Town crier’s farewell after 31 years

Scarborough Town Crier Alan Booth retires . Ringing the bell for the final time.Pic Richard Ponter 152514f
Scarborough Town Crier Alan Booth retires . Ringing the bell for the final time.Pic Richard Ponter 152514f

Scarborough’s town crier Alan Booth has decided to hang up his bell after 31 years representing the town he loves.

Alan says he has enjoyed the role immensely and will miss his duties, but at the age of 83 he has decided to take things a little easier.

He said: “One of the best things about it is that I’ve been able to publicise Scarborough.

“We live in such a wonderful place we should sing about it. We’re so fortunate.”

Alan first became town crier in June 1984 following a competition in Scarborough to find a suitable candidate for the role.

As he progressed through the heats and was finally named as the winner, Alan’s first reaction was shock.

He said: “I didn’t think I could do it. I told the organisers I wouldn’t have the time as my wife and I had a guest house to run.

“My name, along with other members of the Scarborough Hotels Association, had been put into the competition just to swell the numbers.

“But my appeal fell on deaf ears, so I said I would do the job for one year and one year only.”

Alan admits that for the first six months he hated it and used to make his way to the Town Hall down back streets and alleyways from his home in North Marine Road so he would not be seen in his uniform.

But after six months, he attended a charity event and says, looking back, “I started to smile for the first time in sixth 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.”

Alan’s role has taken him all over the world, to far-flung destinations including Australia, Canada and Taiwan.

His first ever national competition took place in Hastings, and Alan was surprised and delighted to be awarded second place.

The following year he came third, then won it in 1988, 1989 and 1994, also becoming European champion from 1990 to 1992.

He said it is hard to pick out particular highlights in his career as he has enjoyed everything - from local summer fairs to reading out a proclamation from the Queen to the people of Scarborough, Ontario.

Alan said: “It has been so interesting. The local events have been so varied and different and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve been to.

“What I do miss is the people. Everyone has got a story to tell if we just have time to stop and listen.”

He said one occasion that does stand out, however, is when Alan met the Queen at the official opening of the Open Air Theatre in May 2010.

Alan said: “I had the honour of introducing the Queen and Prince Philip to 7,000 people.

“I met her there along with the other Freemen of the Borough and she was wonderful.”

Little did he know at the time but their paths would cross again two years later, when Her Majesty was handing out Maundy Money at York Minster, with Alan among the recipients.

Alan also has fond memories of the sixth World Town Crier Championship in Ballarat, Australia, in 1995, when he was awarded fifth place.

He said: “I’ve had lots of trophies over the years, but my favourite thing about the role has been spreading the word about Scarborough.

“I’ve been to Scarborough in Australia and Scarborough in Canada and the people are lovely but the places aren’t a patch on our Scarborough.

“I’ve also enjoyed the company of all the other town criers. I get messages sent from all over the world - we still keep in touch.”

Alan has also paid tribute to his beloved late wife, Wendy, who passed away in 2006.

He said: “I was so pleased Wendy was with me nearly all my time as town crier.

“I would not have been able to do it without her. She was such a tremendous support and encouraged me to carry on and travel abroad for competitions and events.

“She made my waistcoats for me and if a button fell off, she’d have sewn it back on before it hit the floor.”

He says that thanks to Wendy’s support, and the kindness and encouragement from everyone he has worked with in Scarborough and beyond, he has endless amounts of fond memories.

Alan laughs: “Out of 31 years I’ve enjoyed 30 and a half, so I’m glad I stuck it out!”

He is not sure if Scarborough Council will appoint another town crier, of whether there will be a competition like when he started out.

Alan said: “I don’t know what will happen now, it’s entirely up to the officials at the town hall.

“It’s an honorary position, so you do it for the love of the town and the borough - and for me that has been an honour and a privilege.”

Alan says he will still go along to events - but as a member of the public from now on.

Alan was presented with a certificate confirming that he has been made a life member of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers. The presentation was made by Bridlington town crier David Hinde. David said: “It gives me great pleasure as a fellow town crier on the Yorkshire coast to share the celebrations of the long and distinguished service of Alan Booth as Scarborough’s town crier. I know he is well respected and rightly so for his efforts in promoting Scarborough and welcoming visitors.”