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Thetford town crier’s dutiful life

PUBLISHED: 09:13 27 October 2014 | UPDATED: 09:13 27 October 2014

Thetford town crier Mike Wabe

Thetford town crier Mike Wabe

Archant

Mike Wabe has had a busy life, but he’s probably best-known now as the Thetford town crier. In the digital age you might not think there would much demand for something as traditional as a town crier.

But town criers are in great demand for civic ceremonies, charity functions, tourism events and commercial ventures, and are valued for their colourful costumes, imposing presence and historical significance.

Mr Wabe is the first town crier in Thetford for more than 70 years.

He’s also a wedding toast master and has started taking part in murder mystery tours, which are proving popular.

He’s been town crier since March last year.

He said: “I applied to become a town crier because I’m a bit of a gob on a stick, and I’m quite outgoing. I like meeting people.

“Town criers do the job principally because they enjoy keeping an ancient tradition alive, and we consider it an honour and a privilege to serve our town and community.

“From the first Saturday in May until the last Saturday in August, I will give a proclamation at 11am at the town clock in King Street, Thetford. People have come to expect my proclamations and gather for a chat.

“In my proclamations I talk about the past but also what’s going on now.

“I’ve been to a couple of competitions for town criers. I competed in town crier competitions in Ely (won best ambassador) and Warwick (won third place). I competed in the world town crier tournament in Chester in August and came sixth in the home town cry, was graded excellent in the best dressed crier section and commended in the town crier ambassador section.

“There are about 200 town criers in England and others from Holland, France, Belgium and the US.

“I also do a lot of charity work as part of the job and am the East Anglian voice of Sue Ryder. I also do wedding stuff and give a wake-up call to brides on their wedding days, if they want it.”

A Norfolk boy, he’s from Terrington St John. near Wisbech. and attended King’s Lynn Grammar school.

He said he was bullied at school and left at the first opportunity, aged 15. After getting his qualifications, he joined Mid Anglia Constabulary, now Cambridgeshire police, at Peterborough.

He said: “This was the mid to late 1960s when police pay was appallingly bad. One of the teastops we had as a policeman was Security Express in Peterborough, and they offered me a job.

“I left the police on the Friday and started at Security Express on the Monday. My pay went from £17 10shillings to £25 a week.

“But I did not stay there long and enlisted as an RAF policeman. I served at RAF Marham, Honington, Kinloss, Turnhouse, did two tours of Germany and was in Cyprus in 1974 when the Turks invaded.

“My last posting was in Coningsby where, as a farewell gift, I was very fortunately given a flight on a Lancaster in the rear gunners’ 
seat. It really brought home to me how brave airmen were in the war, never knowing whether they would be coming back from each flight.”

Altogether, he served 29 years as a policeman. He then worked at Autoglass in Ipswich for four years, but gave it up, partly because he had to travel six days a week from his home in Thetford to Ipswich.

He then went into the prison service. “I started at Highpoint when there were female prisoners there. Then, a vacancy came up in Wayland, which was obviously much closer to home, and I served for about 10-and-a-half years in the prison service.”

But when he hit 60 in 2010, his wife persuaded him to pack it in.

“I did not want to have to face the real risk of having to be fighting on the floor with 21, 22-year-olds as a 60-year-old. There was not a lot of fighting there, but there was a risk,” he added.

Proud to have never been unemployed in his working life, he then got a job at Long Stratton High School as an inclusion manager, which was all to do with behavioural work, he said.

After two years, he moved on to Thetford Academy, where he worked as a work-related learning mentor, taking students to West Suffolk College.

He describes himself now as a house-husband, saying: “I do the ironing, cleaning, and house work, which is only right as my wife works.”

Do you know a character who could feature as an Original in our series of features? 
Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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