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49


Les Ellis D


artmouth’s very own award winning town crier, Les Ellis, features in thousands of photos all


around the world! When in his colourful regalia the larger than life character gets mobbed by tourists. Les is a retired police detective who has chased gangs of criminals around London and used to go drinking with Tommy Cooper. Now he spends his time appearing in nationwide competitions, entertaining passengers on cruise ships and getting ready to greet thousands of people who’ll head to Dart- mouth next year for the Mayflower celebra- tions. Steph Woolvin went to meet him…


It’s hard to know where to start with Les. His past is just as interesting as his present. He was first intro- duced to the Dartmouth scene in 2007 when a friend down the pub said he should apply to become the town crier, as he was ‘just the right build’ to take up the role! “I had done a bit of this kind of thing because I’m the official crier for the Galmpton Gooseberry Pie Fair. Each year I go to Paignton on the steam train with BRNC cadets to collect the pie (which is so big it needs four peo- ple to carry it on a stretcher) and then I announce its arrival.” Les was the only person who applied for the Dartmouth


I’m helping keep a


traditional role alive. I love it.


crier job, so after a quick interview he was given the post. Les and his wife Liz appear at most big town events, with Les ringing his bell at the regatta, music festival, food festival, Candlelit Dartmouth and Remem- brance Sunday. In Medieval times town criers were the chief means of communi- cating with the townspeople, since many were illiterate. They would shout about anything from dates of market days to the


taxes going up. “I try and spread better news than that,” Les says with a smile. “I’m helping keep a traditional role alive. I love it. I meet people from around the world and, hopefully, make them happy.” Les shows off his skills at various town crier com- petitions around Britain. He has to perform in two categories – a cry about a subject chosen at random and the cry of his hometown. “Ours is a beautifully worded piece by a local poet emphasising Dartmouth’s heritage, scenic wonders and good food.” Each cry has to start with ‘Oyez, Oyez, Oyez’ (hear ye, hear ye, hear ye) and finish with ‘God Save the Queen.’ Among other things, the judges listen for sustained volume; so it’s not just how loud you can be, but whether you can keep it up! Entrants are also given a chance to show off their expensive regalia in the best-dressed rounds. Les is a firm favourite in this area winning several awards


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