Frequently Asked Town Crier Questions

Town Crier for Caledon
All photos by Elswyth Fryer unless otherwise noted

What does a Town Crier do?

What kind of gatherings do you appear at?

Is this a paying position or is it volunteer?

What would be your fee to appear at a function?

What does a Town Crier say?

Can we see you in action?

Why do Town Criers lead parades?

What appearances do you have coming up?

Where have you appeared as Town crier in the past?

How does one get to be a Town Crier?

Where did your outfit come from?

Why do Caledon and Erin have a town crier?

Why were you selected to be Caledon's official Town Crier?

So how loud are you anyway?

What's the latest news?

How can I contact the Town Crier?

Town Crier for Caledon

What does a Town Crier do?

Historically, the town crier was a full-time position in many towns, announcing proclamations and other news for their community.  These days, it is largely a ceremonial function, opening major events, introducing dignitaries, and generally lending an element of pageantry to special occasions.  As a goodwill ambassador, the town crier should be the embodiment of the culture and best personality of the community that they represent.  Like the mayor, they are expected to portray the good character of their community in face-to-face interactions, and must maintain the respect and high ideals of their office at all times.

What kind of gatherings do you appear at?

  • Official town ceremonies
  • Major Caledon events
  • Heritage events
  • Charity fund-raising functions
  • Business openings  (read a sample proclamation!)
  • Conferences and large meetings
  • Representing Caledon elsewhere (by invitation)
  • Tournaments and competitions  (see past standings" or read a sample proclamation!)
  • Parades
  • Weddings
  • Major anniversaries, birthdays, etc.  (see an example)
  • Need a town crier?  Contact me!

  • Is this a paying position or is it volunteer?

    These days, town criers are typically paid by appearance, although free 'crys' for charitable events are very often a large part of their duties.  One of the first modern-day town criers in North America was Peter Cox in Halifax, Nova Scotia (where I grew up).  His duties, which included regularly welcoming passengers from cruise ships, were so prolific that the municipality paid him an annual stipend in addition to his freelance town crier fees, however this is not the norm.  My personal motivation has very little to do with the potential income.  I suspect that the majority of town criers, myself included, charge an appearance fee on a sliding scale simply to help cover the costs of creating and maintaining their livery to the highest standard possible, and to cover the out-of-pocket travel expenses incurred to represent their home town at events around the province and even internationally.

    What would be your fee to appear at a function?

    Appearance and Proclamation fees are determined on a case-by-case basis.  We must take into account the type of appearance and associated duties, the status of the event host (charity, public sector, private sector, individual), costs (such as travel and uniform cleaning), event budget, public and media exposure, etc.  The typical range runs from free to about $300.  A significant option is whether you choose a brief standard proclamation, or a finely-crafted custom rhyming cry or other especially creative content.  Please contact us for a no-obligation quote for a Town Crier appearance at your event.

    Note that, in my case, all engagement fees go directly towards covering costs associated with the Town Crier representing the municipality in gatherings, both provincially and internationally.

    What does a Town Crier say?

    A Town Crier's 'cry' (or proclamation) often begins with the ringing of a hand bell to summon people around and get their attention.  Three loud shouts of "Oyez!" (an old word meaning "please listen") are traditionally the first words spoken.  After that, each cry is custom tailored to each and every event.  Because the Town Crier always begins by gathering people's interest, it is nearly always the case that the Town Crier will be the first to speak at ceremonial functions.  If it is an occasion of municipal significance, there will often be a greeting from the Mayor, whom the Town Crier represents.  After that, the proclamation will share any important information about the event, perhaps some interesting trivia, etc.  If there is a dignitary or Master of Ceremonies to be speaking next, they will often be introduced by the Town Crier.  Cries might be anywhere from 100 to 250 words long, and traditionally end with the words "God Save the Queen!".  The Town Crier will work with you to create appropriate content for your event.  This site includes samples of business opening proclamations for a consignment shop and fashion shoe store, as well as a very successful proclamation delivered in a town crier competition (with apologies to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.)!

    Can we see you in action?

    Absolutely!  If you want to see the Town Crier live (the best way), check out the list of upcoming appearances.  Chances are, there's one coming up soon and nearly all of those events are open to the public.  We have also posted some videos of the Town Crier that you can watch right now.

    Why do Town Criers lead parades?

    According to standard protocol, the Official Town Crier is often the very first thing in any parade order - we sometimes even lead the police escort!  This is not an honorary position; instead it is purely functional.  The Town Crier's job is always to capture people's attention, gather their focus, and let them know that what is about to follow is important.  (Certainly more important than the town crier!)  Putting the town crier further back amongst the real dignitaries diminishes that utilitarian role and instead makes the town crier seem more important than they really are.  Town criers do not appear in parades to be applauded or recognized - we have a job to do!

    To sum it up nicely, did you know that Town Criers are the only people permitted to enter a room ahead of members of the Royal Family?

    In smaller civic 'parades', we are also often relied upon to help with questions of formal protocol and to keep ceremonies organized and on time.  After all, "ceremony" is what we specialize in.

    How does one get to be a Town Crier?

    There is no standard procedure for being appointed town crier.  Some municipalities decide to hold a competition, some simply appoint a suitable volunteer.  The logistics are a bit chicken-and-egg: a very important component of the role is the livery (or uniform).  A township is going to want a professional image presented by their town crier, and will likely want to see that look upfront.  Putting an authentic costume together is a very expensive proposition, and few people are going to be in a position to do that without some excellent prospects of being able to put it to use.  Depending on how authentic and detailed the look is to be and what period is to be represented, the hat, frock coat, footwear, and wig can easily run into the thousands of dollars.

    In order to join the Ontario Guild of Town Criers, one must be officially appointed by the municipality that you intend to represent.  (An official appointment is also a prerequisite to participate in the many town crier competitions held around the world.)  The Guild has a code of ethics intended to help maintain the high standards of conduct and integrity that they associate with such an honourable position in the community.  It also covers how to resolve conflicts over town crier 'territories' and other such practical matters.

    In my case, a formal appointment as the official Town Crier for the Town of Caledon took a few months of discussions, procedures, auditions, etc.  On the other hand, once the Town of Erin was aware of my services and interest, my appointment by Erin Town Council took less than a week.  Every municipality is unique.
    Town Crier for Caledon and Erin


    Where did your outfit come from?

    The story behind my outfit(s) has some interesting twists and turns, so I have now devoted a full page to it.

    Why do Caledon and Erin have a town crier?

    The position of town crier is an honourable profession dating back hundreds of years.  In modern times, it is a way to instantly bring a measure of heritage and pageantry to important civic events.  For many small municipalities, a town crier can be like their own tiny Eiffel Tower or Sydney Opera House - a small photo-friendly way for a community to say that we welcome visitors, greet them as important guests, and have fun events for them to come and be a part of.  It is also true that the town crier's primary function and benefit remains unchanged: a good town crier is an excellent way to get people to stop, pay attention, and receive important messages.  From a financial perspective, it is essentially a volunteer position, and a wonderful addition to any town.  When an appropriate person is willing to take on the role, it is an absolute win-win for both parties.

    Why were you selected to be Caledon's and Erin's official Town Crier?

    The most obvious prerequisite for the office of town crier is the voice.  A town crier must be able to project their message vocally and without amplification, in a manner that is clear and understood over a large area.  (See next question.)  Simply yelling out announcements is not going to do it.  You have to be able to enunciate and time your words so that they are both accurately heard and received with the intended inflection to keep the listeners engaged and interested.  This also has to be done in a manner that will allow the crier to repeat the task more than once on the same day.

    For the past forty years, my theatre training has always focused on voice work.  (Having a mother who taught opera and a sometime thespian father, I have been blessed with some good genes.)  Of all my time spent developing that asset, my hours spent learning from giants such as David Smukler (Canada's foremost vocal teacher) have been my absolute favourite.  To use my voice is to do what I love.  When I had my first opportunity to take on the rigorous demands of this role outside the historic Alton Mill, I was not certain how it would go.  The temperature was minus 18 and while a number of people had come outside to watch, most of the festival crowd were staying indoors.  I was thrilled to learn that people in the basement and at the upstairs back of the two-storey stone building claimed to have stopped what they were doing and heard every word clearly.  I still have lots to learn about the office of town crier, but I think I'm on the right path.

    However there is more to being a town crier than just the ability to be heard, having a great outfit, and being available for the flexible days and times required.  Town criers are also expected to write their own material.  A significant portion of the judging in town crier competitions is in the evaluation of message content.  Style, humour, engaging alliteration, and other elements are all important parts of holding the audience's interest and bringing the right tone to whatever event the crier is appearing at.  As I hope you might be able to guess by now, wordcraft is another thing that I enjoy.

    I am also deeply committed to some of the high ideals that the Town of Caledon strives for as a municipality: responsible and sustainable practices for its citizens now and for generations in the future.  As for Erin, it is a fantastically complete small town with a great diversity of shops and services, and even its own independent radio station, all on one of the nicest main streets in Ontario.  I look forward to the opportunity to represent Caledon and Erin and serve these communities in a manner uniquely suited to my talents and interests.

    So how loud are you anyway?

    That's a tricky question!  Even with scientific instruments, the stats are almost as subjective as the judged components of a town crier competition.  The Guild does not normally award top volume, but at the 2016 Provincials in Perth, Ontario, they decided to offer that little extra on the third and final cry.  My voice was definitely not in its best shape that day.  (I had not been properly looking after it leading up to the gathering.)  However, this is what they told me:

    I was recorded on two decibel meters at about 30 feet.  Meter 1 was set for a medium response time, reporting the average sound pressure over a second interval.  (It literally ignored consonants.)  On that meter I peaked at 94.0 dB.  Meter 2 was set for a faster response time.  It would respond to the average loudest sound it heard, over a second interval.  (This way it still avoids plosive sounds.)  On that meter I peaked at 98.9 dB.  (For comparison, a diesel locomotive at 50 feet outdoors generates 90 dB.  A 747 taking off at 200 feet generates just over 100 dB.)  Only two other criers were louder that day.

    So you see, there are lots of factors involved.  Let's just say I'm pretty loud.  And no, I don't typically need a P/A system, but under the right circumstances, they can come in handy.

    Town Crier for Caledon and Erin

    What's the latest news?

    On August 5th, 2013, I gave my 100th career proclamation, which was captured on video.  That also happened to be my third (and probably best) cry as part of the World Invitational Town Crier Competition in Kingston, Ontario.  The participating criers were from the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, the USA,and of course Canada. They are some of the finest town criers on the planet - many of whom have over two decade in their role, and plenty of international competition experience.  While I am still a long way from a podium position at such events, I was surprisingly awarded the honour of "Best Ambassador" - recognizing the crier whose personality and passion for the craft and culture of Town Crying, both on and off stage, was of the highest calibre.  Since, at the end of the day, that is the essence of my job, I was very pleased to be recognized with that significant award.

    Still, bragging rights from straightforward Town Crier competitions are also nice, and in 2016, I was declared overall winner at the Ontario Provincials Championship in Perth.  This was my second first-place finish, but the cries I am most proud of earned me second place at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Town Crier Competition in June 2012.  (A full summary of my competition results may be found here.)

    Throughout the year, I continue to make appearances as the Official Town Crier for the Towns of Caledon and Erin, both for local events and in parades etc. around the province.

    In October 2011, I was elected to serve a two-year term on the Ontario Guild of Town Criers (OGTC) Board of Directors.  I learn a tremendous amount from the guild and its members, and hope to use this opportunity to serve my colleagues in return.

    I continue to make appearances on behalf of organizations, non-profits, and businesses, whenever appropriate events take place in Caledon and Erin.  Various private engagements have also begun, and I look forward to going above and beyond the call of duty at weddings, anniversaries, special birthdays, and other notable occasions.


    How can I contact the Town Crier?

    Email:    TownCrier @ AndrewWelch.ca   

    Telephone:    416-907-2076 (home office)  OR  519-940-3439 (Alton residence)

    FAX:    On demand - call above numbers for fax arrangements

    Postal address:    57 Mary Street, Alton, Ontario, L7K 0E3, Canada


    Links for More Information:

    The Ontario Guild of Town Criers
    The Town of Caledon
    The Town of Erin
    Andrew's Personal Project Site

    Canadian flag  Copyright 2011-16, Andrew Welch, Intellact