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Town Criers: A Proud and Honorable Tradition

Bev and Jerry Praver reading a cry in Cambria, California

As long as there has been news to share, there have been messengers to deliver it. The job of Town Crier can be traced back to 1066 A.D. when news of Britain's invasion by William the Conqueror was passed from town to town by individuals specifically employed to call out the King's proclamation.

Literacy among the majority of the populace was low well into the late 19th century as books and newspapers were generally only accessible to a small percentage of the English population. Proclamations, edicts, laws and news may well have been written on paper, but they were usually passed on to the general public by the Town Crier - the first (talking) newspaper.

Oyez, Oyez (roughly translated as "Hark" or "Listen") became a familiar call in town squares, markets and public meeting places all over Britain, a summons for the town's people to gather and listen to news of plague, victories in far off lands, Royal births, and executions.

The Town Crier would read a proclamation, usually at the door of the local inn, then nail it to the doorpost of the inn. The result of this tradition has been the naming of newspapers as "The Post", the expression "posting a notice", the "post office" and "posting a message" on the Internet.