Scarborough’s town crier Alan Booth is celebrating 30 years in the role and in his words: “What an adventure it’s been.”
Alan. 82, has become a familiar face at major events in the town over the past three decades, delivering his “cry” and entertaining the crowds, young and old.
His exuberance and the joy he gets from carrying out his duties is plain to see, which is why it’s such a surprise to hear that when he first took on the role in 1984, he was filled with doubt.
Alan explained: “There hadn’t been a town crier since the late 1800s and with a festival coming up that June, Scarborough Hotels Association and the Chamber of Trade decided to run a competition to find one.
“Organisers got a pile of entries, but not enough for heats, so everyone on the committee agreed to have their name put down to swell the numbers.”
The contest was held on the grassed area between the St Nicholas Hotel and the Grand.
Alan continued: “I was so shocked when they called out my name as the winner. I said thank you very much, but I don’t want to be town crier.
“I told them I didn’t have the time as my wife and I had a guest house to run.”
Alan agreed to do the job for a year, but admits that he hated it at first.
He said: “It wasn’t my nature to be up front - I was on the quiet side. I used to sit at the back at meetings and always went out of the back door.”
However, after reluctantly doing the job for six months, Alan can recall the point where he started to feel differently.
He said: “The Grumbleweeds were doing a charity coffee morning at the old Opera House and I was asked to come along and drum up trade.
“Graham said ‘Give me your bell Alan, I’m going to announce it’, adding that he wanted me to do the shouting while he mimed.
“I began to smile for the first time in six months - I had started to relax.”
After 10 months, Alan got a letter from the Town Hall asking if he would accept the role permanently.
He wrote back to say: “I’ll accept the job for life, but not a minute longer.”
Since then he has taken part in town crier competitions across the UK, Europe and all over the world, meeting his counterparts from other town who have become firm friends.
His first ever national competition was in Hastings and left Alan feeling “overawed”, but he was delighted to come second out of 86 entrants.
The following year he came third, then won it in 1988, 1989 and 1994, also becoming European champion from 1990 to 1992.
Alan explained that people’s ability as a town crier is judged on criteria including diction, inflection, confidence, bearing, dress, the cry and its content, volume and sustained volume.
He said: “One of the loudest I’ve ever heard was the town crier of Gloucester, Alan Myatt, but you can’t tell what he’s saying. So I always try to make it nice and clear.”
Alan came fifth in the World Championships in Ballarat, Australia, in 1995 and won an international competition in Seattle which took place after the World Championships in Canada.
He was also invited to the British Exhibition in Taiwan, taking his wife Wendy, and were pleased to discover an Alan Ayckbourn play being staged in the capital, Taipei.
Alan said: “I managed to get hold of a local paper featuring the play and brought it back for him.”
One of the funniest memories Alan can recall is when he and Wendy visited Chester and saw the town crier speaking to a group of tourists.
He explained: “He asked if anyone would like to have a go. I’m one for a laugh, so I kept my face straight and went over.
“I asked him ‘what are those words you say?’ He replied ‘say oyez three times’.
“So I did it and added ‘The town crier of Scarborough of Scarborough brings his greetings to the people of Chester’.
“He called me a name! Then he laughed and told me he’d heard all about me.”
Alan’s highlights include introducing The Queen to the crowd at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre in 2010, receiving his MBE from Prince Charles in 1999 and being given Maundy Money at York Minster in 2012.
He was also asked to read out a declaration from The Queen, celebrating 25 years of the Town Hall, whilst in Scarborough, Ontario.
Having travelled the world, there’s nothing Alan enjoys more than carrying out his duties in Scarborough, at much-loved events such as Pancake Day, Scalby Fair and the Boxing Day festivities.
He said: “I enjoy everything I do and there’s nothing nicer than people if you’ve got the time to listen.”
Alan said he’ll carry on with the honorary role as long as he can, adding: “I might ease off though for the next 30 years!”
He said: “I think it’s important for Scarborough to have a town crier, especially for tourism.
“It’s such a privilege to be able to do it. I’m sure somebody up there was telling me to stick it out and that I was going to enjoy it. I’m convinced it came from up above.”