LAST week the City of Ballarat farewelled Town Crier Brian Whykes. Mr Whykes, 85, was appointed as Town Crier in 1987 by the then City of Ballaarat, in which time he has been named Australia’s Best Town Crier on five occasions.
During his service Mr Whykes has endeavoured to keep the town crier tradition alive and promote Ballarat on the world town crying stage. Mr Hedley Thomson has been appointed as the new Town Crier for the City of Ballarat.
An official handover took place on the Ballarat Town Hall steps last Friday with City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Samantha McIntosh, on behalf of councillors and residents, thanking Mr Whykes for his service and wishing him well in his retirement and welcoming the new Town Crier. “Brian has been a great ambassador for Ballarat, so it’s fitting to acknowledge his contribution in honouring the city’s important role in Australia’s town crying story,” Cr McIntosh said. “We also wish to acknowledge and thank Mr Hedley Thomson for accepting the important community function and responsibility of Town Crier.” Mr Whykes said there are two aspects to town crying, first there is one’s duty to the appointing municipality, and second there is the responsibility to help preserve the time-honoured craft of town crying. “I express my gratitude to the Australasian Guild of Town Criers for appointing me as president for many years,” Mr Whykes said. “In particular to the Guild Secretary and Protocol Officer, Mariebeth Stonehouse, for her wise council and deep knowledge of the subject.” Addressing the new Town Crier Mr Whykes said, “Hedley I hand you this bell, go forth and promote Ballarat and I trust you will gain the same satisfaction and pleasure as I have. God bless Australia and God save the Queen.” While Mr Thomson had no aspirations to be a Town Crier he is looking forward to his role, saying he has the beard and voice and agreed to become Ballarat’s next Town Crier after his long-time friend and former work colleague asked him to.
“Brian has done a lot for the City and I know how important he believes town crying is and what a contribution he has made in that regard, so when he asked me and said ‘you are the one I want’, I really couldn’t say no,” Hedley explained. “That is the major motivation but apart from that it is significant.
“Those who have spoken to me don’t see it as a frivolous thing but something significant, and it adds something different, especially in this day of electronic media and flooded with recorded and digital stuff, to have something live and something that relates back to heritage and that applies to the City here, here its relevant to have a Town Crier in a place like Ballarat.” Hedley added that as a schoolboy he used to get told off for his loud voice and now, 50 years later, he has an opportunity to give it ‘his all’. “I never really thought about it (town crying) and probably wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for Brian retiring and his guidance, someone like him who can learn the trade to me,” Hedley said. “It’s a responsibility but I will get a lot out of it just by mixing with people who are organising all the fabulous events.
“It’s very important that the Town Crier is seen as being neutral and principally supporting what the community is about.
“I am not a mouthpiece for the City, I am not paid, I’m fully a volunteer and its entirely up to me what I choose to do. “I am appointed on behalf of the community, I’m not beholden to a council position, I can say yes or no to any event.”