FOR CRYING OUT LOUD
JEAN POSTLETHWAITE DIXON ON BEING WITNEY'S TOWN CRIER
For centuries town criers have been intrusted with announcing anything from royal proclomations to local news-even wife selling in the 18th century! The role is more ceremonial today but it still has an important part to play in local life.
My introduction to becoming a Town Crier was unusual to say the least. I went to my local town funfair, Witney Feast in July 2018. The Mayor at the time, Duncan Enright wanted to introduce a Town Crier to the town; we had never had one. His idea was to have a competition at the fair and there was a substantial turn out, all bellowing their loudest. Duncan casually said, “Just put this fancy coat on and the hat and ring this bell-shout something as loud as you can.” So, I did, and the rest is history-I got the job!
Once I had the go ahead I was on a mission – I had to source my own outfit -although they did let me use the bell – a recent purchase from Ebay! Robes are really expensive and if you get them made some cost as much as £2.000. As there was no budget I quickly adapted. I found a sponsor for my outfit-my local health club, Witney Lakes who sponsored me £ 250 pounds to buy an outfit. I was lucky to find a fabulous Chelsea Pensioner coat on line. I bought the tricorne hat and frilly blouse and attempted to put on as much gold ribbon as I could manage. I had some red shiny boots so I was set to go.
I have to say I did not need a lot of encouragement, as I have been a Head of Drama and English off and on for many years – shouting and a flair for the dramatic comes naturally you might say!
The council sanctioned my role as Town Crier round about last October 2020 and according to the rule book I am hired and fired by the Mayor of the town. There is no payment for the role and my job is to attend various functions that the Mayor wishes me to attend.
One of my first events was the Oktoberfest at St Mary’s church – great start don’t you think! I then was busy through to Christmas 2018 and during 2019: Witney Feast; Witney Wonderland; opening stores; judging best dressed windows for Breast Cancer Awareness Day with our future Mayor Joy Aitman; giving talks to Witney Rotary; and other events. However, I was particularly proud of being a part of the 2020 online VE celebrations in Witney with our present Mayor, Jo Aitman, reading the poem for peace on the local radio and online cheering for the NHS.
My last Cry was the opening of the new Lidl store in Witney and although there were no cheering crowds due to Covid, it was great to be a part of the celebrations.
I have lived in Witney for nearly fifteen years and it is my home. I shop locally and I count myself as fortunate to have fantastic neighbours in Burwell Drive.
Once this lockdown is over I hope to be promoting our town with gusto and I hope you will join me in supporting out local traders.
Witney is a fantastic town with so much history and variety on offer. I want to be able to promote our town to the local population and try to increase visitors. If you have a function you wish to promote or event you can get in touch with me on the council website; I will always try to accommodate, if I can. One of my ambitions as Town Crier was to join The Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers and I am now a member.
I am one of the very few women in the country -28 in all and will be entering my first Town Crier competition in September so wish me luck. I will be aiming to do Witney proud.
My regards to you all,
Town Crier Witney, Oxfordshire.