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Witheridge had spoken of having their own Town Crier for many years, and in 1927 "Penwiper" wrote in the Gazette "Witheridge needs a Town Crier". In 1990, the then Chairman of the Parish Council, Miss Peggy Miles, was instrumental in getting our Ancient St John's Midsummer Fair restarted, and for this, it was felt that having our own Town Crier would at a little colour to the event. The Fair had not been held since before the Second World War, and traditionally the fair was "held annually on the Eve, Day and Morrow of the Feast of St John the Baptist," and is now held on the nearest Saturday to the Feast of St John which occurs on the 24th June.

Those involved in organizing the Fair in 1991 arranged a competition for the 14th June at which they would choose a suitable candidate. The judges appointed for this task were Freda Tout and Joan Pearce, and one Frank Housam eventually was chosen as the Witheridge Town Crier. Upon learning that there was to be a competition that afternoon in South Molton for Town Criers, Frank travelled over to see what he could learn about being a Town Crier. Whilst there he met the late Arthur Scoins, who had been the Town Crier at South Molton for over thirty years, and was a mine of information. Frank also had the opportunity to meet twenty five other Town Criers entered in the competition. He also found that as he had been officially nominated by the local council, he was entitled to join the Guild of Town Criers, and after completing the necessary formalities, he was duly accepted as a "Postulant" member for two years, after which he would become a full member.

One week later the village saw their first Town Crier, albeit in clothes borrowed from Steve Cunnliffe, who was the Town Crier at Dawlish. He was also a Tailor, and agreed to make the first set of Witheridge Town Crier robes in the colours chosen by the council, namely the green and gold of St John's Wort, the flower of St John. The first outing for Frank in the new robes was at Topsham Town Fair where he was favourably placed, and also won the "Best Dressed Crier" category. This in turn led to the World Championships in Shanklyn, Isle of Wight, where Witheridge was placed 23rd overall out of 107 entries, and 10th best dressed. In 1992 having gained more trophies, Witheridge acquired the right from the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers to hold the Devon County Championships at our Annual St Johns Fair. During the 11 years that Frank has been Town Crier, with Mary his wife as escort, they have represented Witheridge world wide, winning trophies in Canada, Australia, USA, amongst others. Frank Housam has also been granted the privilege of representing Witheridge until such time as he chooses to retire, and he is currently the Senior Town Crier in North Devon.

In 1995 Roger Merit of Lincoln recorded the loudest cry at 106 decibels. Later that year Frank broke the record with 110.8 decibels. Later Roger regained the record with 112.4. In 1994 a coach load of supporters went to Skegness and witnessed Frank and Mary win three of the available trophies, namely "Best Dressed", "Conviviality" and "Media". Frank has been adopted by the National Caravan Club, of which he is a member, as parade leader and proclaimer for the British contingent at International Rallies throughout the world.

Frank and Mary have had a very successful record in competitions, and have together won the best dressed couple in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Staffordshire. They have also won the British National Championships, and last year took Silver in the World Championship. Frank also won "The Armada Trophy" for the best Town Crier in the South West of England.

In 2005, the World Town Crier Championships will be held in Maryborough City, Australia, and Frank and Mary will be attending to represent Witheridge. Situated some 3 hours drive north of Brisbane (the capital City of Queensland), Maryborough, which has a population of 26,000 is the dominant commercial centre for the surrounding local government areas of Woocoo; Tiaro and West Hervey Bay. First settled in 1847 and proclaimed a City in 1905, Maryborough was the port for wool, timber and sugar industries and the supply centre for the Gympie goldfields. Some 22,000 migrants entered Australia directly from Europe by sailing ship through the Port of Maryborough from 1859.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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