Sackville’s town crier Greg Fenwick doing a cry on the Halifax waterfront.

If you haven’t seen Greg Fenwick before, chances are you might have heard his booming voice at a local event.

Fenwick is Sackville’s official town crier, a post he has officially held since July 20, 2006. He’s one of only two town criers in the Halifax area, the second being Robert Raoul who took up his position in the Spryfield area in 2013.

Although Fenwick performs “cries” throughout the Halifax region year round, the summer season is typically when he’s seen at big crowd events. His deep voice erupts into a booming laugh when asked how he first came to the art of crying.

“I attended the (Sackville) Patriot Days crying competition. It was me and a 10 year old boy. You had to be 19 or older to represent the town so I won by default, although they let him cry in the competition and the young fella gave a really rousing cry,” Fenwick recalled.

“I’d gotten a bell on Ebay and wired the clapper on and when I did my cry and rang the bell, the clapper flew off and right across the stage. I walked over, picked it up and continued my cry. Gord (Morgan, a former Patriot Days organizer) felt not too much would faze me and that I’d make a half decent crier for Sackville.”

That was the beginning of what has become a passion for Fenwick, who also hollds down a full time job and volunteers with several organizations. A member of the Nova Scotia Guild of Town Criers, he has come a long way since his initial town crying experience. He now has a full uniform and a functioning bell.

“I picked a period that was appropriate to the beginning of our town of Sackville so I dress more plainly, as a merchant, which is appropriate to what Sackville started out as,” he explained. “Town criers do really add to the history of a place. We have a lot of history to talk about here in Sackville, going back to the 1700s.”

Fenwick considered himself fortunate to have been mentored by former Halifax town crier Peter Cox, who passed away in 2009. He said Cox played a major role in reviving the art of town crying.

“After his passing, the city (of Halifax) started asking me to fill in for various conventions in the city, so I’ve done quite a few of those,” he said. “I’ve done cries at the Halifax Club, I’ve cried for an international phycology group, the Young Farmers of Canada, Knights of Columbus conventions, it has been extremely varied.”

Although he considers most of his cries memorable, Fenwick fondly recalled being invited to do a cry at a restaurant for the 90th birthday of a man in Halifax. The man’s son had contacted Fenwick to do the cry, which happened to be during the city’s Nocturne event.

“I must admit that was pretty special. I was wandering the streets dressed as a town crier waiting for the right time to go in and do the cry,” he said. “It silenced the whole restaurant which was really bustling and booming until I did the cry. There was a rousing cheer afterwards and it was greatly appreciated by the son, his father, the family members, and the whole crowd.”

His summer schedule includes the annual Sackville Patriot Days parade and the openings of Sackville’s Fultz House Museum and Bedford’s Scott Manor House.

With the exception of a general cry he has devised for bestowing the Order of Good Cheer, Fenwick said he creates unique cries for every group or individual request he receives.

Because he doesn’t receive much in the way of funding, Fenwick’s ability to travel to town crying competitions is limited. When asked to perform a cry, he does ask for a small honorarium to help cover his fuel and repairs to his uniform as required. His shoes in particular take a beating and occasionally need replacing.

“For towns that want to promote themselves, town criers are one way they can get a lot of interest. It brings a lot to the tourists coming to our towns and villages,” he said. “For a lot of people that will be one of the things they remember, the town crier that greeted their cruise ship or the town crier that came to their hotel and greeted visitors as the Annapolis crier does.”

So what does it take to be a town crier?

“You have to have a big voice and you have to have an interest in it. I do really love doing it,” he said.

“No matter where I go or where I do a cry, I always mention that I’m the official town crier for Sackville and I do my best to represent my community in a positive light.”

Fenwick can be contacted via email, sackvilletowncrier@gmail.com.

*Text appeared in a May, 2014 edition of the Herald Community weekly newspaper*