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Don’t overlook Port Royal’s town crier

Mike Newman, Port Royal’s town crier reads announcement during Charter Day celebrations held last month. / Photo by Rhonda Vanover

Measuring progress and time in the town of Port Royal is a relative matter.

While town officials have an eye on the future by expanding the boundaries to gain more tax revenue, they also give a nod to the past by naming a town crier.

The tiny town near the Rappahannock River has a storied past, and touts its historical nature.

In colonial times, town criers were vital in getting pertinent information to the townspeople.

The town was settled in 1668 and chartered in 1744, and likely had a town crier back then.

The town council saw no reason to discontinue that tradition today.

For the past several years, the town has unofficially had a town crier who has appeared at special gatherings and events held in town.

But after some members of the council read a story in Virginia Living magazine claiming that Alexandria has the only town crier in the state, they made Mike Newman Port Royal’s “official” town crier and promptly wrote a letter to the magazine’s editor telling of their own town crier.

Newman has been the town crier, unofficially, for the past 12 years.

He’s the town’s second crier in recent history. The first was Thomas Mahoney, who served from the mid-1990s until Newman took over.

Newman, a retired state worker, loves the role he plays as town crier.

He takes it seriously, too.

He had a few costumes made, even using authentic materials.

One costume, which is dark green, is warmer for the winter months and the other, in patriotic colors, lets him breathe a bit in the warmer months. He also carries a large brass bell, which he rings loudly before making announcements.

His winter outfit includes a ruffled white shirt, a beige vest, short slacks and stockings that cover his legs. He has a hunter-green jacket, and to complete the look, a white curly wig and black tri-cornered hat. Even his shoes are appropriate for the period.

Most recently, he helped the town at its inaugural Charter Day celebration in October, which was a nod to the signing of the town’s charter on Oct. 25, 1744.

One of most important duties, Newmans says, is reading the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July.

He does what he calls a “dramatic reading.”

The town puts on a traditional Independence Day celebration, with many others in period costumes, as well.

Reading the Declaration of Independence is Newman’s favorite task as town crier, he says.

He said he likes seeing people’s reactions when he is reading.

He doesn’t remember who asked him to take on the role in the first place, but he suspects it was because he has a loud voice and tends to sing loudly in church.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413