Public oration

Crying behind-the-scenes

Why Nimmo refused to be Halifax’s Town Crier

Former Halifax town crier David Nimmo rings his bell and yells “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” on Coburg Road.
Former Halifax town crier David Nimmo rings his bell and yells “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” on Coburg Road.   Guillaume Lapointe-Gagner

The streets of downtown Halifax have been quieter since the passing of Town Crier Peter Cox in 2009. There were several candidates to take his place, but the chance to appoint one has come and gone. The city no longer wants to deal with the headache. Not after what happened two years ago.

David Nimmo was one hopeful. He has the bells, the voice and demeanor, but not the job.

“When I talked about possibly doing the job, I said, ‘Well, who’s got the bell?’ Nobody had the bell,” Nimmo says with a smile. “I immediately went around all the used junk stores in town and just looked at the stuff on the shelves and found the odd bell.”

Nimmo was appointed interim town crier for Halifax in 2013. He lasted two weeks.

Now the city is without one again. After several years of trying to find a new crier, neither the Halifax Regional Municipality nor the Nova Scotia Guild of Town Criers can agree on what to do. In October, HRM passed a motion recommending they stop work on the recruitment of a new crier.

But there’s a question no one is asking: what went wrong with Nimmo?

Peter Davies is vice-chairman of the Nova Scotia Guild of Town Criers. He says things just didn’t work out.

“He didn’t enjoy it as much as he thought he would,” he says. “The guild was very disappointed. We put a lot of effort in a short period of time to get him there.”

But that’s not how Nimmo sees it. Nimmo says he was surprised by the amount of behind-the-scenes politics that surrounded the job. He was especially critical of the way the guild was run.

“One of the major agenda items was standardizing the pay so that it made it easier for somebody that was trying to be town crier [in places] like Annapolis or Middleton to get a decent remuneration for the job,” Nimmo says.

The guild made a lot of changes after Cox’s passing. That posed a problem for Nimmo. As a retired military officer, Nimmo felt his pension was more than enough to pay for his living expenses. Quite simply, he didn’t want to be paid. That made a lot of people angry, he says.

“I said, ‘Look, don’t pay me anything. Give me expenses,’” Nimmo says. “All the villages have to pay their own crier. It has to come out of village funds. I just couldn’t do that. And they didn’t like me because I didn’t want to do it.”

Nimmo and the guild were never able to come to terms. Nimmo says by refusing to get paid he undermined the Guild’s push to standardize the pay. He resigned soon after he was appointed.

But that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves. He still loves to show off his bell collection. He can be seen in downtown Halifax ringing his bell on rare occasions.

“Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” he bellows. “Welcome to Halifax!”

Where there is no official crier.