Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Monday, 26 April 2010 11:30 UK

Hay-on-Wye's 80-year-old town crier set to retire

Town Crier Ken Smith
Ken Smith will soon be resting his vocal chords

After more than 25 years of bellowing on the streets of Hay-on-Wye in Powys, 80-year-old town crier Ken Smith is set to retire.

Mr Smith will hang up his tricorn hat and hand over his bell at a town council ceremony on 1 May.

Mr Smith was recently made an honorary member of the Guild of Town Criers and attended the National Town Crying competition in Sandbach, Cheshire.

He said: "I'm disappointed, but it's been very pleasurable."

Mr Smith is a well-known face on the streets of the town, famous for its second hand bookshops and annual literature festival.

Many national and international visitors have their picture taken with him in his town crier finery. Magazines National Geographic and Vogue have both featured Mr Smith.

Town officials said he had cried in all weathers and always with a smile on his face, despite suffering from aneurysms which make walking difficult.

Town criers must have a loud and clear voice
A good personalty
Must be outgoing
They must like people

But Mr Smith confessed that he inherited the role by accident.

"We've had a town crier in Hay since 1742. Just before I took over the town had organised a medieval market, and they wanted someone to cry about it," said Mr Smith.

"Sadly, the town crier had passed away and someone said: 'Ken will do it'. I did it and I was then approached by the town council to take on the job permanently.

"I have mobility problems now and it's making it difficult to carry out my job properly, so I've decided to call it a day."

Mr Smith said his time as town crier had been "very pleasurable".

"My chin will be wobbling a bit at the ceremony on 1 May, but I'll keep a stiff upper lip," he added.

Mr Smith is being considered for a High Sheriff Award for his contribution to life in the town.

He said his successor is George Tofarides, a Welsh speaker, who is originally from north Wales.

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