Protest by ‘gagged’ town crier

Suspended Town Crier Simon Shaw (right) and Neil Bailey.  (120905M1b)
Suspended Town Crier Simon Shaw (right) and Neil Bailey. (120905M1b)

More than 150 people have signed a petition to see suspended Knaresborough Town Crier Simon Shaw back on the market cross.

Mr Shaw said he has been touched and strengthened by the support of the friends and neighbours in Knaresborough who have signed the petition.

“A member of the public took the petition into Knaresborough Market Place last Wednesday, market day, and collected 77 signatures, and the petition forms have been distributed to shops and pubs around Knaresborough,” he said.

The Town Crier was suspended from the historic post he has held for three years after a Knaresborough Town Council meeting on Wednesday, August 15. He received written confirmation of the decision two days later, but the council have since refused to comment on the decision or the reasons behind it publicly.

A spokesman said Mr Shaw’s suspension was “not a penalty” but an investigation was pending.

Knaresborough County councillor Bill Hoult has spoken in support of Mr Shaw.

The town council should make the reasons behind the suspension public, he said.

“I think it is intolerable that you can suspend someone without giving a reason. It is important he gets a fair hearing,” he added.

“Without a reason, people will think the worst and that is totally wrong.”

Mr Shaw said he has been in the market place each market day since the suspension, he added.

“I have stood beside the market cross each Wednesday so people can see I am there and can ask me questions.”

This week, the third that has seen him miss his duties on the market cross, the town crier enlisted the help of his friend Neil Bailey and famous Knaresborough resident Blind Jack to stage an eye-catching stunt to express his frustration.

The two men sat beside the statue of Blind Jack to recreate the “Three Wise Monkeys” – hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, which Mr Shaw said reflects his frustration that he cannot perform the town crier duties he loves.

“I have received another letter from the town council reminding me that I cannot pass myself off as the town crier, but I know I have done nothing I shouldn’t have,” Mr Shaw said.

“This country fought two world wars so we could have free speech, so I am exercising my right to free speech.”

Supporters have also spoken out about Mr Shaw’s situation. One commenter said “He’s the best town crier we’ve ever had - you can hear him two streets away. He encourages people to visit Knaresborough,” while another added, “He always makes a fuss of my granddaughter, and of all the children he sees. For them, it’s really special. I hope he gets his job back.”