In olden times, when few people were literate, and there was little access to printed media, town criers were a central part of urban living and played a very important role. Town criers were responsible for keeping the populace up to date with the latest news and events, and for disseminating news from the ruling classes to the wider populace.
Qualifications such as the ability to read, having a loud voice, and being able to draw the attention of a crowd were necessary for those who aspired to take on the role of town crier.
And although, in modern times, the general literacy of the populace and the ease of access to printed (and digital) media has rendered the town crier somewhat redundant, International Town Criers Day celebrates the historical role of the town crier by encouraging people to take up the role of the town crier in their town or city!
History of International Town Criers Day
Sometimes referred to as bellmen due to their ringing of a bell, town criers were thought to have arisen in Britain in medieval times, as early as the 11th century, when men were employed to call out proclamations on the authority of the king. Continuing on for several centuries, they were often seen in England and also in North America during the early days of the colonies in the 1700s.
International Town Criers Day has been celebrated for more than 25 years, since its founding in 1997. Scott Fraser, who had been a town crier in Waterloo, Ontario, in the 1980s, established the day to draw attention and recognition to the importance of this role. Since then, the day has been celebrated every year on a Monday in early July, encouraging folks all over the world to show appreciation for this important part of folklore.
How to Celebrate International Town Criers Day
Have a delightful celebration of International Town Criers Day with some of these ideas:
Try Being a Town Crier
One fun way to celebrate International Town Criers Day might be to dress up in a fancy suit, complete with a top hat, and head on out to the streets to proclaim some news. Don’t forget to start out with “Hear ye, hear ye” and then read some important words from an official looking scroll made of parchment.
Or it might be fun for a teacher to arrange for a town crier to visit their school in honor of the day, to share about their experience and answer questions. Then, let the kids try out the job of being town crier!
Learn Some Fun Facts About Town Criers
To celebrate properly, it might be fun to glean some interesting bits of information and trivia about town criers to share with friends and family in honor of International Town Criers Day. Try out some of these fun facts:
The world’s tallest town crier is located in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England standing at 7 feet 2 inches tall. Martin Woods started as the town crier in 1984 and continued on in the role for more than 35 years.
The world record for the loudest town crier is held by Alan Myatt who is crier for the City of Gloucester, London’s Covent Garden and other places in England. His cry rings out at 112.8 decibels and was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records two times.
Some town criers start with “Oyez, oyez, oyez!”, which translates from Anglo-Norman for “listen”.
Because they sometimes brought bad news, such as tax increases or unpopular new laws, the town criers were legally protected and any harm done to them was considered to be treason.