Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye! Before Anderson Cooper, before newspapers or telegraphs, before there were newsreels in movie theaters, before radio or television, and before Cable TV News stations began bombarding us 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, there were bearers of tidings in every town and village, and today is
NATIONAL TOWN CRIERS DAY!
Before technology transformed life to the point where we consider a 15-second delay in receiving information to be an eternity, news traveled slow.
What news people received might be weeks or months old, depending upon how far away it happened.
And whose job was it to spread that news? The Town Crier, of course, who would stand in the town square bellowing “Oyez, oyez, oyez!” to get everyone’s attention, and then proceed to tell them the latest goings-on in the greater world beyond their little hamlets.
Until just a few hundred years ago, we sort of had to take the town crier’s word for it, since most people were illiterate. Also called Royal Criers since all authority came from kings for most of our history, or “Bellmen” for the bells some of them carried to command attention, Town Criers were respected citizens who made their living from fees (yes, yet another tax) paid by local citizens, and one Crier might work more than one town.
They usually wore some sort of uniform as a sign of high office, and many supplemented their incomes peddling small housewares and notions (the equivalent of TV ads). Larger towns had more than one Crier, and cities had guilds of Town Criers, each responsible for different sections of town.
Requirements were a loud, clear speaking voice and the ability to read, write and/or memorize, end of list. Job requirements for news readers haven’t changed a bit over the centuries, they just added cameras, commercials and big salaries.
•Suggested Activities: Standing on a street corner shouting “Oyez, Oyez,” ringing a bell and bellowing the news, just to see who appreciates your efforts.