St. Stephen's Day.
In this locality it is the custom not to eat meat on that day, so that all kinds of disease may be kept away during the following year. On this day also men, and of late years, boys go in groups from house to house collecting money. These are called "Wren Boys". They dress in coloured clothes and straw. Sometimes they blacken their faces or wear masks or "false-faces." They usually have music, and they dance and sing before each door. This is the Wren song in this district - :
"The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's day was caught in the furze,
Although she is small her family is great,
Rise up landlady, and give us a treat.
And if your treat is of the small,
It won't agree with the boys atal.
But if your treat is of the best,
We hope, in heaven your soul may rest.
So up with the kettle, and down with the pan,
Give us your answer and let us 'began'."
One of the 'Wren Boys' is official collector. He has a box, with a slit in the lid. Everyone gives what they can afford, and it is said that bad luck follows those who refuse.
- Kevin M. Devine
- Coolaney, Co. Sligo