers where often old military veterans who could read and write but who had fallen on hard times. The position of Town Crier gave them employment and a pension rather than turning to a life of crime, as so often happened to the veterans in days gone by.

The position of Town Crier has often been passed from one generation to the next.