The country’s longest serving authentic town crier is sounding his concerns over the future of the art in Nova Scotia.
Lloyd Smith believes if Halifax remains without a town crier for much longer, town crying may be in jeopardy in the very province where it was resurrected in North America in the 1970s.
Smith been a town crier for 35 years and is a founding member of the Canadian and Nova Scotia guilds of town criers.
In addition to being the official town crier for Windsor, he holds a number of other honourary posts, including duties as town crier for the Annapolis Valley’s Apple Blossom Festival.
Smith said he and the provincial guild have been trying without success to encourage HRM to allow them to find a credible successor to replace Halifax’s long standing town crier Peter Cox, who died in 2009.
Cox was considered the father of town crying in North America for reintroducing the art in this part of the world. He served as the official town crier for Halifax for 35 years, greeting every cruise ship that pulled into Halifax and attending innumerable functions and events.
“When you focus back to what the town crier does, we are talking about high profile events and Halifax is the entry point of our province, the main centre,” Smith said.
“Our government is located there and there is so much activity... I am being told pirates are now greeting people and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that ... But that’s not the role originally introduced by Peter (Cox) in 1974.”
The pomp and ceremony and greetings and messages delivered by authentic town criers leave a long lasting, positive impression, and Smith said he and his guild want to see that historical tradition continue.
“We’re trying to get through to HRM officials how important this role is,” he said. “Halifax is our capital city and has a legitimate and well established town crier tradition there and we can continue on that role to lend support for Halifax and the tradition and art of what we do.”
Greg Fenwick is the town crier for Sackville. His proximity to Halifax means he has frequently been called upon to ‘cry’ for events in Halifax, but his full time job and crying duties in his own community leave him unable to fulfill a full time role.
“I’ve had to take vacation days to do conventions and had to turn down requests as well because I didn’t have the time available,” Fenwick said. “The Halifax area is the focal point for town crying because of all the history associated with Halifax.”
Fenwick, the youngest town crier in the province, turned 60 this month. He worries that without more awareness and acceptance by local government officials, the art of town crying may soon become a nostalgic thing of the past in Nova Scotia.
“I can definitely see it going by the wayside. Our numbers are way smaller and towns are not replacing the town crier anymore,” he said. “You do need to have support from councillors and be called on for special ceremonies... For the last two years there has been no town crier at the Natal Day Parade, yet for 35 or 36 years prior to that there was a town crier leading that parade.”
Smith hasn’t given up hope. He believes the new council and mayor may herald an awakening of awareness about the role town crying can play for the city.
“We are very hopeful that it will be reinstated,” he said.
“If the city sees value based on the proven history of Peter Cox, and the new mayor wants the character of the city maintained, what better way to do that than have an individual to promote it, to represent Halifax and Nova Scotia at various functions here and around the world.”
Smith said a Town Crier's varied roles include:
Opening festivals and special events
Leading parades and processions
Opening new establishments or enterprises
Delivering birthday, anniversary or congratulatory messages at public or private celebrations
Announcing a birth
Welcoming delegations or dignitaries
Officiating at weddings
Serving as master of ceremonies
Welcoming guests or patrons to restaurants or business establishments
Public speaking at schools and at public functions
Opening provincial or national challenges
Heralding the arrival of the New Year
Christening a ship
Launching a conversation