Robert Raoul’s cries will soon be heard all over Spryfield.
Although a date has not yet been set for Spryfield’s new town crier’s first official appearance, with an “Oyez, Oyez,” he heralded his arrival for The Weekly News from his Cherry Lane home yesterday, Feb. 28.
“Let it be known, from here to all of Spryfield, I am announcing myself as the new town crier,” Raoul shouted for all to hear.
To get into his new role representing Captain William Spry as a town crier, Raoul has grown a beard and is getting a chief engineer’s uniform made to wear for his duties, which is modelled after one worn by Spry as a British army officer.
During the American Revolution, Spry was the commander of the Royal Engineers in Halifax. While here, he purchased three lots in Leiblin Manor. He employed soldiers under his command to clear a large field, where he operated a farm. It was from references to Spry’s farm and Spry’s fields that the name Spryfield evolved.
Raoul, 56, has been a crier for 17 years, most recently for East Hants, and is one of the youngest in the profession.
“It’s a unique art, but it’s a dying art,” he said, pointing to difficulties over the years to get new blood into the profession.
Raoul has worked full-time at the Arborstone nursing home on Purcell’s Cove Road for 33 years. His new town crier gig will be a part-time job.
“I can get certain days off and rearrange my schedule to attend special events,” Raoul said.
As the Captain William Spry Town Crier, Raoul will represent the Peninsula West-Armdale electoral district, which includes a large portion of the Spryfield community.
In a motion to Halifax Regional Council on Feb. 26, area councillor Linda Mosher said a town crier will be a great addition to community events.
“In his role, Mr. Raoul would represent Captain William Spry as a town crier to add to our local events such as the Dingle Natal Day Party and the many historical events hosted by the Mainland South Heritage Association,” Mosher said.
“Having a community town crier will add to community pride and add pageantry and formality to our events while focusing on the historical significance of Captain William Spry to our community,” she said.
Mosher and Spryfield Coun. Steve Adams will share the cost of the town crier position out of their district capital funds.
Meanwhile, HRM has been without a town crier since Halifax’s long standing town crier Peter Cox died in 2009, a situation that Peninsula South-Downtown Coun. Waye Mason called “shameful.”
“I think you Mr. Mayor have some work to do to identify a municipal level town crier,” Mason said during last week’s council meeting.
HRM boss Richard Butts told council Mayor Mike Savage has already asked staff to look into the matter.
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.
In January, the country’s longest serving authentic town crier sounded 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.