‘Oyez, oyez’ – Southwold town crier hangs up handbell after four decades in the job
PUBLISHED: 19:15 04 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:26 05 March 2017
© Dominic Whiten
Smart, punctual and a ‘voice like a foghorn’ – John Barber has all the attributes of a town crier.
But the 90-year-old ex-military man let out his final ‘oyez’ in Southwold this weekend.
Mr Barber hung up his handbell after 40 years of preserving the ancient English tradition.
During those four decades, he met Royals, wrote a book, became an honorary citizen of Texas and featured in a Christmas advert for US department store Macy’s.
The son of a fisherman, born in Southwold, on September 11, 1926, Mr Barber served in the Irish Guards before becoming the town crier in 1974 – a job he first experienced as a child, living next door to one of his predecessors, Jack Button.
Mr Barber, who documented his experiences in The Life and Times of Southwold’s Town Crier, said: “He was a military man too. I was friends with his son and we’d follow him round in the hope of getting a lemonade at the pub. Years later, the position came up.”
Crowds of well-wishers lined the streets to give him a send-off on Saturday morning, when he let out a cry outside the post office before walking through the town to The Sole Bay Inn, for his final cry, followed by sausage and chips.
Over the years, he missed only two civic duties while on holiday. A trip to America in 1976, organised by the British Tourism Authority, saw him named an honorary citizen of Texas.
Mr Barber said he had mixed feelings about leaving the role, but would have plenty of hobbies to occupy his time.
He was joined on the walk by members of the Alfred Corry Lifeboat Museum – to which the keen model maker presented one of his creations earlier this year.
It was just one of the models he has made at his workshop at the Reydon home he shares with step-daughter Pamela and her husband Paul O’Hara – named Bellman’s House.
Lifeboat trust volunteer Jonathan Hunt said: “John has many other activities to pursue, so he’s not exactly retiring. We hope to see him back at the museum from time to time.
“To be a good town crier means being punctual, smart and having a voice like a foghorn – and by God, John’s got one of those.”
The role of town crier will be filled by David Burrows. The tradition dictates announcements are made at specified locations, including South Green, Barnaby Green, Stradbroke Road, Pier Avenue and Market Place.
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