A Ryer Through and Through
Rye Town Crier, Rex Swain, recently celebrated his Eightieth Birthday. His boundless energy in carrying out up to 100 functions a year in his distinctive Town Crier ‘uniform’ has not diminished one iota since he was 18 and representing Rye in a different outfit.Rex was a member of the famous “Rye Aces” Cycle Speedway team team who swept all opposition before them on their dirt track at the old Football Salts. As can be seen from the picture, Rex was just as handsome and debonair in his younger days. He is a man of many talents and was part of the team from Spun Concrete who were responsible for building the new lighthouse at Dungeness.
Although born in Hertfordshire, Rex has lived in Rye for the last 66 years. His recolection powers are formidable. When he is on good form he issues forth with a constant stream of anecdotes, recalling family, friends, heroes and villains he has known or only heard of over all that time. From donkey drops and the fastest underarm bowler you ever saw in North Mimms through Miss Wilkinson’s oversized toilet seat, the hooting train that brought his mother 27 alarm clocks, Sports Day in Rye with the greasy pig and old Nutcracker Noye as well as The Stutterer and Old Crusty Crampton, right up to the present time and the day that Paul Merton was married (in Rye). If you are lucky he will tell you about his mother and Jock in Barcelona and give you the history of Rye Town Criers. He can sing and recite. Ask him to tell you the “Bricklayer Story” which explains why Paddy The Hod Carrier is not at Work Today.
He sang and danced at the Golden Jubilee – There can be no doubt he will be good voice for the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
The services of Town Rye Crier, Rex Swain, have been in even greater demand since Rye Town Hall became a Wedding venue in 1998. Rex has attended hundreds of wedding ceremonies and is present at almost every Town Hall wedding.
The above picture taken on the Town Salts about 1950 is of the Rye Aces. Sitting on the bicycle is Michael Bryant (father of current Rye Wheelers member Dave). Standing left to right Albert Booth (Team Manager – Gary’s Uncle), Brian Oliver, (young boy unknown), Bob Boswell, Derek Banister, Bert Polly (now of Rye Hire), Mr Playford and Cecil or Fred Booker sitting at the front from left to right are Brian “Gus” Gutsell, Elenor Clarke, Ann Boswell, Eve Bailey and Rex Swain (Town Cryer). Picture courtesy of Gary Booth
Rex leads newly elected Mayor John Breeds from the Town Hall to St. Marys.
Civic Ceremony If there is one thing Rye does really well, this is it. The Ancient Town has had lots of practice Rye’s Mayoralty can be traced back to at least 1289 when Henry de Rakele served as Mayor during the reign of Edward I. The first Town Clerk, Peter De Heghtone was appointed 11 years later in 1300. Rye’s civic history is linked inextricably with its membership of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports. Long before England raised its own Royal Navy, the towns which became known as the ‘Cinque Ports’ – Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover, Sandwich, Rye and Winchelsea – harboured ships and men who guarded the King and country from frequent and vicious attacks. Meetings of the Confederation are presided over by the Speaker and the mayors of the seven ports take it in turns to hold office. Communication between the Monarch and the Ports is the responsibility of the Lord Warden, Admiral of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle, currently The Admiral the Lord Boyce. Rye’s proud civic tradition remains vibrant to this day and still occupies a prominent place in the life of both the Council and the town. Robes are still worn – and maces carried – at full meetings of the Council. Rye is unique amongst the members of the Cinque Ports in that it has two pairs of maces – Elizabethan and Georgian. Exact replicas of the latter are carried and displayed in the Canadian Parliament. Throughout the year the Mayor, Town Clerk and Councillors will don full regalia – including white gloves and hats (bicorns for men; tricorns for women) – for civic occasions – typically to mark/commemorate: St George’s Day April Mayor Making May
Remembrance Sunday November The Mayoralty is supported by a team comprising the Town Clerk, Mayor’s Secretary, Town Sergeant, Second Mace Bearer and Seamstress. At the annual Mayor Making ceremony, the Mayor, Clerk and Sergeant are asked to swear oaths of allegiance to the Monarch, town and its inhabitants.
No self-respecting historic town would be complete without a Town Crier and Rex Swain must be reckoned as one of the very best in the whole country.
With acknowledgement to the Rye Town Council website .ryetowncouncil.gov.uk
From the April 2012 issue of “Rye’s Own”
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