We spent May Day weekend in Glastonbury this year with Alienora and our friends… and one of the people unmistakably at the centre of the festivities was David Greenaway, the Town Crier.
The traditional Town Crier is an iconic figure. In some historic towns and cities, the role seems to have kept its place over the centuries in one form or another, whilst in others it has been revived as a part of a living history.
From the very beginnings of mankind’s coming together in community, there has been a need for news and, in the days before electronic media, when the ability to read and write was limited to the few, news could only be passed from mouth to ear. Proclamations had to be read to the populace, travellers’ tales were valued, heralds and messengers were the only way of spreading news that affected an area or a nation. There are pictures of proclamations being read in the tombs of Egypt and criers are mentioned in the Old Testament. It is an ancient and honourable profession.
In Britain, the office of Town Crier, or Bellman, was introduced by William the Conqueror after his successful invasion in 1066. Official proclamations of his victory were carried across the land and laws were instituted to protect the King’s messengers; any assault on the messenger was deemed a treasonous attack on the monarch.
Over the centuries, the role of the Crier evolved and encompassed a wider range of duties. Patrolling the streets at night, they not only announced the hour but discouraged crime, reassured the populace that ‘all’s well and warned of fire at a time when any outbreak could decimate a town built of wood and thatch.
Laws, taxes and official notices were announced by the Criers, but they also served, as David puts it, ‘as walking newspapers’. Stray livestock, stolen goods, runaway servants and even spendthrift wives were publicly announced… they even sold the occasional unwanted wife!
Today the Criers are a much-loved institution and instantly recognisable by locals and tourists from across the world.
David Greenaway is the Town Crier of Glastonbury and I am indebted to him for the detailed history and insight into the position that he sent me a little while ago. I had planned a much longer and more detailed post, using that information…but as David himself has just begun blogging, I will leave the stories to one who knows them best. Please visit David’s brand new blog and click the follow button to read more…
Blogging and broadcasting! Town Crier Tales
Reblogged from David Greenaway:
Yesterday was an eventful day in more ways than one!
It all began with a visit to my good friend Ali, who is an accomplished blogger. I had often read and enjoyed her fascinating and thought-provoking blogs. I used to marvel, wide-eyed and mouth wide open, at how many people were following her writings in so many far-off lands. I’d often wondered about writing a blog myself, to share my varied and enjoyable experiences at being a Town Crier and then I used to laugh to myself at the thought that “surely, no one would ever want to read about them anyway!” I’ve shared a few experiences on Facebook before now, but I’d often felt the need to have a medium that was a little more expansive, shall we say, with the prospect of reaching a slightly wider audience, like……The World! GULP! (As a radio amateur, it has to be said, I always got a huge “buzz” whenever I heard someone replying to me from the other side of the planet!)
So, yesterday was the day for me to tentatively dip my toe into the blogging ocean for the very first time!
Ali was a very sympathetic teacher who helped me to get started. She was so patient as my eyes started to glaze over at the first mention of “widgets” and the like. Like tackling anything new I guess, like learning to drive a car….. it all takes time to assimilate, understand and then put into practice – especially when you’re the wrong side of 60! I have so many questions about it all right now, but luckily the online video tutorials are slowly helping. Surely this is preferable to making endless phone calls to my patient mentor, at all hours of the day and night!
So this will be a relatively short blog, just to see if it all works……….
Continue reading: Blogging and broadcasting! – Town Crier Tales