THE role of town criers in the Tyne Valley has become a talking point once again.

In recent weeks, Hexham Town Council has revealed plans to revive the age-old tradition, with auditions for a new bell man or woman set to take place in spring next year, provided coronavirus restrictions enable it to happen.

The initiative has evoked memories of one of the district’s modern day town criers, Joan Short, who brightened up many a community event in her home town of Haltwhistle.

Joan’s death, in December 2016 after a short illness, left a big hole at every event on the town’s social calendar.

For Joan would dress up at Haltwhistle Carnival, and at other activities organised by the likes of Haltwhistle Town Twinning Association, and Haltwhistle Partnership’s community garden.

Joan also played a key role back in 2006, when the late TV personality Keith Chegwin brought his doorstep challenge to Haltwhistle Market Place, putting a town which claimed to be the geographical centre of Britain onto live national television.

But Joan’s death also touched the hearts of her many friends within the community, who loved her beaming smile and game for a laugh outlook on life.

The 61-year-old’s activities were not just about having a good time. An active fund-raiser, she also raised more than £12,000 for good causes.

She teamed up with friend Richard Weir for memorable fund-raising campaigns, including a sponsored silence.

Joan also took part in street collections, a three-legged sponsored walk, jumble sales, coffee mornings, raffles and tombolas.

Her efforts benefited the likes of Tynedale Hospice at Home, Christian Aid, Chin Up family respite services, Everychild, Children In Need, World Vision, Comic Relief, Haltwhistle Carnival, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Help for Heroes.

Joan grew up at Coalcleugh in the Allen Valleys, but was perhaps best known for her adult years in Haltwhistle. A special party was put on by friends to mark Joan’s 60th birthday in August 2015. Joan was chauffeur driven in a limousine to an event, at Haltwhistle Comrades’ Club, which also honoured her contribution to good causes in South Tynedale and beyond. Even in her latter days when feeling unwell, Joan continued to think of others and about what she could do to help them. A fun-loving woman with a heart of gold, Joan will always be fondly remembered.