Hear Ye ! Hear Ye ! was the cry we heard resounding through Sooke for more than a decade, during the many celebrations beginning with Sooke’s Bi-Centennial events in 1990. While the white lace and ruffles of his shirt and jabot held up throughout his tenure, our Town Crier lost count of how many pairs of white hose he needed to replenish.
Mike Thomas was the kindly gentleman who allowed himself to be maneuvered into the role of Sooke’s Town Crier, and many were the occasions that his full throated cry was heard throughout our community celebrations. When a festival was in the offing, Mike let the town know – it was a tradition that had begun before the era of newspapers.
We have the Sooke Lions Club and Beatrice Hull (Mel Hull’s mother) to thank for creating the outfit in the first place. Bea’s stitchery talents created the costume and the Lions paid for the beautiful fabrics she cut and sewed, which included a crimson crushed velvet coat and black knee breeches. Ken Shepherd made the brass bell.
One of our very special events was in 1994 when the people of Sooke hosted 1,000 athletes competing in the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria. As each Commonwealth contingent appeared on the parade field at the Sooke Community Flats, the Town Crier, working with master of ceremonies Wendal Milne, called out their country of origin.
It wasn’t only in Sooke, it was at events in Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt and Sidney that Mike’s colourful costume and baritone voice became known. The photo reproduced here is courtesy the Times-Colonist Sunday Magazine, January 5, 1992; his photo has appeared in publications around the world.
The annual International Longboat Competition where the coastal towns of Washington and Oregon sent longboats to enter into the Sooke race were some of the occasions when Mike’s rich voice was required. While the King of Spain’s Cup was the sought-after trophy on those occasions, that prize has now been retired as well as Mike’s Town Crier regalia.
In 2009 Mike was among the regional Town Criers honoured by a statue on Pier B outside the Customs Building at Ogden Point. Check it out when you’re on Dallas Road, it says “Mike Thomas, Sooke Town Crier.”
Recently when the Sooke Region Historical Society and CRD Parks organized a special discovery occasion in the Sooke Hills, Mike got the costume out of mothballs and donned it one more time to call the news from the mountain top. Perhaps one day Sooke will again have a Town Crier to call their own.
Elida Peers, Historian
Sooke Region Museum