School: Holmpatrick (roll number 14180)

Holmpatrick, Co. Dublin
D. Kevelighan

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Festival Customs - St Stephen's Day - The Wren Boys

Archival Reference

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0784, Page 104

Image and data © National Folklore Collection, UCD. See copyright details »

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Festival Custom
St. Stephen Day
The Wren Boys
Before a society for prevention of cruelty intervened, it used to be a custom in Skerries to go out a week before Christmas, catch a wren alive, put it in a cage, and starve it to death.
When the wren would be dead the men would put it in a crude coffin and carry it from door to door on St Stephen's Day. They used to show it to the people (usually to the women of the house) and sing:-
"The wren, the wren, the king of the birds,
St Stephen's Day he was caught in the furze,
Although he is little, his family's great,
Get up, landlady, and give us a "thrate". (treat)
The children used also to starve the wren, but they used to tie it by the heels to a holly branch, and go around and sing. The branch used to be decorated with paper and ribbon streamers, and other such things.
The men used to spend the money on drink,and the children on lemonade.
All this used to be done in everyday clothes, but nowadays young lads go around dressed in bright clothes and masks, singing at

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Alan Owens
Strand Street, Co. Dublin