Seaton town criers contest ends in a ding dong

Oh no, Oh no - town crier contestant refuses to make official proclamation

A SHOPKEEPER’S bid to become Seaton’s town crier ended in a ding dong row.

Photographer Chris Byrne-Jones left organisers speechless when he refused to make the official proclamation at Saturday’s competition.

Instead he demanded to read his own prepared script, which he claimed was more appropriate.

But saying “Oh yez” to his request would have been unfair on the other bell-wielding contestants, said Marcus Hartnell, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, which ran the event.

“He effectively eliminated himself,” he said.

Mr Hartnell explained the three challengers had been required to read the same specially written “home town cry” so they could be judged equally.

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He said: “We gave Mr Byrne-Jones numerous opportunities to read the home cry but he insisted on reading one he prepared himself, which was against the rules.

“This is not an opportunity for a business person or someone politically minded to stand up and voice opinions. It is to promote the town and events in the town - bringing business and groups together.”

Mr Hartnell said the home town cry had been prepared by experienced Colyton town crier Derek Wenn with help from Chamber secretary Gaynor Sedgwick and advice from the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers.

He said they were disappointed Mr Byrne-Jones had ruled himself out.

“We had been looking forward to having three criers – the more the merrier, more of a spectacle.”

This week a defiant Mr Byrne-Jones said he planned to go it alone as a freelance town crier for the whole area.

In a statement he said: “After obvious disappointment of being rejected as Seaton’s Town Crier, I have decided that in my retirement, the best service I can give to the community is to join the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers and become a freelance town crier and toastmaster so as I can be used as a stand-in to support any local town or organisations in the area promoting prestigious public pronouncements, proud to preserve our heritage by proclamation without the script of a town council etc, and as such, give the best service to all of East Devon.”

** Former Dorset and Somerset town crying champion David Craner won Saturday’s contest - a clear winner over rival Craig Elliott.

Mr Hartnell said the fact he was already town crier at Beaminster and Crewkerne, and lived in Bridport, should not be a problem, as he was not over committed.

“From our point of view it is brilliant to have someone with so much experience on board - he won hands down,” he added.