Town criers or bellmen were a common sight in the streets of Britain well into the 19th century.
Low literacy levels made word of mouth the only way to communicate important information to many townsfolk.
Criers were employed by town councils.
They paraded about ringing a large bell to attract attention before beginning with the call 'Oyez, Oyez, Oyez', a word dating back to the Old French for 'hark' or 'listen'.
A loud voice, the ability to read, and a commanding presence were the main qualifications for the role.
The town crier tradition spread from Britain to settlements across the world.
In Launceston the longest serving and best known occupant of the role was James Robert Cooper, better known as Chequers.
Unlike his British counterparts, Chequers was self-employed.
Despite frequent appeals to the council to be engaged permanently, the most he was ever granted was a license.
The Mayor, merchants, politicians, anyone who wished to get a message out, could engage his services for a fee.
Dressed in a red jacket, wearing a top hat with 'The Town Crier' inscribed on the band in gold letters, and carrying a large hand bell, he cut a striking figure on the street.
His style of delivery was reported in the Examiner on August 4, 1859.
'Chequers, in a voice whose melody is a combination of the notes of the crow and laughing jackass, commences "O yes! O yes! Gentlemen! Gentlemen!"' He then proceeded to inform the public of a sale by auction, to take place that day. After enumerating a number of items, he wound up "Halso 'edstones hand bottled hale, hand all on sale hat Mister 'ow's".
Elocution was not his strength.
Alas poor Chequers was often a figure of fun, derided and jeered and sometimes taken advantage of.
In 1851 someone hired him to carry an offensive placard through the town.
Chequers found himself implicated in a Supreme Court libel case.
He avoided any penalty as both parties agreed he was an 'innocent fool'.
He was also prone to exaggeration.
He claimed to have commenced a life of crime in London when he was nine by robbing a butcher, before progressing to highway robbery, for which he was sentenced to death five times.
He also said he had been an associate of bushranger Brady and his gang.
In fact, he was found guilty of stealing 6s and four sixpences from his master, a cheesemonger in Covent Garden at 17.
He was sentenced to seven years transportation, arriving in Hobart on the ship Commodore Hayes in 1823.
Despite his failings it seems Launcestonians were fond of Chequers.
When old age and blindness overtook him a public collection was taken up for his support.
He died on May 6, 1882, aged 78.
His well-worn bell was presented to the Museum.