By Kelsey Barker
“Very few people under the age of 25 are unaware of the history and duties of a town crier these days.”
So says Belleville’s official town crier Bruce Bedell.
A town crier is a person formally employed by a town to proclaim announcements in the streets.
“I like to say that I’m an eccentric extrovert who dresses up and runs around yelling at people,” said Bedell.
The youngest a person can be to become a crier is the age of 18, and there is no specific age to retire or quit. Criers often dress elaborately, by a tradition dating to the 18th century, in a red and gold robe, white breeches, black boots and a tricorne hat.
Bedell, the 75-year-old town crier of Belleville, wears exactly that, and quite enjoys dressing up for this job.
Bedell has been Belleville’s town crier since 2005, and would like to continue on with the once-a-month job. He started as a town crier back in the year of 1984 when he was residing in Sault Ste Marie, due to receiving a part in a play as a town crier. After the play, he realized his true passion for it, and became an official town crier. During that year, he also won his very first contest, which was the first of many. The 75-year-old crier won the Ontario Guild of Town Criers Provincial Championships Competition three times in 1989, 1990 and 1991.
Bedell and his wife, Cathy, have travelled to many places around the world to compete with other criers, including places such as Belgium, England, and several states in the U.S.A.
“One of our favourite places in which we have travelled to is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. It was exciting to sit in the library and have a lunch with other criers,” said Cathy Bedell.
Because Bedell is only on the job once a month, other hobbies and talents are lined up for him. One of his main hobbies is to sculpt different items out of wood, soapstone, tree fungus and ceramics. Bedell is also a teacher, historian, a writer, a poet and a liar (he won first prize at the Quinte Arts Council’s 2004 Liars’ Contest). He even wrote a book called The Book of Cries. It is a great resource and chronicles most of his early career as a crier. This book was published back in 1994 and is still available in local libraries.
Bruce Bedell can be seen “crying” next at the opening of Giant Tiger on Sidney Street on April 272012.