Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 12:17 UK

Railway crier becomes UK champion

Watch Martin Hallett in full voice at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.

A steam railway enthusiast from Gwynedd has been crowned Britain's top town crier.

Martin Hallett, the resident crier at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway (WHHR), beat off 16 other contestants for the title from across the country.

Mr Hallett, who lives at Rhosgadfan near Caernarfon, fought back from a recent throat infection to win the title at Biddulph in Staffordshire.

"The trick is to project your voice, if you shout you soon go hoarse," he said.

The Porthmadog-based WHHR is the only steam railway in the UK to have its own resident crier.

Mr Hallett said he became a town crier because he had always been interested in history and tradition.

It's not the loudest voice that wins, you have to pitch it at the right volume
Martin Hallett

His first taste was after he saw an advert for the job of town crier for St Albans, Hertfordshire and later Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.

He said he did not know where the talent came from, but the trick was to project the voice not shout.

"Obviously I'm not allowed to shout at home, so I don't know where it came from," said.

"I've had no training, and the trick is to project your voice, if you shout you soon go hoarse."

The art of crying was to "speak positively" he said.

"In competition the judges look for sustained volume from start to finish - so it's not the loudest voice that wins, you have to pitch it at the right volume," he added.

All criers have to write their own script too, and Mr Hallett said the top tip was "not to put too many s's and h's together but to get a good sprinkling of p's, b's and r's to give it the emphasis".

Mr Hallett works as a finance and administration officer by day but offers his services as a crier for events in the evenings and weekends.

He is also the official mace bearer for Caernarfon town council.

James Hewett, chairman of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, said of the win: "We're really pleased that Martin has been able to put Porthmadog, and the WHHR, on the map.

"He has only been our official railway town crier since the start of 2009, but we're really pleased with the way he's becoming part of the community here," he added.



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