‘Oyez, oyez’ town crier announces retirement

John Barber, 90, who is retiring as Southwold Town Crier after 40 years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

John Barber, 90, who is retiring as Southwold Town Crier after 40 years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

'Oyez, oyez' for 40 years these words have echoed around a popular seaside town accompanied by a ringing bell courtesy of the familiar figure of John Barber.

John Barber, 90, who is retiring as Southwold Town Crier after 40 years, is also an honorary Texan c

John Barber, 90, who is retiring as Southwold Town Crier after 40 years, is also an honorary Texan citizen. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

However, after four decades of service Mr Barber is set to don his traditional uniform for the final time as he retires from the role of Southwold town crier in March 2017.

'I thought it was an appropriate time as I recently reached the age of 90 and wanted to finish while I am still up right!' he explained.

Born on September 11, 1926, in Southwold, his life has seen him serve in the Irish Guards, meet members of the Royal family, write a book and become an honorary citizen of Texas.

He became Southwold town crier in 1974 a position which had been of interest since childhood when he lived next door to former town crier Mr Button.

John Barber, 90, who is retiring as Southwold Town Crier after 40 years to concentrate on his art pi

John Barber, 90, who is retiring as Southwold Town Crier after 40 years to concentrate on his art pieces and making models. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016


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'I was particularly attracted to being town crier as Mr Button was a very friendly person which really stuck in my mind.

'I don't remember much about my first outing other than it was a private event, but I was used to bell ringing from when I was in the guards at Buckingham Palace,' he said.

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Speaking of the history of the town crier, Mr Barber said: 'It's a lost antiquity to a certain extent, Mr Samuel Strange served as town crier in the mid to late 1800s- he is about the earliest I have heard of.'

John Barber explains over the course of his tenure he has missed only one civic duty due to illness and strong tradition dictates announcements are made at specified locations within Southwold, including South Green, Barnaby Green, Stradbroke Road, Pier Avenue and Market Place.

A trip to America in 1976, organised by the British Tourism Authority, saw Mr Barber attending conventions across the country and being named an honorary citizen of Texas.

Outside of his town crying exploits John Barber ensures his hands are never idle. The hammering of nails and sawing of wood can be heard daily, as he crafts creations in his workshop situated at the rear of the Reydon home he shares with step-daughter Pamela and her husband Paul O'Hara- the aptly named Bellman's House.

It is this work ethic combined with encouragement from family and friends, which saw Mr Barber put pen to paper and publish The Life and Times of Southwold's Town Crier, a book documenting his experiences.

Looking to the future he said: 'I would hate to see the role not fulfilled but when I am finished that's it I am not coming back. I have mixed feelings about giving it up as I am going to miss it so much, but I will concentrate on my other pursuits such as working on the restoration of Southwold Railway.'

If you are interested in fulfilling the role of Southwold town crier, call 01502 722576 or email admin@southwoldtowncouncil.com.

Do you have a Southwold story? Email simon.ward@archant.co.uk or call 01502 525 832.

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