pmoore.jpgPeter Moore, London’s official town crier for 31 years, died on December 20. Cause of death was not released. He was 70.
Town criers have a long history of serving the English citizenry with vocal proclamations. The first known broadcast occurred in 1066, when town criers shared news about the Battle of Hastings. Since literacy rates amongst the majority of the populace was low well into the late 19th century, town criers served as “talking newspapers” for the public, announcing the king’s edicts, advertising market days and generally spreading the news of the realm.
Although Moore was raised in central England, he ran away to London as a young man with dreams of becoming an actor. Bit parts came his way, including the role of the undertaker Mr. Sowerberry in the original stage production of the musical “Oliver!” in 1960, but steady acting work eluded him until 1978 when he was asked to serve as a town crier for an event. He took the job and found his niche.
Moore was a familiar sight on the streets of London, where he promoted the city’s attractions to tourists and residents alike. Clad in red and gold robes, white breeches, black boots and a feathered tricorn hat, he was easily recognizable in any crowd. Those who were too busy or distracted to see Moore certainly heard him for he would heartily begin every announcement with a boisterous “Oyez, Oyez” (roughly translated as “hark” or “listen”) and a ring of his bell, which was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the company that made Big Ben and the Liberty Bell.
Among his many titles, Moore was town crier to the mayor of London, the Greater London Authority, the city of Westminster and the London borough of Merton. He was also a freeman and liveryman of the city of London, deputy macebearer and town crier for the London borough of Southwark and tipstaff and town crier to the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames.
Moore’s motto was: “Have Bell, Will Travel,” and he took it to heart. In his role as the official town crier of London, Moore appeared at hundreds of public events, charity balls, openings and ceremonies in the United Kingdom and in countries all over the world. Friends described him as “larger than life,” “a workaholic” and a “people person,” attributes that served him well as the most recognized town crier in England. When asked about his proudest moment on the job, Moore said it was when he announced the 1982 birth of Prince William of Wales outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.
Although his later years were spent in poor health, Moore had no interest in retiring. He performed his last official engagement on Dec. 19 at a Christmas reception given by the mayor of Southwark. Moore was due to receive a lifetime achievement award during the New Year’s Day Parade in London, which he lead every year since 1987. With Moore gone, parade organizers decided to posthumously honor him with the award.
–Photo by Tony Clarke.