Town Criers all over Australia are limbering up their larynxes in preparation for the National Championships of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Australian Town Criers in Maryborough from 29 June to 2 July.
The Fraser Coast Regional Council is sponsoring the championships to add to the exciting activities during Mary Poppins Festival Week and generate tourism and media interest in the Fraser Coast.
The criers will be treated to a Mayoral reception on Friday, 30 June, following their annual meeting, and then on Saturday, 1 July, the competitions begin in earnest.
The criers will perform a Home Cry about their hometown in the morning, and in the afternoon, competitions continue with a Mary Poppins-themed cry.
“We are hoping that the criers will also attend the Mary Poppins Festival on Sunday, 2 July, for the Mary Morning Tea and to join in the street parade,” Mayor George Seymour said.
“This is a colourful and fun event that you won’t want to miss with all the criers performing in their colourful regalia from Maryborough’s historic rotunda in Queens Park.”
It is not the first time that Maryborough has hosted town crier championships: in 2005, during Maryborough’s centenary celebrations, the city hosted the World Town Crier Championships with 65 criers from seven countries competing and in 2011, it hosted the Australian National Championship.
The National Town Crier Championships have been held annually for the past 43 years in different towns across Australia under the authority of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Australian Town Criers.
Town Criers represent their town and compete against one another for the titles of:
- Champion of Champions
- Loudest Cry
- Most Extravagant Outfit.
To win the Championship, each participant Crier performs two cries up to 125 words each. One is about their hometown and another about the host town, with three judges determining the winner.
Cries are judged on poise, bearing, confidence, clarity, content, pitch and protocol.
As hosts, Maryborough’s Town Crier Ken Ashford will not be able to compete.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOWN CRIERS
Historically town criers – or Bellmen as they were sometimes called – were the original newsmen.
Before people could read, town criers brought the news to the people and served as spokesmen for the monarch.
Town criers were protected by law. “Don’t shoot the messenger” was a genuine command; anything done to a town crier was deemed to be done to the King or Queen 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.
They were often a husband-and-wife team, with the wife ringing the large handbell and the husband 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”.
The Mayor officially appoints each town crier.
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.
The ceremonial tricorne is adorned with curling feathers, a traditional representation of the quills used by earlier town criers to write their proclamations.
Announcements are always preceded by the traditional “Oyez Oyez Oyez” (which is “listen” in French) and conclude with “God save the King or Queen”.
Article & photo supplied by Fraser Coast Regional Council
Image – Maryborough Town Crier Ken Ashford and Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour.