Wren Boys

Wren Boys

Hi!
Anyone out there on session.org an active Wren Boy?
Maybe took part this St Stephen’s Day just passed.
Anyone know any Hunting the Wren specific tunes or musical traditions?
Anyone outside Ireland doing it?!
Any pictures, videos et cetera?
Like to hear experiences/ opinions!
Cheers!

Re: Wren Boys

No idea what you’re talking about, but there’s a tune called We’ll Hunt the Wren.

I nicked it off this album. https://thesession.org/recordings/3994. But it’s not been transcribed on to thesession.

Are you the real yhaalhouse?

Re: Wren Boys

Never done the wren myself, but would often be playing tunes in the pub on Stephen’s Day when they’d come in. Usually down my way they’re playing the standard jigs and reels and stuff when they pop in to the pub and maybe chanting that "the wren, the wren, the king of all birds" song / rhyme.

Assuming of course you’re talking about the people who dress up in crazy costumes on Stephen’s Day, and not the young lads who hang around the Phoenix Park at night and occasionally get caught in a prominent politician’s car…

Re: Wren Boys

I’ve been in Ireland a few times on St.Stephen’s Day(26th December) and have ’ gone in the Wren’ playing with my son since being a musician, with other family members who play, dance and sing. My Dad is from near Louisburgh, Co Mayo and in this part of Ireland the rhyme goes:
The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
On Stephen’s day was caught in the furze.
Up with the kettle and down with the pan
Give us your money and we’ll bury the wren!
We go to local houses playing/singing/ dancing, according to the skills of those present and try to persuade the residents to part with their cash- or food and drink, as referred to in the third line- in return for entertainment. People wear masks or blacken their faces and dress up.Dad’s most recent ‘Wren boys’ expedition last year raised €420 which they gave to the local parish hall who are collecting for a new sound system.

Re: Wren Boys

I’ve heard this tune played as a Wren Boy tune https://thesession.org/tunes/6#setting12117

There’d be close enough connections between the Wren (The Wran) and the Mummer tradition.

I was in a pub in a midlands town one Stephen’s Day and various gangs of wren boys came in. Mostly older youths collecting money to go and have a piss up. So you’d have that as well.

Posted .

Re: Wren Boys

not sure about now, but the tradition around Coomhola in West Cork was to go out on the wren and collect money for a community dance, a couple kegs and set dancing in a ‘remote’ farmhouse usually around little Christmas, jan 6th. I’ve seen some pic’s of on facebook of quite a crowd going out on the wren from a few years ago, and thankfully a bunch of young un’s, so hopefully still going. don’t do the money collecting but always have a party, ‘the wren ball’ to remember the good olde days, from here in Appalachia. not quite set dancing a mad scrum, of cobbled together squares and wot not: https://www.facebook.com/julie.rogers.338/videos/10155703750244676/?pnref=story

Re: Wren Boys

It seems a bit of an anachronism in these days of diminishing natural resources and song bird populations in steep decline. I didn’t know people had started or were continuing a tradition by dressing up and jumping around as appears in those links. I also don’t know anything much about why it became accepted that killing one of the country’s smallest birds and presenting it as a gift to impress a would be love was the way to go. Except to note that back in the day before credit cards, overdrafts and out of town shopping people with sweet FA did some pretty weird things. I first came across it when I bumped into the tune ‘Death Of A Wren’, I couldn’t really work out why someone had written a cheery reel about such a sad little event until I learnt something about it all.

I’m guessing at sometime or another the catholic church must have given the wren a particular significance in some form or another, probably some sainted thingy. They’re big on slaughtering them in Malta, Italy and Cyprus I understand, wrens not saints these days that is. They also used to appear on the old farthing although I always thought that was down to size, there might have been a little more symbolism involved somewhere perhaps.

Re: Wren Boys

In days past it was believed that the wren’s song betrayed St. Stephen, hiding from pursuit, to martyrdom. Thus on St. Stephen’s Day, December 26, a wren was traditionally killed and paraded through villages.

The unfortunate "star" of that celebration - the Eurasian Wren - is a species closely related to the Winter Wren of the Eastern US and Pacific Wren in the Northwest. They were formerly considered one species that occupied northern forests across the globe. But in 2010, on the basis of vocalizations and genetics, they were split into three species.

The Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) is small, mouse-like bird. Its voice is enormous for its size, a gushing burst of sweet music, a cascading tumble of melodious notes. The scientific name is taken from the Greek word "troglodytes", meaning "cave-dweller", and refers to its habit of disappearing into tree cavities whilst hunting insects or to roost.

In a story attributed by Plutarch to Aesop—some say this is also a Norse myth—the wren was regarded as the king of birds. This title was awarded to the bird which could fly nearest to the sun. The eagle flew higher than any of the other birds in the contest but lost to the wren who, cunningly, had ridden on the eagle’s back.