What in the name of buggery are town criers all about then? All the criers I have ever met, and boy I've known a few in my time, are the biggest bunch of social misfits and lunatics I have ever met.
They are, to a man, all of retirement age, and pumped up to a size to fit their ridiculous robes. They've all got huge amounts of facial hair, allowing to work as department store Santas outside the Town Crying season. And that includes the women.
Scary's "Did you know?" No.1: Town criers generally have to supply their own robes as councils generally blow their Ridiculous Outfits budget on the mayor. With the price of fake ermine rocketing by over 400% in the last year (thanks to higher than expected losses in the 1st Crossdressing Brigade in Iraq), many town criers look like they're wearing Danny La Rue's cast-offs.
2. Many town criers point to "hundreds of years of tradition" when people point out the utter pointlessness of their trade. I postulate that they are merely frustrated Morris Dancers.
3. When Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis killed himself, Granada TV anchor Tony Wilson had news of the singer's demise broadcast by the Chester town crier. Class.
Town criers are, to a man, more right wing than Robert Kilroy Silk. I've met a few, and they've scared me shitty with their hanging-and-flogging-send-em-back-to-Bongo-Bongo-Land opinions, so I asked a colleague of mine for confirmation. He was once, you see, a minor celebrity in the West Midlands, and got to go to a lot of local fetes, where, of course, the local crier would ring his bell and shout a lot. He summarised Town Criers thussly:
I recently saw a local news report on a BNP meeting somewhere in the West Country, followed immediately by a gathering of Town Criers in EXACTLY the same place. Q.E. bloody D, and the kind of circumstantial evidence that should always be used as absolute proof in any good rant..
Unfortunately, it cannot be said that such a pastime keeps these people off the streets. Au contraire, the very nature of the job keeps them ON the streets, in contact with a vulnerable British public. These are the people the Home Secretary should be targetting with his house arrest orders, and not potential foreign terrorist wallahs.
It can't all be fat, jolly old men, however. The crier in my county town of Dorchester has recent returned o his duties after a couple of years off with depression: "Oyez! Oyez! What's the fuckin' point, I might as well stick my head in the gas oven."
They have a website. It has a nice picture on it.