Glastonbury · Town Crier · Uncategorized

Competitions

 

comp33

Town Criers, by definition, tend to be rather solitary figures. Wearing brightly-coloured regalia, white tights, yards of gold braid, frilly lace, white gloves, buckles on shoes, ringing bells and shouting their collective heads off – it has to be said, they do stand out in a crowd. Our dress is designed to do exactly that. Even though we may be surrounded by an admiring public, clicking away on their cameras, iPhones, iPads, iPods and the like, in some respects, we stand there very much alone, as pieces of bellowing, animated living history – or at least, until people come up to us and have a chat.

So, it is therefore, quite heartening, every once in a while, to meet up with other Town Criers and their escorts. Town Crier Competitions provide a means of doing just that.

comp44

Yeovil Town Criers’ Competition, April 2016

comp20

Observing how other town criers manage the whole business of “crying” can be quite illuminating and at times instructive.

comp22  comp19

comp27  comp15

 

For a start, the way they ring their bells is fascinating. Some ring their bells “hell-for-leather” in what you might call “fire alarm mode”, (I probably come under that category!)

comp32

Others simply perform gentle, deliberate, measured and quite frankly, economical bell rings.
Some do all the bell-ringing first before shouting the “OYEZs” three times. Others intersperse bell ringing with the obligatory, introductory shouting.
One crier from South Gloucestershire, a most informed and jovial gentleman, showed me his bell over dinner. He owned a bell that came with a fascinating and positively romantic history, of which he was keen to impart. The bell was once used on a horse-drawn fire engine!

comp12

How’s that for a piece of history!  His pre-cry bell-ringing action was pretty engaging too.

comp26

Before his cry, he would hold the bell up and ring it from below, as you can see in the photograph. (I managed to restrain myself from shouting out: “Where’s the fire?”)

Then there’s the shouting of “OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ!” which is French for “Hear Ye!” One delightful lady Town Crier engages in a ritual of flinging her arms out, at full stretch and  follows on by actually the singing the words with full operatic abandon!

comp18

It wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Wagnerian opera! This was quite a novelty, I thought, although perhaps an afternoon of it, on the High Street, could become a tad tedious for shopkeepers? Each crier seemed to have an idiosyncratic way of shouting out the words. That alone made the contest interesting – even before we got on to the contents of their cries!
As I mentioned before, some criers are female and very pretty they look too, but inevitably, they do not generally have the lung capacity and strength of projection possessed by their male counterparts.

comp3

The most successful of them are those who do not try to match the men, but develop their own individual style, within the limitations that evolution has bestowed upon them. If they over-shout they tend to screech.
Personally, I shout “OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ!” long and loud but without the frills or silly antics.

comp35 (3)

I look for some spectators in the distance and imagine that I am trying to shout to the people beyond them!
I couldn’t help but notice that the “message” of a few Town Criers became very fragmented and a little hard to follow at times. This is simply because they took numerous pauses for breath and only managed a few words at a time in between huge gulps of air. I have realised that convincing and effective “crying” has to strike the correct balance between breathing to stay alive, trying to say a full sentence without breaking it up and maintaining a creditable volume throughout. Crying almost continuously for several hours (not in competitions, I hasten to add) is quite physically exhausting. I often return home from a Town Crying session, totally drained and with a deep husky voice reminiscent of Barry White!
For most competitions two cries are performed. Firstly, a “Home Cry” is made, extolling the virtues of our respective towns.

Here is my “Home Cry”, written for me by Lisa Goodwin, Glastonbury’s celebrated wordsmith:

OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ!
I bring sincere salutations
from the town of Glastonbury.
A magical, mythical place
a celebrated sanctuary.

Everyone knows the famous Tor;
it won Olympic recognition,
yet there is so much more
to our history, myths and tradition.

Waters of chalk and chalice well,
rich in myth and story.
Saints and Kings, the Holy Grail,
tales of heartbreak and glory.

Our Abbey on the Isle of Glass;
still considered the holiest earth,
though many years have passed
since the mother church was birthed.

Men who walked these hills of green
rooted a tree, most auspicious,
the Holy Thorn, a bough to the queen,
presented every Christmas.

In Glastonbury we recognise
so many faiths in unity,
and from the heart we harmonise
unity through diversity.

LONG MAY GLASTONBURY FLOURISH!

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

 

After an interval, our “Own” cries are done. Sometimes we have a free choice and on other occasions, we’re given a theme. “Birds”, “Grandad”, “The Queen’s 90th Birthday” have been some recent topics!

The Town Crier competitions are run according to the rules of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Criers.

comp17

Anxious Town Criers and Escorts wait their turn

The rules are quite strict too. Here are a few of the more interesting ones to give you an idea of the limitations that exist:
• The length of the cry must be between 100-125 words.
• Props, including the use of animals, must NOT be used by Criers whilst a competition is in progress.
• A crier may only take one means of calling attention onto the crying platform and carry a scroll for their cry.
• The order of the cry will be decided by a draw.
• The draw will take place in the presence of a majority of the participating Criers.
• All competitors must be available within 1 minute of their name being called.
• Criers must not wear badges, awards or medals relating to previous championship wins, or any such decoration that could influence the judges.
• Any Crier encouraging crowd participation may, at the discretion of the Competition Co-ordinator, be penalised or disqualified.
• All cries must be non-political, non-religious, and in good taste.
• If, during a cry, there is an exceptional noise or distraction (for example Low Flying Jet, Helicopter, Motorcycle, Explosion, Peal of Bells etc.) the Crier may stop their cry and restart, either from the position in their cry that they had reached, or from the beginning of their cry, without loss of points.
• Town Criers will be judged on:
– Diction (The pronouncement of the words)
– Inflection (The pitch of the voice and it’s variation)
– Volume (The output of sound)
– Clarity (The ability to be understood despite the volume)

comp1

The Judges

 

comp21 comp6

The all-important “Draw”

My escort or “consort” for Town Crier competitions is Councillor Denise Michell, a member of the Glastonbury Town Council.

comp5

Councillor Denise Michell (ex Mayor of Glastonbury) – a worthy prizewinner!

I’m often asked why I don’t bring my wife along to these events. I should explain that my dear wife, June, is quite a private person and prefers not to get involved in Town Crier Competitions and I totally respect her wishes. However, June is perfectly happy to see me attend these events with our very good friend Denny. Denny enjoys dressing up in historic costumes very much.

comp31

She is very successful at it too, winning the “Best Dressed Escort” prize at the recent competition in Yeovil. (We also won the “Best Dressed Town Crier and Escort” prize at the 2018 Ilminster competition, by the way).

comp10comp25

Our recent successes have been keeping the trophy engraver busy!

comp29              comp28

Denny and I have attended four competitions to date……we’ve been in the prize winners every time. Long may it continue!

comp37comp36

After the competition is over, a three-course meal, alcoholic drinks, chats with fellow town criers or escorts and of course, the presentation of prizes, is a lovely way to round off  the day.

comp13comp11  comp9

comp8

During the course of a year, I receive numerous invitations to attend town crier competitions. Town Councils and the like tend to put them on to boost tourism. Seeing and hearing 25 town criers walking down a main street is quite a spectacle and cameras are usually out! Unfortunately, they generally occur on Saturdays in the summer months, when town criers are inevitably at their busiest, opening fetes and so forth. If I’m at a town crier competition then I cannot be available to serve Glastonbury, when called upon to do so. Clearly, there has to be a limit and so I usually support our two nearest ones every year

At the end of recent contests we were enthralled by the performance of an eight year old boy (grandson of one of the contestants!) – believed to be the youngest Town Crier in the UK. Since some of us are not in the “first flush of youth” shall we say, it was good to take a glimpse into the future!

 

comp14

A young crier

George and Pilgrims · Glastonbury · Modelling · Photoshoot · Town Crier

On being a photographic model……

About seven weeks ago, I received a friend request via Facebook. I’m sent quite a few of these as the Town Crier of Glastonbury. I get them from people all over the world. Perhaps they have seen me “Crying” in Glastonbury, or maybe we’ve chatted in the street or in some cases, they simply wish to have some sort of connection with Glastonbury, through me. It’s all rather lovely, really.

This particular friend request was from a young lady called Kelly, who lives in Scotland. She explained in our first exchange, that she was a student photographer, carrying out an extensive photographic project on Glastonbury and Glastonbury folk. Apparently, the project was one of her submissions for her University degree. She asked if she could take a few photos of me in my regalia.

KELLY

This is Kelly with her husband.  As you can see, Kelly also likes dressing up!

I responded positively, naturally. I’m always glad to help people progress in their education. After all, I’ve spent a very successful career doing exactly that! She said that she was planning to fly down from Scotland in mid-March.

During our ongoing exchange of messages, I suggested that she might also like to photograph “Billy The Celt”, the current Bard of Glastonbury, who also has a particularly fetching regalia. She liked the sound of that and after asking round a few friends, I soon had his contact details.

billy

“Billy The Celt”

Chaired Bard of Glastonbury 2017-2018

Within what seemed like no time at all, Kelly was on a plane heading south to Bristol Airport and on to Glastonbury for her 4th visit to our lovely, magical town.

Once here, Kelly managed to bump into our Chaired Bard; she also managed to grab a few photos of him.  Synchronicity abounds in this town!

Our photoshoot was arranged for a Sunday lunchtime. We were to meet outside the George and Pilgrims Hotel in Glastonbury. The place is full of atmosphere and character, with its stone floors, murals and dark wood.  Being built in the 1400s, it was the perfect backdrop for photos of a traditional Town Crier.

8692131769_dce83cdd5e_b

The George and Pilgrims (It’s the building on the left)

I was busy “Crying” in town for a Cancer Research UK Charity Shop Bake Sale the day before. Kelly, who was on her photographic mission there, happened to hear me and came up to introduce herself. We had a brief chat about what she wanted to do the next day.

Her plan of action was to take some photographs of the local Town Crier appearing to “take a break with a little beverage, in a local hostelry” and then a few “in action” outside  on the streets.

On the Sunday, I presented myself in full attire, at the allotted time, outside of the George and Pilgrims Hotel. I decided to bring along my hunting horn, as an extra prop – I do use it for certain types of jobs in Glastonbury  –  I thought it might make an interesting snap or two.

Kelly was running a little late on her busy photographic schedule. She had just been to photograph the Mayor, directly before me. So, there I was, standing in the High Street in the bright, blazing sunshine ..…… patiently waiting. I felt rather conspicuous. I know it’s strange for me to say that. The whole idea of a Town Crier’s outfit IS to be conspicuous and attract the attention of the public! But it felt a little strange since I had no cry written down, since today was going to be all about photography. Understandably, people looked at me quizzically, expecting me to ring my bell aloft at any moment, followed by a bellowed proclamation.

So just for the hell of it, whilst waiting for Kelly, I decided to go into “Statue Mode”. I do this sometimes, for example, when I need to give my voice a rest. It causes no end of amusement to the passing public; I really should put a tray down on the pavement in front of me during the busy tourist season and raise money for charity!

Just at that point, Kelly arrived, rather flushed and slightly breathless, apologising profusely for her lateness. I reassured her that that it was not the slightest problem and that I was just having a little fun being a “Town Crier Statue”!

We adjourned to the bar. Kelly thought that she would get some good indoor shots with “His Lordship” sat in the bay window with the sunlight streaming in through a particularly beautiful stained-glass window. Perfect!

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier
David Greenway, Glastonbury Town Crier, reading through his cry

I was treated to a cider and we sat down to discuss her photographic plan of action. It’s not every day I get bought cider by a charming and pretty young lady! A perk of the job, I guess.

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier
David Greenway, Glastonbury Town Crier,  in the George and The Pilgrims

In what seemed like no time at all, Kelly was on her feet, busy arranging me and all of  my tools of the trade in total absorption, with a look of utter determination on her face. She was a joy to watch as she crafted every single photograph. Her work caused much amusement to the various assembled drinkers. Several couples, busy tucking into their Sunday lunches, suddenly found the unexpected and quite novel lunchtime  “entertainment” an interesting talking point. Some even “piggybacked” Kelly’s carefully arranged shots by taking photographs of their own over her shoulders, on numerous cameras and mobile phones! I suddenly knew how Marilyn Monroe must have felt!

Town Crier of Glastonbury Scroll
Town Crier of Glastonbury’s  Scroll
Town Crier of Glastonbury
David Greenway, Town Crier of Glastonbury on a break in The George and Pilgrims

I was photographed enjoying my cider………reading my scroll, enjoying my cider……… writing on my scroll, enjoying my cider……..looking wistfully into space , enjoying my cider……..smiling, enjoying my cider…….. deep in thought, enjoying my cider – every time, with the label on the glass being carefully concealed. Kelly’s attention to every little detail certainly was impressive!

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier
David Greenway, Glastonbury Town Crier, carrying out essential vocal cord lubrication
David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier
David Greenway,  Glastonbury Town Crier…….n.b. “Will Cry for Cider!”

Then, after a quick change of seats, another sequence of photographs, this time with the props, and myself, all being carefully arranged around an EMPTY glass. Are you following the “story” so far?

Town Crier of Glastonbury Bell and Hat
Town Crier of Glastonbury’s  Bell, Tricorn, white gloves…….with sadly, an empty glass!

While we still had the light, we proceeded outside for more pictures of me “doing my thing”. A quick change of lens and some guidance on the best backgrounds for her shots (Town Criers know all about these sorts of things!) and we were shooting again. At the Market Cross – a favourite and symbolic spot for me, there were endless shots of bells held up in the air, horns being blown and a Town Crier with his mouth wide open, catching flies!

Town Crier of Glastonbury at Market Cross
David Greenway, Town Crier of Glastonbury, at The Market Cross

DSC_7430web

Giving them a blast!

As you can see from the excellent photographs that illustrate this blog post, Kelly is a photographer of quite exceptional talent and I’m sure her university photographic assignment will pass with flying colours. I know I’m biased but I’d give her a First-class Honours degree based on these pictures alone!

She’s on Facebook: Kelly Muir Photography. Check her out! I can’t recommend her highly enough!

Just then, a couple came by and asked for a photo, which was seamlessly slipped in somewhere during the proceedings. It transpired that it was the gentleman’s birthday, so of course, he simply had to have a special Birthday Cry.  As a town crier, I love these little impromptu moments.

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier

He looked quite happy in the photograph, his special day in Glastonbury having been acknowledged, in a very personal way, with a Birthday Cry from The Town Crier.

Finally, just as we were finishing, a charming and immaculately-dressed young lady who was visiting from Hong Kong, requested a photograph.

Glastonbury Town Crier
Town Crier with Gie Gie, from Hong Kong,  visiting  Glastonbury

If I had still been thinking straight after all that posing, I would have given her an Official “Cry of Welcome” since she had flown half-way round the planet to visit our wonderful little town. However, in subsequent digital correspondence with her, it appears that she is planning to return to Glastonbury for one of our colourful festivals later on in the year – so we’re treating her special “Cry” as having a brief postponement.

IMG_2114                        (Photo courtesy of Gie Gie Bowler)

Still …….… she did get to hold my bell!

Glastonbury · Town Crier · Uncategorized

How it all started

 

10906410_10205169874506966_478836594451136696_n

Last week I was asked by a couple of people about how I came to be a Town Crier. It’s a question that many visitors ask every year, so here’s the full story about how I ended up “on the streets”, ringing a big bell and shouting my head off at the public.
As a supply teacher, I had been employed to teach science by Glastonbury’s secondary school, for the best part of a year, to cover a staffing gap in 2013.

0stdun01_normal

 St Dunstan’s  School, Glastonbury

It was on the very last day of the school year that, for me, a very significant event took place. It was the July end-of-term assembly and prize-giving ceremony. It was a blazing-hot day and I was stood at the back of their massive sports hall, along with several dozen other perspiring and totally exhausted teachers, teaching assistants and office staff, watching the proceedings. It’s always a delight on these occasions to applaud all those students who have won awards for their efforts, both in and out of the classroom.
Whilst standing there, I recognised one of my old pupils from when I was teaching at a different school not far away but about 20 years before. He was sat next to the Headteacher. He was dressed in a very smart suit. His father, Graham Coles, Glastonbury’s much-loved Town Crier, had sadly passed away a few months earlier and his son was there at the prize giving to present the “Graham Coles Memorial Cup” for outstanding achievement in sport.

town-crier-graham-coles-makes-an-announcement-768x1024

Graham Coles R.I.P.

I remember Graham with much affection; we were fellow radio amateurs and I also remember him from parents’ evenings as well, when I taught his boys.
Incidentally, by an amazing coincidence, the Town Crier before Graham was also a radio amateur (or radio “ham”)!  His name was Jim Bobbett. (His call sign is G0MSL, Graham’s was G0BKU and mine is M0BJO)

g0msl

Jim Bobbett

When I got home, I remember telling my wife, June, about Graham’s sad passing and the events of the last day of term. I ruminated with her on what a “fun” job it would surely be, to be the Town Crier of Glastonbury, being able to dress up and attend all those special events throughout the year. To be honest, I’d always fancied a crack at the job. In teaching, there’s always an element of “acting”, as any teacher will tell you. I would probably have enjoyed local amateur dramatics too, were it not for the fact that I just haven’t got the memory (nor patience!) to learn endless pages of lines. But in a Town Crier role, yes, I would be able to do a little “acting”, but the real bonus is that the “lines” would be written down on a scroll and I could just read them out. Perfect! The more I thought about the whole fandango, the more enthusiastic I became about the prospect of being a Town Crier.

However, I resigned myself to the thought that probably, the Town Council had already hired a replacement for Graham. I had a glance at the Town Council’s  website and sure enough, there was the advert for their Town Crier! However, my heart sank when I read the small print. I had missed the closing date for applications by four days! My dear wife June has always encouraged me; she is a wonderful optimist – she suggested I rattle off an application anyway and see what happens. That is what I did. Without delay, I hurriedly typed out an e-mail to the council, for what it was worth!
Several agonising months went by before I had a surprise communication from the Clerk of Glastonbury Town Council, inviting me to attend for an interview at the Glastonbury Town Hall. In the invitation it was explained that it would be a fairly informal interview but that at some stage during the interview, I would be expected to perform a “cry”.

The day of the interview came and so I made my way to the Town Hall with a little “cry” written out ready, just in case one was not supplied for me. As it happened, it was a pleasant, cosy chat with the Mayor and one other Town Councillor. I thought I fielded most of the questions very well. Then towards the end, they asked me to “do a cry”. Feeling rather smug I said: “Well, I just happen to have one written down here somewhere”, reaching into the inside pocket of my blazer. “I’ll just go to the end of this room”, I explained, as I started to get out of my chair, “I don’t want to deafen you!” Before I took my first step they said: “Oh, no – we want you to do it outside – at the Market Cross perhaps?” As we walked down the stairs to go outside, the caretaker rummaged in his dusty store cupboard and emerged  with a brass bell. He cheerily thrust it into my hand with a good luck wish and a bit of a wink. I was thinking to myself, just what would people make of seeing some guy ringing a bell and shouting at the top of his head, on a sunny late-summer’s evening, in the middle of town? Would I be carried away by the “men in white coats”? Would my friends quietly shake their heads in disbelief, walk on by and choose to avoid me in the future?  I consoled myself with the thought that this IS Glastonbury and compared to the many bizarre spectacles encountered in this eccentric little West Country town, this really would seem comparatively “normal”!
In the end, the interviewing panel opted to place me on the top step, infront of the Town Hall’s left side double doors.

Glastonbury, Town Hall

Glastonbury Town Hall

They scurried across the road and sat in a bus shelter on the other side of the road, outside of Glastonbury’s celebrated Italian restaurant, “GIGI’S”.

gigi

GIGI’S

Steeling myself, I took in a big lung-full of air and belted out the following cry:

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!
Goode Citizens of Glastonbury.
I am straightly commanded, to let it be known to all persons here gathered, that at the hour of seven of-the-clock this evening, an informal interview was conducted, for the honourable position of Town Crier of this fine town.
Mr David Alan Greenway, Schoolmaster, will be duly scrutinised on his suitability for the post.
Give heed and take note, that the interviewing panel will be: The Mayor of Glastonbury, Councillor Sue Thurgood and Councillor Denise Michell.
We wish them “good luck” in the execution of their municipal deliberations and trust that they will choose with their customary good wisdom.
God Save The Queen!

I heard the story later on, that midway through my “cry”, a party of diners had emerged from the restaurant and enquired as to why I was shouting my head off across the road. “It’s OK……he’s just auditioning for the post of Town Crier”, the panel explained. Apparently, one of the diners retorted, “He’s brilliant; give him the job!”

To use that well-known phrase:   “……..…..and the rest is history!”

Since the previous Town Crier expressed a wish to be buried in his regalia, a new outfit had to be made for me. A gifted local costumier, Cath Jenkins, was appointed to provide the new Town Crier livery. I didn’t know so many bits of me had to be measured to produce a new livery!

581829_10151675254857947_1272019517_n

Cath Jenkins, Costumier

We very soon decided on the style of livery for the new Town Crier’s coat.  Here is a photo from the front of the pattern book:

coat pattern

Cath worked tirelessly in her studio, in Glastonbury’s Red Brick Building and I had to attend regularly for fittings and discussions. The green and black doeskin fabrics were ordered, along with about 3 miles of braid and a myriad of buttons of various sizes. Apparently, the ceremonial garments of the Members of the House of Lords are also made from doeskin, so I felt in good company!

buttons

I  particularly like my buttons. They have “E II R” on every single one of them!  An emblematic link with the past, since once upon a time, Town Criers were the sole messengers of the reigning monarch.

Before Cath started cutting into the expensive doeskin, a mock-up was made from scrap fabrics – including an old tablecloth!

tablecloth coat

Checking bell-ringing freedom of movement with the tablecloth mock-up!

Cath1

Cath making some waistcoat adjustments

The tricorn is quite unusual. It is lined with black chick and cock feathers as opposed to the usual single ostrich feather. Feathers are symbolic, as in the olden days, only a few people (including Town Criers) could read and write with a quill pen.

Eventually all was complete and once kitted out, I presented myself to the Town Council in full regalia, at one of their meetings in the Spring of 2014, where I performed a special cry, announcing that I was ready for Civic Duties.

My dream had finally come true.

 

best

Bards · Druids · Glastonbury · Orchards · Tor · Wassailing

Wassail!

candle lined pathway

Wassailing is a very ancient custom, particularly popular and strongly celebrated in the South West of England. Besides being a good excuse to drink lots of scrumpy (that’s cider……..  i.e. fermented apple juice, for my foreign readers), eat al-fresco, have a little sing-song and the odd dance or two, it is a custom to firstly ensure that any evil spirits are banished from orchards and secondly to encourage all the trees to grow well and basically, produce a bumper crop of apples in the following autumn.

 

Of course, the scientist in me is saying that no amount of yodelling, dancing and pouring of cider over the ground (such a criminal waste!) is going to help trees in the slightest to produce a brilliant crop. A couple of years ago I attended another Wassail event where several of the local gentlemen farmers fired shotguns upwards into the apple trees, producing a veritable “rain” of bark, twigs and lichen on all those watching from below.

Wassail1JPG

How on earth does this “Wassailing-with-Attitude” – as I call it – help the poor apple trees produce more fruit, I ask! Surely, raking-in a good general fertiliser around the base of the tree would do far better. Nowhere near as dramatic, photogenic and entertaining, however!

 

band

A year ago, I read an advert for a Wassail on the Tor and as Town Crier, I decided to robe-up and put in an appearance, just for the fun of it. After all, I couldn’t be accused of “gate-crashing” in my own town, now, could I? The organiser spotted me (not too difficult, I guess) and I was immediately asked to perform an impromptu introduction for her. Then a month or two ago, I received an e-mail asking me if I could actually be the “Master of Ceremonies” for this year’s Wassail event. I suppose I must have done something right! There was an offer of free food and free cider; how could I possibly refuse?

Prior to the event, which is organised by the National Trust (as they are the wonderful guardians of our legendary Glastonbury Tor)  I received a two-page Health and Safety Risk Assessment. It was sent as a matter of routine to all those helping on the day.  I think it’s something that all organisers of public events are obliged, by law, to produce for staff. It made me laugh, nevertheless. I didn’t know that singing, eating, drinking cider and dancing in a field could be such a hazardous activity! (But there again, perhaps they have somehow or other got to hear about my evenings of occasional over-indulgence in cider drinking and of my complete inability to dance without injuring those nearby!)

drummer

I arrived early to park my car in a very muddy field, robe up and then collect my “free-cider and food” tickets! Luckily, I had my script sent to me, so I was good to go. When I arrived, the Morris Dancers were already entertaining the assembling crowd.

I duly did my introduction and official welcome at the allotted time and things got underway.

The first event was to get all two hundred assembled Wassailers to sing Wassail songs beneath each tree in the orchard. Such a nice touch, I thought……. giving each apple tree that bit of individual attention. I’m sure the apple trees appreciated it. There were a lot of trees in the Avalon Orchard, I might add!

orchard with ladies

Whilst all this was going on, I was notified by the organiser that the BBC “Points West” News video crew had just arrived and wanted to film me doing a bit of my introduction that they missed. I obliged. I hope my bell ringing and subsequent shouting did not distract all the “singing to the trees” that was progressing in earnest!

The assembled Merry Wassailers were also encouraged to tie small tags to the branches of the “Blessing Tree” with brief notes, explaining “how the Glastonbury Tor was important to them”.

Later on, I announced for all gathered, to assemble round the Blessing Tree, where the main Wassail Ceremony would be performed by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

Once the ceremony was over, further participation from the assembled crowds was requested. A big basket of toast was suddenly produced……yes dry, cold toast was thereupon offered to all. Not to eat, I hasten to add, but to place on the branches of the Blessing Tree!

toast on tree

Apparently, this helps too! Watching the Wassailers adorning the Blessing Tree with slices of brown bread, I couldn’t help think that the bread was going to help the local bird population far more than the apple tree. But there again, birds eat insects and grubs that might possibly harm the trees, I thought to myself……… so perhaps it might help the trees indirectly.  I’m such an over-thinker at times!

putting toast on tree

The final and most captivating event, in my book, was the Story Teller. He was a most friendly, approachable and charming gentleman. I chatted to him for a while before introducing him.

storyteller whistful

We all assembled around the fire – a more intimate gathering now, as quite a few had left, probably having had enough of the cold, damp January air.

He told engaging stories of dragons, apples, eagles, glass mountains, knights in shining armour, princesses and castles.

story teller hand grasping

The children were enthralled – as was the Town Crier!

Looking forward to my next Wassail.