During summer, the city of Owen Sound has a colourful, festive look. Banners by local artists representing a variety of themes are displayed along the city’s harbor front and inner harbor walkway.
Four banners with the theme of “local heroes” are located in the central downtown core. The banners are in honour of World War I fighter pilot, Billy Bishop (1894-1956); painter, engraver, sportsman, Tom Thomson (1877-1917); politician, feminist, reformer, Agnes MacPhail (1890-1954) and John “Daddy” Hall (1783-1900), War of 1812 veteran, escaped slave and town crier.
Hall was beloved in Owen Sound. As town crier, he would walk the streets of the city every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., ringing his bell and reporting the news. Hall, who lived to age 117, served as town crier for close to 50 years.
Of the few existing photos of Hall, there does not appear to be one that shows him wearing the traditional costume of a town crier, which was comprised of a tricorn hat, white breeches, knee-length red coat with gold braid, and a ruffled shirt.
This is not surprising. Such apparel would be very uncomfortable for his twice a day duties, especially on hot summer days, and in the cold of winter.
Hall was undoubtedly an artist. He was gifted with the main criteria of a town crier, the “art of oration”, and a powerful, strident voice. Most likely, when ringing his bell out on his “beat,” Hall used the customary call of all town criers, “Oyez Oyez, Hear Ye”.
Today, when waiting for the traffic signal to show “cross now” at an intersection where Hall once walked his beat, sometimes I faintly hear above the noise of traffic, the sound of a ringing bell and the cry of John Daddy Hall, town crier and artist:
“Oyez Oyez, Hear Ye”.
BY TED SHAW
Photos by Ted Shaw