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What are they crying about now?

Posted by: | September 30, 2009 | No Comment |

While walking down the streets of Medieval London or 17th Century Paris or even of 18th century Bermuda one may wonder what disease the crazy man on the corner has who keeps screaming out with various instruments such as bells, drums and gongs.

Pete Moore, Town Crier to the Mayor of London

Pete Moore, Town Crier to the Mayor of London. Wikimedia.

One may be surprised to find out though that this man is not crazy at all, but is instead one of the most reliable methods of gaining the latest news.  Town criers were not always just men though.  There were many women who would cry out the news to the public in the same manner.

A female Town Crier delivers the news.  Stock photography

A female Town Crier delivers the news. Stock photography

 Town criersusually were handled like puppets from those who could afford to control them.  This usually meant head of states and high religious officials.  Many times they would meet with the person in charge to discuss what would be said before they went out to inform the public.  Some town criers were even treated like a piece of advertisement.  They would talk about how good tavern was or even talk about who would be selling what later that day, week, or month.   

As previously noted in Did you hear?, “town crierswere people who announced the news to all those who gathered and passed by.”  These men and women stood for hours on street corners.  Using a musical instrument to gather the attention of the passerby, they would proceed to tell them the latest news.  It made no different if the news was about a battle in another land or of a sale on sugar, the town crier told the news so loudly and charmingly that to ignore was impossible.

Presently, town criers, are for more entertainment than for the use of gathering news.  They dress in the same manner and ring the same bells which have been used for the over 300 years.  There are competitions for town criers in different parts of the world, but one of the biggest is The North American Town Criers Championship, which has been going strong since 1983.

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