Ships ’n quips

Town criers are the talk of the vil­lage

Truro Daily News - - Front Page - BY FRAM DINSHAW

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.

FRAM DINSHAW/ TRURO NEWS

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.

FRAM DINSHAW/ TRURO NEWS

Town crier Lloyd Smith from Wind­sor/west Hants was the best dressed of every­one. He also had the sec­ond-best cry.

FRAM DINSHAW PHO­TOS/TRURO NEWS

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.

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