Did you know Collingwood has a town crier? O-yes it does.
The origin story harkens back a quarter of a century in local history when a member of council at the time saw town criers one summer and thought it would be cool to have a town crier lead the Collingwood Santa Claus Parade that year.
At the time, there was no such person until Collingwood resident Ken Templeman was persuaded into the role.
The downtown businesses banded together to outfit Templeman in something appropriate and in December of 1996, Templeman led his first-ever Santa Claus parade — and he loved it.
The following spring, people from those same businesses campaigned to council, and Templeman was appointed the official town crier. The new title also allowed Templeman to join the Ontario Guild of Town Criers.
He’s been doing it ever since.
“It’s been interesting, I’ve had a lot of fun,” Templeman reflected.
A town crier is someone who makes proclamations and announcements for his or her town, stemming from the medieval English tradition when a crier was the chief means of mass communication. Nowadays, criers attend functions or celebrations and ring their bell to get everyone's attention before reading a special announcement.
With a booming voice a handbell, Templeman starts his proclamations with the characteristic "oyez, oyez, oyez," which is an old phrase meaning "hear ye."
He reads the news he's charged to deliver from a small scroll he keeps rolled in his white-gloved hand, the handbell stays at the ready in his other hand.
Over the last 25 years, Templeman has had to learn the proper requirements for parading in and introducing people. He has since read out mayoral proclamations, acted as the protocol officer at certain events, cried at too many birthdays, anniversaries, retirements to count, introduced the bride and groom at a number of weddings, and one time, he even cried at a funeral.
“I have had to learn a lot of that stuff because I never knew it before,” he said. “There are certain rules and conventions that protocol demands.”
His position as town crier has also opened a lot of doors over the course of Templeman’s life.
His knowledge and newfound skills led him to the pipe band, where he became a bass drummer and eventually the drum major. He is currently the drum major for the Grey and Simcoe Foresters as well as the sergeant-at-arms at the Collingwood Legion.
“I love going out and meeting people,” he said. “I’m very plugged into what is going on in the town.”
He has also competed as a crier all over Ontario and has made a lot of friends through the Guild. In 2001, he even went to Washington to compete at the World Invitational Town Crier Tournament.
Templeman said he “has met some wonderful people” along the way — including Priscilla Presley, Elvis Presley’s ex-wife, and some of Elvis’s friends at the Collingwood Elvis Festival.
He also loves that through his role, he is so integrated into the community.
In 2008, Templeman was honoured with the Order of Collingwood, which recognizes exemplary volunteerism within the community.
One of his fondest memories as town crier is that for several years, Templeman would travel to people’s homes with Mayor Sandra Cooper and deliver the news in person that they had been selected as the Order of Collingwood.
“The responses we got were awesome. Always so emotional,” he said.
And while there are no rules as to what town criers should wear, Templeman takes great pride in his uniform. He wears a fluffy white in his hat and a single-breasted, red frock coat that his wife helped him sew, and it pays homage to 1858, when Collingwood officially became a town.
His official duties have been limited over the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of public gatherings, but he is excited to get back to it when it is safe to do so.