Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Monday, 28 December 2009

Knighton town crier's worries for dynasty

Derrick Price
Derrick Price has been a town crier in Knighton man and boy

By Carl Yapp
BBC News

When Derrick Price was growing up his childhood ambition was not to be a town crier like his great-grandfather, grandfather and father.

He swore he would not follow in their footsteps in Knighton, Powys, and take on a role that had been in his family, at the time, for more than 100 years.

His dislike for town crying was forged in his early years when as a 10-year-old he was forced to support his father in the town square. He was even given his own little bell.

But when, in 1960, his father died, his opposition ceased overnight. Within a week of his father's death he was out delivering his first cry.

Since then he's been a fixture in Knighton and the surrounding areas, and has even performed duties at events overseas.

Next year will mark his 50th as an official town crier, but it's fair to say he's been in the role for more than six decades, man and boy.

Derrick Price
My son isn't interested.. he has the same reaction to it as I did when I was younger
Derrick Price

At 74, he is confident he has another 10 years of service in him.

But, rather worryingly, his son dislikes the thought of being a town crier as much as he did when he was a young man. In short, the family dynasty is in danger of collapse.

When I met Mr Price in Knighton we happened across his son, and it was clear he wasn't interested in what his father treasures.

Over a coffee in a nearby cafe, Mr Price told me it was as if history was repeating itself, and he confessed his only hope of keeping a town crier in the family were his granddaughters, who had shown an interest.

Mr Price said: "My son isn't interested. He has the same reaction to it as I did when I was younger. I don't know if he'll take it on when I retire; it doesn't look good, but I hope he does.

"Both my granddaughters come out with me as escorts, as my wife used to, so perhaps one of them will eventually take it on."

As we walked down the street in Knighton, Mr Price, dressed in his official costume so I could take photographs, stopped and chatted to people.

Derrick Price's grandfather (left) and father (right)
Derrick Price's grandfather (L) and father (R) at the turn of the 1900s

He enjoys his role as a figurehead in the town, and it's obvious people in the community mean a great deal to him and him to them.

"I'm the fourth generation of town crier in Knighton and I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said.

"But it wasn't like that at the start. My father made me do it and sometimes I didn't want to do it and I swore that when I was older that I wouldn't take it on.

"When father died in 1960 I was out within a week. The national press and TV cameras turned up in Knighton because I was a fourth generation town crier.

"Despite my objection to the role, I felt it was natural to do it. Now I think it's one of the nicest things that's ever happened to me.

"I have met some wonderful people, not just from this country, but from around the world."

His efforts have been rewarded: last year he received the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers' highest honour, and he was awarded an MBE in 2004.

Derrick Price
Derrick Price took over from his father as town crier in 1960

His role is essentially ceremonial, but when his great-grandfather, grandfather and father were town criers it was an official position with responsibilities.

As well as making traditional announcements, in years gone by the town crier was a bailiff, would wake workers in the mornings, and light the town's gas lamps.

In the mid-1800s his great-grandfather was even responsible for announcing the auctions of women in Knighton. Yes, women.

Such an auction would be incongruous now, but it was a means of divorce in the 1800s.

"It was common to sell your wife in Knighton between 1843 and 1854 outside the town clock," he explained.

"The last woman was sold for a shilling and my great-grandfather was the last town crier to announce the last sale.

"Men unhappy with their wives would lead them by a lanyard to the town clock."

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