Former Coast Guard officer turns town crier

A 70 year-old retired Coast Guard officer is poised to roar where no man from Ireland has roared before when he competes in the World Town Crier Championships in Britain.

Former Coast Guard officer turns town crier

Cliff Winser, from Youghal, Co Cork, sets sail for the streets of Chester tomorrow, where he will face 24 rivals from England, Wales, Germany, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, and the Channel Islands in a three-day contest starting on Wednesday.

As part of the competition, he will have to be well versed on ancient Chester laws which, over the years, have included regulations about “shooting a Scotsman with a bow and arrow if caught walking abroad after 9pm” or shooting a Welshman “on Sunday”.

The contestants must compose up to 200 words on themes such as how good one’s home town is, with points awarded for confidence and bearing, diction and inflection, volume and clarity, audience engagement, and contents of cry.

The aggregate scores over the three days will decide the new world champion.

Challengers include reigning world champion Chris Whyman from Canada, four former world champions, and seven present or past national champions. “I am looking forward to this immensely,” said Cliff, who is Ireland’s first representative.

The septuagenarian, whose participation is being part sponsored by Youghal Chamber of Tourism & Commerce and Youghal Credit Union, has been a town crier at festivals and tourism events since the 1980s.

His various costumes are made by Moynihan’s dressmakers, Cork. “Americans often think I’m a pretend leprechaun,” he laughs.

Originally from Carlisle in Northumberland, Cliff was a rock band guitarist in England before moving to Youghal in 1969. A general maintenance worker, he retired from the local Coast Guard in 2011, following 35 years of service.

Criers historically spread the news amongst illiterate communities.

Britain has more than 400 town criers but Cliff is one of only two in Ireland, the other being in Galway. Under Irish law, town criers must acquire an annual broadcasting licence, costing €5.

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