Another in Marlborough.News’ occasional series of profiles about people and their roles in the life of the Marlborough Area – taking our cue from the book published for the Millennium: MARLBOROUGH PEOPLE
He may not tweet, Snapchat or post on Facebook, but Mike Tupman knows a thing or two about sending a message. Give him a fancy uniform, a brass bell and plenty of air to draw breath and he’ll make sure everyone on the High Street gets the message loud and clear.
For Mike Tupman is Marlborough’s Town Crier and is enjoying the job mightily. Appointed by Marlborough Town Council, he took up the unpaid post in March following the retirement of Alfie Johnson after his 21 years as Town Crier.
A self-confessed traditionalist and royalist, Mike enjoys the flummery of the role. For a start there’s the dressing up in a royal blue, brass buttoned coat, a tricorn hat, frilly neck scarf and breeches – an outfit that would have been recognisable to gentlemen of the eighteenth century.
He carries out about fifteen civic duties a year plus the ad hoc events that crop up. You can typically find him at ceremonies such as mayor making, Remembrance Sunday, and most recently the Mop Fairs – events which members of Marlborough Town Council attend. As he told Marlborough.News: “There is a strict protocol and people let me know what I have to do. I shout when I’m told to and stay quiet when told to. You soon pick it up.”
He is particularly looking forward to next summer when he can get kitted out in his uniform and wander along the High Street chatting to people. “The tourists like it and it gives me the chance to teach kids how news was spread before the advent of phones and mass communication.”
The post comes with the additional duty of being Marlborough’s Ale Taster, giving him the right to sample the ale in Marlborough’s pubs once a year to judge their quality.
Alongside is the largely ceremonial role of Beadle. As Mike explains: “It’s a sort of officer of the law. Part of the beadle’s job was to clear people out of the mayor’s way – so when I’m ‘beadling’ I carry a six foot pole to guard the mayor.”
Being an officer of the law is something Mike takes very seriously as it was only last year he retired from working every Saturday as a Special Constable, which he did for 31 years. It’s very like being a proper copper: “You have the same uniform and equipment and the same responsibilities and powers of arrest. You just don’t get paid for it.”
Mike, 74, covered an area which stretched around Burbage, Hungerford, Beckhampton and Broad Hinton and over the years he has seen it all – domestic rows, drunk and disorderly behaviour, punch ups, shoplifting, drug and knife incidents. He also attended many terrible traffic accidents, some of them fatal.
So what makes a good Special Constable? “You must listen, empathise, show sympathy for people’s predicaments but be tough when you need to be,” he says.
Overall he looks back most fondly on the myriad little actions with which he was able to help people: “I loved it because I genuinely like helping people. I had fun with the kids, letting them try my hat on and listen to my radio. If you can get kids to respect the police uniform they will go through life respecting it.”
Three years ago Mike was awarded an MBE for “services to Wiltshire police and the community of Marlborough”. Prince Charles did the honours, pinning the medal to his chest, “…but I can’t tell you what he said – that’s between him and me”.
Mike is undeniably a cheery soul – a suitable disposition for someone who spent 33 years with Cadbury (first Fry’s) flogging the delights of chocolate. After leaving school in Leicester he tried several jobs including market trader, lorry driver and window cleaner before joining Fry’s chocolates in Bristol as a merchandiser.
From Leicester he moved to Essex with his wife Marelene, working his way up to senior salesman level. He was “unbelievably disappointed” when the Americans bought Cadbury and he sold all his shares.
When he retired from Cadbury he worked for Wootton Bassett Town Council setting up and running a CCTV system. The system he established was managed by volunteers taking turns to watch the monitors, and it proved very successful.
He says meeting Marelene was the ‘defining moment of my life’: “I met her on a blind date in Leicester when I was 21 and she was 17. She formed me. She knew how to manage me, which buttons to press and keep me in order. We were married for 43 years – she died of breast cancer six years ago.”
Nowadays, Mike, or Tuppers as he is otherwise known, can be found either on the golf course, hanging out at his local pub in Burbage, pottering in his garden or taking his dog Bob for a walk: “Bob’s a little cracker – he comes to the pub with me all the time.”
Mike is a fan of audio books (he likes crime thrillers) and old TV sitcoms, particularly Dad’s Army. He takes annual holidays to Goa in India.
Now that, sadly, Marelene is gone, his two daughters look out for him. Helen lives around the corner in Burbage, and Carol in Broad Hinton. With two grandsons ages 17 and15 and twin granddaughters aged 23 Mike has plenty to keep him busy, including watching the boys play football and cricket.
After 43 years in Burbage he says he will never leave the village: “I’ve seen a lot of middle-aged couples move away once the kids have left home and struggle to make new friends. I love the vibrancy of Marlborough, the hustle and bustle the traffic, the whole fabric of it – why would I go?
“I’m a happy man, the kids are a joy and delight and shall go to my grave with no real regrets.”