Blackpool's town crier celebrates his 30th year

At the unveiling of Virgins new Blackpool Belle train this year.
At the unveiling of Virgins new Blackpool Belle train this year.
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Blackpool’s town crier, Barry McQueen has got another thing to shout about this year – celebrating 30 years in the profession.

In his career, Barry has appeared at international events and met a host of famous faces.

Meeting the Queen at Preston train station.

Meeting the Queen at Preston train station.

He describes his role as an “honour”.

Back in 2000, Barry became the resort’s official crier after spending 12 years in Birmingham and he says he has never looked back.

He said: “It’s been absolutely wonderful over the years.

“To end up in Blackpool was a dream come true.”

Barry and Jimmy Armfield.

Barry and Jimmy Armfield.

The 72-year-old was born in the town but moved to Stalybridge in Greater Manchester when he was six months old.

He moved back to Lancashire when he was 21 and spent eight years in Morecambe before moving to Ludlow in Shropshire when his town crier career started.

He said: “Someone recommended I should become a town crier. I actually auditioned in a graveyard of all places. I was the loudest person in the graveyard and I got the job. It was like waking the dead!”

Barry is also an accomplished bagpipe player and has been performing in cabaret shows since he was as teenager.

He added: “I’d been on the stage on the stage for 25 years and I think being a town crier was a natural progression.”

While he was the town crier for Ludlow he only attended around three functions a year and he was invited to become the Birmingham town crier for a week at the city’s gala.

“What was only meant to last a week lasted 12 years,” he said.

His final appearance as Birmingham’s town crier was at the Millennium concert on New Year’s Eve in 1999 when Sir Cliff Richard performed.

With Theresa May and former Virgin Trains boss Chris Green at the naming of the Blackpool Voyager in 2002.

With Theresa May and former Virgin Trains boss Chris Green at the naming of the Blackpool Voyager in 2002.

Soon after he made his way back to his place of birth and took up his position as Blackpool’s town crier.

The Marton resident said: “I came back to Blackpool and I came back to my roots.

“I feel very honoured to have been Blackpool’s town crier for so many years.

“Every year has been different and this year has been one of the best yet.”

Earlier this year Barry was at the unveiling of the new Virgin Pendolino train called ‘Blackpool Belle’.

He said some people thought the train was named after his’s boat, which shares the same name.

He was also present at the 150th anniversary of Central Pier and the 70th anniversary celebrations of the NHS at Blackpool Victoria hospital earlier this year.

Among the many famous faces he has met, Barry says the Queen has been the most memorable.

For her Golden Jubilee in 2002, he was named as ‘Her Majesty’s Official Trumpeter’.

He said: “It was marvellous to meet her and it was a real honour. It has probably the highlight of my career.”

He says the other highlight he remembers fondly was being asked to be at the unveiling of the new British Embassy in Chile in 1994, when he was flown over to Santiago for 10 days.

He said: “I had the time of my life. It was out of this world and it call came from a phone call from the British Tourist Authority who asked if I would be the official crier at the event.”

Barry also met Prime Minister Theresa May in 2002 when she was the Shadow Secretary for Education.

He said: “It was at the unveiling of the Virgin Blackpool Voyager train.

“I didn’t know who she was at the time and who would have thought she would become the Prime Minister all those years ago.”

As well as his town crier role, Barry is also a toastmaster and has performed at footballer’s weddings in the past.

He said: “I have been the toastmaster for Michael Owen, Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler and Jamie Carragher.

“At Steven Gerrard’s wedding in Windsor he put me up in this superb hotel. It cost more than a £1m for the whole wedding. It was out of this world.”

Barry is also set to start the races this weekend at the Pretty Muddy Race For Life event at Lawson field and says he has no plans to quit anytime soon.

He said: “I’m definitely not packing in.

“I want to carry on for as long as possible and I hope the people of Blackpool still want me.”

When Barry met Bill and Boris

Barry recalls his time as Birmingham’s town cryer, when he was present at the 1998 G8 summit that was held in the city.

He was the town crier at the event and he was ringing his bell when world leaders such as US president Bill Clinton and Russian president Boris Yeltsin turned up.

Barry says he received a round of applause from the Russian ruler after playing the trumpet at a gathering of some of the most powerful people in the world.

He said: “It was at a special evening event and only 500 people were invited to it.

“There was a brass band playing when all of the world leaders were walking in.

“Boris Yeltsin said he wasn’t coming to the event so the band packed all their stuff away and left.

“Shortly after there was word that Boris was going to attend, so with the band not being there I was asked if I could play the trumpet.

“I didn’t know the Russian national anthem and the only thing relevant I could play was the Russian Imperial March.

“He stood and watched me play and he was smiling and applauding when I finished.”

It was only last month when Barry came across footage of himself at the event after a chance encounter.

He said: “I was at the Comedy Carpet doing a piece with Granada TV and one of the camera men asked me how long I had been a town crier.

“I said for 30 years this year and he asked me where I was in the 90’s.

“I told him I was the Birmingham’s town crier and then he said I’ve got you!”

The cameraman worked for Central TV in the 1990’s and filmed the G8 summit in 1998 and he told Barry he still had footage of him at the event.

Barry said: “I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t seen it in years and he had it all on his mobile.

“He told me I haven’t changed a bit which was good to hear.”