Rhyl History Club member Sandra Williams has kindly shared information and photographs of her grandfather, Thomas Watkin Roose. Mr Roose (1863-1939) was Rhyl’s last official Town Crier. Sandra says that the bell he used is still in the family (see photograph), it is 13″ (33 cm) high and is quite heavy. Apparently the bell is an old ship’s bell as Mr Roose’s father was a Sea Captain and was from an old seafaring family originating from Anglesey. Sandra and her brothers have fond memories of going to their Nain’s house every Sunday after Sunday School and trying to lift the heavy bell off the floor. The original picture of Thomas in his uniform hung on the wall.
Wikipedia describes a town crier as a person who is employed by a town council to make public announcements in the streets. Criers often dress elaborately, a tradition known from the eighteenth century. They carry a handbell to make a loud noise and they shout the words “Oyez, oyez, oyez” before making their announcements. The word oyez means “hear ye”, which is a call for silence and attention. Read more: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_crier
Sandra is not sure exactly when her grandfather became the Town Crier. In 1901 the census listed him living with his first wife, Jane, and his occupation then was Bellman (the old name for Town Crier). The 1911 census showed him living in Hope Place with his second wife, Ellen, his occupation being listed as Town Crier.
Interestingly, a letter was received by the Editor of the Rhyl Journal in August 1896 which reads:
“Sir, I think it is high time that the Rhyl Council should set above (sic) appointing an official town crier. At present the office is filled by anyone who cares to take a bell round the town and their “cries” are not always pleasant. Some rush about and ring their bells violently, here there and everywhere. Even the promenade is not sacred from their din and noise, nor any hour of the evening exempted. The other day one of the criers was heard pitching into an opponent, and altogether the performance of a town crier’s duty in Rhyl is by no means satisfactorily performed. Yours, a Quiet Man.”
Mr Roose was born in Greenfield in 1863, one of four children. His mother Martha died when the children were very young, and because their father was a Sea Captain and away most of the time, they all moved to live with relatives in Rhyl. Mr Roose married Jane Roberts in Rhyl in 1888, they had no children and Jane died in 1907. He went on to marry Ellen Moulton nee Littler in Rhyl in 1908 and had six children, Tennyson, Robson and Stephen (Sandra’s father), also Ruby, Eleanor and Reader all of whom died in infancy. Thomas died in 1939, still living in Hope Place, and his wife died in 1961, also still living in Hope Place. Thomas’s brother, John William Roose, opened a grocer’s shop in Queen Street, married and had nine children. One of the nine children was William Stanley Roose, Councillor and Headmaster in Rhyl.
Lastly, here is an amusing little report from the Rhyl Journal of November 25th, 1893. The date seems to suggest that Mr Roose was an unofficial town crier before his appointment to official Town Crier.
“Mr Gladstone rode through the streets of Rhyl yesterday mounted on a donkey. The animal was drawing a cart in which were seated Lord Salisbury, Mr John Bright and several other Parliamentary luminaries. Such were the impressions of pedestrians yesterday; but it was only a roose (ruse) on the part of the Town Crier to draw attention to the Town Hall Concert in the evening. He had chartered a donkey and cart and loaded both with boys who wore masks which had before seen service in Rhyl. It is not known whether the Town Crier received special instructions to mount the moke or not; but they were together”.