Ships ’n quips
Town criers are the talk of the village
Hear ye! Hear ye!
For a small village, Maitland can get pretty noisy in the fall.
Town criers from across Nova Scotia converged on the weekend to vye for best-dressed and loudest among them.
“I love community celebrations,” said host Anita Benedict, town crier for East Hants. “I love being a part of the community. I love dressing up. is is pretty awesome. I really enjoy the uniform – it’s not a costume – we wear regalia and that’s one of my favourite parts.”
To become a town crier, candidates typically need support of their council and may undergo an audition. Once a candidate passes muster, they apply to become a member of the guild.
“It helps to have an acting background,” said Benedict. “Lloyd Smith, our longest-serving town crier in North America was the one who gave me a few tips and pointers on what to do. It’s all about projection, it comes from your stomach, not your throat, the same as any singer or actor.”
e Nova Scotia Guild of Town Criers Competition’s theme this year was Women in the Age of Sail, tting for celebration of the 1874 launch of the William D. Lawrence.
e William D. was the biggest square-rigged vessel ever built in Canada, whose history was commemorated earlier Saturday with a Victorian costume parade and a light-hearted gathering around a small model of the ship at the beach.
For the competition itself, town criers had to speak about how female sailors sometimes disguised themselves as men to escape detection. Others were prostitutes and a lucky few made it to sea as captains’ wives.
Criers used a variety of means to get their maritime-themed message across. James Stewart from New Glasgow used rhyming poetry, for example.
“I was the only cry that was done in rhyme and my cry was based on the frustration I had trying to find information about women in the age of sail,” said Stewart.
He described his town crier career as “a great hobby,” that he had pursued for 26 years.
But Stewart said if someone had told him 27 years ago he would be a town crier, “I would have said they were out of their mind.”
While most of the competitors were more seasoned, a new generation of town criers is now taking over.
One newcomer was junior Maura Scranton, a school student from Annapolis Royal who was guest speaker at the competition.
She spoke confidently on the steps of the church but was slightly more reserved afterward. She echoed Benedict’s sentiments, in that her acting background helped her as a town crier.
Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Anita Benedict invited her fellow town criers from around the province to Maitland for Launch Day celebrations on the weekend. The Guild of Town Criers competition was held and scored contestants for best dress and best cry.
Town crier Lloyd Smith from Windsor/west Hants was the best dressed of everyone. He also had the second-best cry.
Ladies decked out in Victorian dress head to the beach. Below, Town crier Bob Raoul from Spryfield recites his proclamation, with Maura Scranton, from Annapolis Royal, also taking the stage at Maitland’s old United Church.
Annapolis Royal’s town crier Peter Crofton Davies, left, looks on as his Sackville colleague Greg Fenwick rings his bell, while marching in the costume parade through Maitland.