THE TOWN CRIER
The Town Crier is closely associated with mediaeval times. In a world where few people could read or write, information was shouted and it was the Town Crier’s job to to keep the population, even outside the bastide, informed. He would have been the one to announce the creation of a new bastide in the area and thus he participated in population movement.
Mediaeval town criers show us that any « public speakers » had an influential and even crucial rôle in what was still an illiterate society. Informing the people of mediaeval times was essential. There are few existing documents that tell us of the peoples’ reactions to news received in this way, especially official announcements. Some illuminated texts however, show an animated crowd, listening attentively to the Town Crier. Drawings in the texts, depending on the region, show them as trumpets, horns, banners, heralds, sergeants, whistles, nuntius et preco, serviens et preco, and they had other activities within the community.
Depending on the period, there was one character you would meet in even the smallest village. The « odd-job man », the indispensible person, the one who announces good or bad news, the latest royal orders, declarations of war – victories rather than defeats, peace that was everlasting, the birth of a prince, exchange rates, calls to council meetings and general assemblies, opening and closing times, organisation of The Watch, obituaries, the discovery of an abandoned child ….
Here is an example of a Town Crier’s text, announcing the opening of the baths :
Hear what I am saying at this break of day,
Lords, go to the bath,
And to the hot-room, make haste,
The baths are hot, I do not lie !
Apart from Town Criers, who were agents in the service of the authorities, many « lesser criers » could be heard among mediaeval people. These were shopkeepers, wine-sellers and other merchants advertising their wares ; itinerant artisans, announcers of deaths, beggars and almoners of religious orders, or criers working for private citizens. The call to seasonal work (wine-harvest, cherry picking…) and to religious festivals could also be heard in addition to all the usual noises of a busy town.
THE BASTIDE’S SECRET
The Town Crier: « If my work consists of speaking, it’s also useful to have a good memory and I don’t forget what I see or hear... especially when I overhear two Lords talking of things I should never have known.» Word 3/11 : to.
Cross the Square and talk to the market vendor !