Our history and heritage

Sydney to join international remembrance marking the end of World War I

Sydney town crier Graham Keating is preparing for one of his most important performances – marking the centenary of the end of the war his own uncle fought in.

Sydney Town Crier Graham Keating prepares for Remembrance Day centenary
Sydney Town Crier Graham Keating prepares for Remembrance Day centenary

At 7pm on Monday 11 November 1918 the people of Sydney heard via news cable that the armistice had been signed and World War I was over.

A centenary on, at 7.05pm on Sunday 11 November 2018, Sydney will once again pause for another momentous announcement.

Sydney’s official town crier will join hundreds of other town criers from around the world in a performance marking 100 years since the end of World War I.

Graham Keating has been practising for weeks. He’s polished the bell he’ll ring aloud on the steps of Sydney Town Hall and pressed his colonial uniform.

He’s been rehearsing every line of a declaration of peace that’s come all the way from Buckingham Palace.

“I’m excited but it’s also a great honour and quite a responsibility, especially in these times when there are still conflicts around the world."

It’s part of a synchronised effort involving 1,300 pipers who’ll play When the Battle's Over on Remembrance Day across the world. Globally, thousands of beacons will be lit, wreaths laid and church bells rung to mark the anniversary.

Here in Sydney, Graham’s booming theatrical voice will have to compete with a lump in the back of his throat.

“My uncle was a World War I horseman who delivered ammunition to soldiers in Belgium. He would load his wagon and gee up his horse to carry ammunition to anti-aircraft guns, then return and take more ammunition to the front line," Graham said.

“Like many soldiers, uncle Tom enlisted for adventure and expected to be home within a week. But of course, tragedy and trauma followed and it’s a miracle he survived.

“When he returned home, like so many soldiers he found it tough. He would wake in the middle of the night and dive over the end of the bed thinking he was again in the trenches on the battlefield.”

Graham’s first performance as town crier was at Old Sydney Town theme park in the 1980s. He's since won 5 town crier world championships.

The 75-year-old has been Sydney’s official town crier for more than 30 years and it’s a role he takes very seriously.

“It does take a lot of preparation – you’re only as good as your last performance. But I love my city and its people. I’m very proud and honoured to be an ambassador for Sydney and Sydney Town Hall – it’s a great honour.”

Published 29 October 2018, updated 2 November 2018