The red mid-18th century replica of an officer’s uniform of the 45th Regiment worn by Lloyd Smith for decades has been retired. The long-time Valley Crier – some 35 years and counting – is resplendent today in dress representing the clothing of 18th century aristocrats.
But Smith’s role as a Crier remains hasn’t changed. The centuries old tradition of Criers announcing news and proclamations in the village square continues, with Smith still playing a prominent role at functions and celebrations throughout the Valley
However, the breeches, jacket and trim are now in subdued shades of green and gold (the colours of the town of Windsor), the hints of blue in the waistcoat representing our Acadian heritage. And while his new uniform might not be traditional town Crier apparel (if there is such) the bell, staff and tricorn, part of the Crier costume for centuries, are still there.
In other words, a proclamation made today by Smith is, in effect, a historically correct re-enactment of the ancient art of crying. Bells and staffs have been carried by town Criers for hundreds of years. The tricorn many Criers wear today was a fixture on Criers centuries ago.
It’s believed the ancient Greeks and Romans were the first to employ Criers but little documentation exists. What we do know is that after the Norman invasion of England in 1066, Criers are mentioned in official records. In Great Britain Criers eventually became the voice of ruling Kings and Queens and officers of the Crown; most of the time they were used to inform people of orders and decrees from higher up. So entrenched in British history and so vital was this role that Criers became protected under English laws; laws, by the way, still in effect today.
This is Lloyd Smith’s third Crier uniform. The first, a gentleman’s dress of New England/Planter style was designed locally and was prominently green and gold. The outfit worn by a military officer stationed in Windsor was the model for the red uniform Smith wore until recently. This uniform was officially retired May 18 and is now on display at the Hants Historical Society.
Now, let’s take the significance of the paraphernalia Smith carries in his town Crier role. In every sense it is historical. The bell, for example, has traditionally been used as an “attention getter” for centuries. Ringing the bell three times before an announcement symbolizes the time when a Crown appointed Crier was required to rap three times with a mace to introduce guests into a Royal Chamber or Royal presence; hence both the mace and the bell are carried by Criers today as an acknowledgements of this ancient tradition.
As for the introductory O Yea, O Yea, O Yea preceding Crier announcements, this custom likely goes back to the period when Great Britain was under Norman dominance. Originally the cry was Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, an old Norman French term meaning “to harken,” or “hear ye.”
As for the tricorn Smith wears, this hat was popular in civilian fashion and with the military throughout the 17th and 18th century. While the military discarded the tricorn in favour of other headwear, the hat became the traditional dress of Criers, a symbol of what is so British about crying.