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Tributes flood in for much-loved Sheringham town crier Tony Nelson

PUBLISHED: 15:50 20 June 2017 | UPDATED: 19:26 20 June 2017

Tony Nelson pictured in 2006, when he was both Sheringham carnival chairman and town crier. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Tony Nelson pictured in 2006, when he was both Sheringham carnival chairman and town crier. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

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Tributes have been paid to Sheringham’s much-loved town crier, Tony Nelson, who passed away aged 78, just hours before he was due to be publicly recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Sheringham town crier Tony Nelson sharing a joke with dancers at the annual Potty Morris Dancing Festival. Photo: KAREN BETHELLSheringham town crier Tony Nelson sharing a joke with dancers at the annual Potty Morris Dancing Festival. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Two weeks before his death, Mr Nelson received a letter informing him that he had been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community, with the official announcement made on June 16.

A spokesperson for Sheringham Carnival said Mr Nelson was a “magnificent” friend to the carnival, through supporting events and as a past committee member, confidant and colleague, adding: “His contribution over so many years cannot ever be expressed in words alone.”

Tony Nelson, pictured as Sheringham Carnival chairman in 2005, handing cash from the annual event to lifeboat crew members. Photo: KAREN BETHELLTony Nelson, pictured as Sheringham Carnival chairman in 2005, handing cash from the annual event to lifeboat crew members. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Born the youngest of four children to a doctor and a nurse in Widnes, Cheshire, the young Anthony lived with his family above the local surgery.

As a teenager, he studied at Liverpool College and, a talented singer, performed at Liverpool Cathedral in a concert conducted by the famous organist and composer Sir Malcolm Sargent.

Tony Nelson at the North Norfolk Tourism summit in Hunstanton in 2010. PHOTO; Matthew UsherTony Nelson at the North Norfolk Tourism summit in Hunstanton in 2010. PHOTO; Matthew Usher

After leaving school, Mr Nelson studied music and painting at Bath Academy of Art and, following a stint working in pubs, farms and garages, he met future wife Hilary.

After getting married in 1964, the couple moved to Cambridge, where Mr Nelson took a job managing the lighting section of a local department store, also singing bass with the Cambridge Philharmonic.

Tony and Hilary Nelson enjoy a photo booth moment as a young couple. Photo: HILARY NELSONTony and Hilary Nelson enjoy a photo booth moment as a young couple. Photo: HILARY NELSON

He went on to train as a lighting engineer in Leicester before moving with his family to his adopted home town of Sheringham in 1972.

Travelling around Norfolk and Suffolk as a lighting engineer specialising in churches, Mr Nelson spent his lunch hours bird watching, while both he and Hilary threw themselves wholeheartedly into community life.

Tony Nelson and wife Hilary at Sheringham Carnival. Picture: KAREN BETHELLTony Nelson and wife Hilary at Sheringham Carnival. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

As well as coaching youngsters at Holt Rugby Club, Mr Nelson was a volunteer with the NSPCC children’s fundraising organisation the League of Pity.

A talented amateur actor, he was also a staunch supporter of Sheringham Little Theatre, where he appeared in numerous plays, directed and performed in pantomimes and twice served as chairman.

Tony Nelson as King Neptune on the back of a carnival float in 1976. Photo: Hilary NelsonTony Nelson as King Neptune on the back of a carnival float in 1976. Photo: Hilary Nelson

Both he and Mrs Nelson were also heavily involved in the town carnival, with Mr Nelson putting in two stints as chairman of the annual event and the couple regularly organising floats and appearing in the parade.

He was made town crier in 1986 and rapidly became a household name among local folk for his booming voice, quick wit and friendly disposition.

Tony Nelson (right) with his successor Andrew Cunningham-Brown (left) and Cromer town crier Jason Bell. Photo: KAREN BETHELLTony Nelson (right) with his successor Andrew Cunningham-Brown (left) and Cromer town crier Jason Bell. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

As well as leading 30 carnival processions in the role, Mr Nelson marched ahead of other town events including the annual Potty Morris Dancing Festival, the Easter bonnet parade and the North Norfolk Classic Vehicle Club run, and played a leading part in the Christmas lights switch-on.

Speaking in 2012, Mr Nelson described himself as a “tourist office on legs” and said he had done the job for so long because he enjoyed it.

Tony and Hilary Nelson get into the carnial spirit in 1981. Photo: HILARY NELSONTony and Hilary Nelson get into the carnial spirit in 1981. Photo: HILARY NELSON

He added: “It’s one of those jobs where it’s difficult to get the sack. And I do a lot of singing, so the crying complements that.”

While town crying took him to competitions all over the country, the father-of-three and grandfather-of-seven still found time to enjoy his passion for music, singing with the Kings Lynn Festival Choir and performing with a quartet of local musicians.

Tony Nelson on stage at Sheringham Little Theatre, acting opposite his wife Hilary in Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends. Photo: HILARY NELSONTony Nelson on stage at Sheringham Little Theatre, acting opposite his wife Hilary in Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends. Photo: HILARY NELSON

After handing over the town crier reins to insurance broker Andrew Cunningham-Brown due to ill health last year, Mr Nelson took pleasure in spending time with his family and, in recent months, began planning his own funeral - with his characteristic wicked sense of humour firmly intact.

His daughter Brigid said: “He was adamant that no one referred to him in clichés, saying, ‘I am not ‘fun loving’ and I am not bubbly, and I want the Shantymen to sing - but not for too long!’”

Tributes have been paid to Mr Nelson by local individuals, community groups and businesses, and by Sheringham Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson, who said: “Tony was responsible for securing one of the first ever Lottery grants that totally refurbished the building and saved the theatre.

“He was a great support and adviser, but, more than all this, he was a great friend.”

Mr Nelson’s funeral will be at Cromer Crematorium on Saturday at 10am, with all welcome at a celebration of his life at the Crown Inn from 12.30pm onwards.

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