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  1. Bird-Lore - The Wren

    Language
    English

    The wren does not migrate in the winter. She builds her nest in an ivy tree or in a thorny hedge. Her nest is made of fog and feathers and is very cozy and haped like a ball. It has two entrances, one by which the bird enters, and she leaves the nest by the other. They are both on the sides of the nest. The eggs which are about twenty in number are brown with red dots. She is sometimes called the “scutty wren”. In some parts the “wren boys” bring a wren round with them in a little box. If the people of the house refuge to give the “wren boys” money they threaten to buy the wren at the door. This is supposed to bring bad luck for the year. The wren is the bird that betrayed Our Lord. The “wren boys” used to say “The wren, the wren, the king of all birds

  2. (no title)

    On Saint Stephen's Day the boys go round from house to house...

    Language
    English
    Collector
    James Morrissey
    Age
    13
    Occupation
    farmer
    Informant
    Thomas Corcoran
    Age
    62

    On Saint Stephens's day, the boys go round from house, to house with a wren. They are called the wren boys. They have an old rhyme about the wren. The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, Saint Stephens's day, she was caught in a furze, up with the kettle, and down with the pan, give me some money to bury the wren. The people give the boys, a penny or twopence to bury him.

  3. The Wren Boys' Day

    Language
    English
    Collector
    P. Masterson
    Informant
    P. Masterson
    Age
    40

    years ago in our Lord's time the Jews wanted to catch our Lord and they searched high and low down for him. Our Lord was in a big clump of bushes and a little wren began flying round and round the clump and at last the Jews saw what was up. They went over and in that place they found Him. From that day to this people do not like the wren and lads chase him on Wren boy's Day. Young lads love to chase the wren and the be looking forward to Wren boy's day. Some people ask to see the wren and if they haven't a wren they send them away with-out any money.

  4. St Stephen's Day

    Language
    English

    It is a general custom for men and boys to go around from house to house singing the Wren Song. These men are called the “Wren Boys”. The Wren Boys disguise themselves as much as possible so that their neighbours would not recognize them. They have false faces and put them on thin faces. Besides this they wear girls’ dresses and old hats decorated with feathers. Some of them bring musical instruments, it being generally arranged if possible to have a musician in the party. When they arrive at the different houses the sing ‘The Wren Song’ and play music outside the door. If admitted they sing and dance for the occupants of the house, and usually get some money before leaving. After the day outing, the money received is divided equally among the different members of the party. The words of the ‘Wren Song’ are. The wren the wren the king of all birds, It was on St. Stephan’s Day that she was caught in the ferns. Up with the kettle and down with pan, Give is some money to bury the wren.

  5. Penal Times

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Joseph Cahill
    Informant
    John Carmody
    Age
    84

    time he would meet the priest he would shoot him. So there were stations and the priest had to walk on foot in those times. So he said he would shoot the priest when he met him. So he took away his servant and his gun to shoot the priest. The people told the priest that Wren was going to shoot him. Wren was walking hither and over the path [?] to shoot him when he would be going b coming back. So the priest passed Wren because Wren [?] never saw him. So his servant asked him who so didn't he shoot the priest. He told wren that the priest passed him and why didn't he shoot him. He said he would if he saw him. "There he's gone" said the servant. Wren went after him to shoot him on his horse before he reached Ballylongford. There was a man of the Gorms and he was married to Wren's sister. So the priest told him that Wren was following him. The [?] Major said that he would stand for the

  6. Saint Stephen's Day

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Charles Kelly

    It is a custom for all the boys of the villages to go from house to house with a wren. They make a box out of thin and they bore holes in it. Then they put moss in it. They put a wren in it then. They say this rhyme at every house “the wren the wren the king of all birds St Stephen’s day she was caught in the furze Up with the kettle and down with the pan give me some money to bury the wren. Although she is small her family is great. Rise up land lady and give u a treat and If your treat be of the best I hope its [sic] in heaven your soul will rest. If your treat be of the small it would not agree with the wren boys at all

  7. Bird-Lore - The Wren

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Jack Lawson

    The wren, the wren,t he king of all birds." On Saint Stephen;s Day was caught in a fir. There is a story connected with the wren and the eagle. They wanted to see which of them could fly the higher. So the eagle started off and the wren hopped up on the eagle's back. Whent hey went as high as they could the eagle got tired and fell down, but the wren flew higher. So the wren won the flight and was called "the King of the Birds."

  8. The Wren Day

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Donal Linehan
    Informant
    Mrs Linehan
    Age
    circa 55

    The wren day falls on the 26th of December. On that day, boys go out in a procession, hunting the wren. They dress themselves up in different kinds of clothes, and play music. One of them plays carries a holly bush, dressed with ribbons, and a dead wren tied to one end of its branches. The man with the bush is always cashkeeper.
    An old story says, that the start of hunting the wren was, that, when the Danes were in Ireland, and Irish army were in ambush to attack the Danes, and a wren flew on a drum, and made a noise on it. When the Danes heard the noise, they knew that they were to be attacked, and they got ready. Then the Irish army killed the wren, and tied him on a holly bush. That is the custom ever since.
    When the wren boys go to a house, they sing a song about the wren. Nearly every batch sings a different song. One of them is
    The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
    On St, Stephen’s Day he was caught in the furze
    I followed my wren through frost and snow,
    I followed my wren, five miles and more

  9. Festival Days

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Richard Norriss

    In this district certain feasts are held and some old customs are still carried on, Christmas is the greatest feast of the year, and the day after Christmas day is is called Saint Stephen's
    Day or "Wren Day". All the boys follow the Wren. They go around from house to house singing the Wren song. They get four-pence in every house. This is the wren song
    The wren, the wren, the king of all birds. Saint Stephen's day she was caught in the furze. Although she was little her family was great get up Dear Madam. and give us a treat. As I was going to Killenauk. I met a wren upon the wall, I, up with my stick and knocked her down and brought her home to to Cashel town. This is the wren that you may see hanging on our holly tree, With a bunch of ribbons by her side and the Knockgraffon boys to be her guide. We followed this wren three miles or so, Through hedges and ditches my

  10. Féilí na Bliana

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Richard Allen
    Informant
    Allen
    Age
    57
    Occupation
    labourer

    On Saint Stephen's Day boys go from house to house singing a song called the "Wren". Those boys are commonly called "wren boys". A fortnight or three weeks before St Stephen's Day the boys are preparing. They dress so that no person would know them. This is the way they dress themselves. They put on an old trousers with a shabby old coat and a hat. They go in groups containing three or four boys. One of the wren-boys always carries a holly bush called a "wren-bush" This bush is decorated with coloured ribbons and from one branch the wren is tied. The wren is killed about a week before that day. It is put in ashes to keep it from rotting.

  11. Saint Stephen's Day Customs

    Language
    English

    The chief festival customs are, on Saint Stephen's Day all the boys go around from house to house hunting the wren. They wear old coloured clothes and masks on their faces. They get a holly bush and kill a wren. They put the wren on the bush and have the wren on their shoulders while they are going around. They sing and dance and play music in all the houses. They sing the wren song. The following is the words of the song.

    "The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,

  12. The Wren Boys

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Charles Hales
    Informant
    Mrs Hales

    On Saint Stephen's day boys and men dress in old bags and rags and go through the towns and country getting money to bury the wren. There is a story told about the wren. One Saint Stephen's day there was a skirmish fought between the Irish and English. The English were asleep and their enemies were approaching them. The wren was in the furze and hopped on their drum and made a noise. The English awoke and beat back the Irish. This is why the wren is not liked by Irishmen. The following few lines are written about the wren -
    "The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
    On Saint Stephen's day was hid in the furze.

  13. A Story of the Wren

    Language
    English

    Some people would tell you that it is not right to let a wren build in the eaves of houses because when St. Stephen was going to be killed, he hid up in a tree but the wren [give?] gave some sign to his enemies telling them where he was and he was stoned to death, therefore it is said that the wren is a bad bird. It is said that if every egg that the wren (would) lays, if it were broken that it would lay and lay away until it would die.

  14. St Stephen’s Day

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Mairtín Ó Riagáin
    Informant
    Pat Regan

    We have St Stephen's Day on the twenty sixth of December. Every two boys dress up and go round with the wren on St Stephen's Day.
    They catch the wren in the eve of the house the night before St. Stephen's Day. They light the lantern and hold it up to the eve of the house. There is little holes in the thatch and the wren is asleep in the hole, and the boys put their hand into the hole and catch the wren. They kill hem and hang him from the wren bush. They go from house to house to bury the wren. This is the song that is said in every house.
    The wren, the wren,
    the king of all birds.
    St. Stephen's Day he was caught

  15. Festival Customs

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Michael Downey

    St. Stephen's Day:- On this day parties of little boys wearing face-masks go from house to house collecting money for the "wren". One boy in each party takes a dead wren about, on a holly branch. On entering a house he says:- "Something for the wren, the wren, the king of all birds, on St. Stephen's Day he was caught in the furze". As a rule each householder gives him two or three pence. The members of each party divide the money collected between them.

  16. Feast-Days - Stephen's Day

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Johanna Bailey

    Since ancient days the old customs of "Hunting the wren" is carried out in nearby every part of Ireland on St. Stephen's day. From early in the morning until dusk it is pleasant to see the wren boys big and small ones some with face masks in them and others having their faces blackened with soot going from house to house with a bramble of a holly tree decorated with coloured papers and ribbons on their shoulders and singing the following rhyme. "The wren the wren the king

  17. Festival Customs

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Philip Brady

    On St Stephens Day the people go round with the wren. The bigger boys put false faces on them so that they would not be known. Some of the big boys bring a wren in a jam pot, while others bring a stick with a match box and a feather on the end of it. Some songs are songs are sung such as "the wren the wren the King of all birds St Stephens Day she was caught in the furze though she was small her family is great rise up young lady and give us a treat.

  18. The Wren Boys

    Language
    English
    Collector
    Anna Lynch

    the wren boys go around gathering money to bury the wren. They go around all day and when night comes they divide the money equally among them. There were more wren boys in former years than at present. Some of the wren boys go together and have a dance. Others of them go to the town and enjoy themselves after their long day's travelling.

  19. Bird-Lore

    Language
    English

    common story about the wren is how he got to be king of the birds. One day when the birds assembled together they said whichever of the birds would fly the highest would be the king of the birds. The wren went in under the eagle's wing. The eagle shouted "I am the king of the birds" and immediately the wren jumped out and said "I am the king of the birds" and ever since the wren is counted the king of the birds.