Hundreds attend the funeral of Swindon town crier Fred Ferris

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BELLS rang out a final toll in honour of Swindon’s town crier Fred Ferris yesterday as his family and friends gathered to bid farewell to ‘Mr Shiny Shoes’.

Some 20 of his fellow bellmen travelled from around the South West to pay their respects to the always impeccably dressed father-of-11, shaking their ceremonial bells as his coffin was ushered into Kingsdown Crematorium.

They were accompanied by Swindon’s Pegasus Band, a group close to the town crier’s heart.

Fred, 82, of Penhill, became Swindon’s booming voice in 1997 when he won a competition to find a new town crier.

This brought the already well-known man celebrity status in his home town and earned him a loyal band of friends among the bellmen’s community.

His good humour and genuine interest in everyone who crossed his path over the years played no small part in his popularity.

The dapper town crier never failed to press his green, black and gold uniform – the colours of the GWR locomatives. His care and elegance were rewarded time and time again as he won more than 10 Best Dressed Town Crier titles. He also picked up the Best Content of Cry Award in 2011.

In 2012 he was presented with the Loyal Company of Town Criers Badge of Honour to a standing ovation at the borough council.

Fred served Queen and country by joining the Wilshire Regiment as a young man, which took him to Hong Kong and the Suez Canal. He also took the helm of the Swindon Pegasus Band as its vice president and, as a member of the Royal British Legion, carried the standard through Remembrance Parades.

Speaking on behalf of his family, civil celebrant Rob Crowe told the assembly, most of whom were forced to stand through the packed service: “Fred was possessed with the ability to talk to anyone and always did his best to make you feel comfortable.

“It is when he entered the competition to become Swindon’s town crier that his life entered a new phase. During that time he made great friendships. For the past 16 years Fred has taken great pride in representing the town across the country.

“He always was immaculately turned out. His shoes were so highly polished you could see see your face in them.”

The former bus conductor died at the Great Western Hopsital on Thursday, November 21, after a long illness.

But his deteriorating health and the eventual news that he would not recover was not enough to crush his optimism.

“Fred faced many challenges and complications with his health recently,” added Mr Crowe. “But he was never a man to simply give in when doctors gave him the news he would not get better. He said ‘I will get better, I’ve got to lay a new floor in the bathroom’.

“He was a man who loved so many things. He enjoyed his life most when he could share his enthusiasms with others.”

At the close of the ceremony, his friend Owen Collier, Royal Wootton Bassett town crier, read The Criers’ Prayer. The assembly remained silent as his son David, accompanied by the Pegasus Band, performed a musical tribute to their fallen leader.

Fred leaves a wife, Gwyneth, and 11 children.


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