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Frith is loud and proud

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Former St Georges Town Crier David Frith (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Former St Georges Town Crier David Frith (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
David Frith, right, at a competition in Kingsbridge, Devon (Photograph supplied)
David Frith, in front, leading town criers at a competition in England (Photograph supplied)

David Frith readily admits to being a loud mouth.

He thinks that was one of the traits that made him a great St George’s Town Crier for 16 years.

“People ask me what it takes to be a town crier all the time,” the 76 year old St David’s Island resident said. “I tell them you have to be loud and you have to be obnoxious, and I have those traits down to a tee.”

Last month the Corporation of St George’s cancelled the town crier position due to the pandemic.

“There was no tourists, not a problem,” he said.

But he does miss the job, particularly his work during the weekly ducking stool enactment with Suzanne Roberts-Holshouser in King’s Square in St George's.

“The ducking is a prime piece of theatre that needs to be continued,” he said. “Some days I had 400 people there, lining the bridge. People would come up to me afterward and say we were here last year or five years ago. They would bring out pictures they took of me. They would say you haven’t changed a bit. I just found it very satisfying.”

He admitted there had been some criticism of the event as misogynistic.

“It’s a re-enactment,” he said. “Where else in the world can you get to see a deputy speaker of the house like Suzanne being dunked? That just doesn’t happen.”

He said Ms Roberts-Holshouser had occasionally set people to rights.

“One woman took her to task over the event,” he said. “She told them, I love this job.”

When you ask Mr Frith where he grew up you get the cheeky answer first: “actually, I haven’t grown up yet”. The factual answer: Paget.

“We were the poor Friths, not the rich Friths,” he said. “We moved to St George’s when I was 16. My mother Betty’s family were from St George’s. In fact, our family goes back to Christopher Carter and the Sea Venture.”

Mr Frith likes to say his was a miracle birth.

“After my mother, Betty, had my sister, Susan, she wasn’t supposed to have any more children,” he said. “I was more of a miracle than a regular baby is. Then my brother, Peter, came along eight years later. I tell him all the time he definitely wasn’t supposed to be born.”

Mr Frith’s father, Horace, worked for BOAC as groundstaff. Mr Frith was born in Bermuda, but the family moved overseas when he was three years old, and moved often because of Horace Frith’s job.

“My mother said we moved lock stock and barrel 13 times in three years,” Mr Frith said. “When I started school we were in Bristol, England.”

They returned to Bermuda for good when Mr Frith was six. When he started school on the island his teachers were impressed that he could read.

“But I had already been learning to read in England,” he said.

He attended Saltus Grammar School, where he was required to join the Bermuda Cadet Corps at 14.

“In 1954 the Caledonian Society in Bermuda and others, were instrumental in forming a pipe band to lead ‘A’ Company of the BCC,” he said. “It was deemed an easier route through the BCC if you were a member of the band.

“My best friend and older cousin joined the band as a drummer and I signed up to do the same, at 13. But the applicants for drumming were quite extensive, so they asked if I would like to join as a piper, and so I did.”

He also thought wearing a kilt would be a ‘girl magnet’.

In 1993 the band merged with the Bermuda Pipe Band to form the Bermuda Islands Pipe Band. Mr Frith was Pipe Major of the band for more than 15 years. He is now the band manager, and has travelled all over the world performing with the group.

He thinks that his work with the band was good preparation for becoming a town crier later in life.

“I am not sure about whether it was preparation, physically but in terms of ability to perform in front of folks it helped,” he said.

After Saltus he studied commerce at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1968 he became the first in his family to graduate from university. He went on to work at the Bank of Bermuda for 30 years.

“I moved myself through the bank,” he said. “I went to various departments of the bank and progressed through to assistant manager level. A gentlemen came out to run the loan back office.”

In 1996 he developed “ticker problems”, which he attributed, partly, to high stress he was experiencing at the bank. After having bypass surgery, he moved to the Gibbons Deposit Company, as it was known then.

“I assisted them in becoming a bank,” he said. “I was in charge of the loan department.”

He left that position in 2003, when the stress began to mount again.

“I was out of a job for a couple of months,” he said.

But when he saw a newspaper advertisement for a St George’s town crier he knew he would be perfect.

He was hired to be St Georges Town Crier in January 2004.

Former town crier E Michael Jones had just been elected St George’s Mayor, and could not hold both positions.

“E Michael, was a very tough act to follow,” Mr Frith said. “He was a very good town crier.”

Seamstress Liz Campbell created his costume.

“She is very fond of dragons and that tied in with the story of George and the Dragon,” he said. “She hand drew this beautiful gold dragon on the back of my cape.”

Over the years he won several best dressed crier awards in England and Europe.

He thought he was unique for often playing the bagpipes as Town Crier.

“I have done both a lot,” he said.

This year he wrote a cry to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife Peggy. They met at Dalhousie. Mrs Frith is originally from Boston, Massachusetts.

“Fifty years married to this guy is amazing feat for anyone,” he said.

Right now he is enjoying relaxing and working around his house and garden.

His hope is that when the tourism industry gets going again he will be able to continue as St George’s Town Crier.

The Friths have four children: Sarah Vezina, Michael, Jacqui and Alan Frith and five grandchildren.

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.

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Published December 30, 2020 at 8:05 am (Updated December 30, 2020 at 8:05 am)

Frith is loud and proud

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