GOD & TEXAS: Town Crier
In 1898, 16-year-old “Foghorn Clancy” was broke. When the US Army would not let him enlist, the editor of a Mineral Wells newspaper recognized that Frederick Clancy had a booming voice. So, he hired him to be a town crier and the nickname “Foghorn Clancy” stuck for life.
The town crier was legendary in the Old World, but new to Texas. The Latin term for public crier or heralds was “praeco.” These individuals had a strong voice and were indispensable at outside events. In ancient Rome “praecones” quieted crowds, reported election results, summoned criminals to court, and publicized funerals.
In England, the town crier wore a three-cornered hat, wig, lace collar, velvet coat, knickers, and silver-buckled shoes. His announcements usually began with the word ‘Oyez’ (pronounced ‘oh yay’), which is a derivative of the French word, ouïr (to listen) and means “Hear ye”. He chiefly proclaimed the local news as the voice of the monarchy, and announced the charges against the accused at public hangings.
In Texas, a few town criers worked primarily between the Civil War and 1920. Some of them included Frederick Melton “Foghorn” Clancy, Albert Schultz (Foghorn Kelly), Englishman Will Cruttenden, and Julius Myers (Megaphone Myers).
“Foghorn Clancy” left being the town crier to become a nationally acclaimed rodeo announcer and co-worker of singing cowboy Gene Autry. “Foghorn Clancy” achieved fame at the Fort Worth Stock Show, the Houston Stock Show, Madison Square Garden, and other top tier venues.
“Foghorn Kelly” was a fixture in Houston around 1900. He plodded through the muddy streets wearing a big ten-gallon hat and carrying a huge megaphone. Will Cruttenden was an award-winning British town crier who visited Texas in 1956. Dallas did not offer him a job so he returned to England.
“Megaphone Myers” is known as the last Texas town crier. He could often be seen and heard on the streets of San Antonio wearing an appropriate costume that coordinated with whatever announcement he was making. He rode his faithful horse “Tootsy”, who was laden with advertising banners and placards.
There is a beautiful spiritual connection here to be noted. The Latin word for town crier or herald (praeco) is found in the Old Testament book of Daniel 3:4 KJV, “Then an herald cried aloud.” The Greek word kerugma (κήρυξ) corresponds to the Latin word praeco and means bidding prayer or preaching. It is seen in Titus 1:3 KJV, “But hath in due times manifested His word through preaching.”
The term praeco or town crier is related to the word preacher or messenger of the Gospel of Christ. The angels heralded the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14). The woman at the well found freedom in Christ (John 4:29), and left her waterpot to proclaim Him in the streets, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that I ever did: is this not the Christ?”
May we be a town crier of the Good News, too.