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The Wren Boys
 
# 1 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:01
 
 
I'm aware that in parts of Ireland, it's a tradition for groups of teenage boys and men to visit houses on St. Stephen's day and sing songs, recite poems or tell stories for some money. They are known as the Wren Boys.




I wasn't even aware of what the wren boys were until I was about 19 or 20 and someone I was in college with told me about them. He was amazed that I'd never heard of them but I don't think Wren boys are a tradition in Dublin nor in Northern Ireland where my family originally harks from.

So what do Gaireans think of Wren boys? Some of them look a bit sinister and Wicker Man like to me. Is the tradition still strong, is it dying out or is it enjoying a revival? Is the Wren boys thing more common in the South and West of the country, given that I grew up in Dublin and had never even heard of them? Is the tradition pre- Christian and pagan in its roots?

Has anyone here been a Wren boy?


PS: that's Wren boy and NOT Rent boy...


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# 2 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:14
 
 
Haha,good clarification there,yeah ive seen them in Sandymount Green,they do it there every la le Stiophan,it could be a gay day out to suck crubeens(delicious by the way)with a hot tae to warm the cockles.
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# 3 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:15
 
 
It's a big part of stephens day tradition down here.
Have done it a few times, It's great craic visiting houses and local pubs ,play a few tunes ,down a quick whiskey and on to the next venue.
All money collected is usually earmarked for a local charity.
Last year i had Romas call to me, Although i am not sure what charity they were collecting for.

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# 4 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:17
 
 
fairly common in Mayo, Think they might be called the strawboys by some people
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# 5 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:20
 
 
Yes this still happens a good bit in my part of Mayo anyway.
I know it was in the past, but I don't remember it ever being exclusively limited to boys and men?
The only people I seen do it were usually teenagers, both boys and girls.
They just go house to house and a few pubs singing a few songs or play some music.
My sister used to play trad with some of her friends, they were great and they'd make loads of money. It wasn't for me, but most of my friends did it at some stage.
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# 6 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:21
 
 
Someone said :
fairly common in Mayo, Think they might be called the strawboys by some people

The Strawboys are a different breed of cowboys altogether.
They show up at the house of newly weds to welcome them home from their honeymoon.
Another strong tradition down here.
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# 7 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:25
 
 
I was down with my ex partner at his sister's place in Roscommon a few years ago for Christmas and some Wren boys showed up at her door on St Stephen's day to recite a poem and sing a couple of songs. They collected money for some local charity.

I've never seen this happening in Dublin. Is the tradition stronger in parts of the country than others? It looks very pre-Christian and pagenistic to me - well, the guys in the straw outfits.
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# 8 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:34
 
 
I've never heard of adult men doing the Wren Boy. In east Galway, I've only ever seen children & young teens. They go door to door singing songs and the like, collecting a bit of pocket money. Years ago, they sometimes actually had a real wren in a cage with them.

There was also a rhyme they had:

The wran, the wran
The king of all birds
St Stephenses Day
Was caught in the furze

So up with the kettle
And down with the pan
And give me a penny
To bury the wran

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# 9 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:35
 
 
Arent culchies gas all the same.
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# 10 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:52
 
 
My cousin and his mates did it a good few years back. They collected a good bit of money mainly because of the rariety of it. They weren't in those outfits but they did have a "wren" in a cage. It was in Galway and I've never heard of anyone doing it in Dublin.
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# 11 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:56
 
 
Someone said :

The Strawboys are a different breed of cowboys altogether.
They show up at the house of newly weds to welcome them home from their honeymoon.
Another strong tradition down here.

I was telling somone the other day about having a bonfire for someone coming home from honey moon.
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# 12 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 00:57
 
 
Yeah Kaede,every year in Sandymount village they do be there so they do be.
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# 13 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 01:01
 
 
I did see your post, I'm not that blind. It just didn't register in my head
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# 14 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 01:51
 
 
Pic of a Wren Boy or "Straw Boy" in costume...



Wow - it looks so...pagan. Frodo would love this. He could wear this getup whilst torching every church he could find in the neighbourhood! I've read up on the wren boys tradition online and apparently it was frowned upon and denounced by the Catholic church. Go the wren boys!


Someone said :
It's strange really.

I can remember it today as clearly as if it were yesterday!

We had only arrived in Ireland in August..

I started school in September.

I had to repeat a year.

I had finished 6th grade in California... but, my dad wanted me to learn Irish.
(as an alien, by law, I didn't have to. But my dad being the Irish patriot that he was, I HAD to!)

So, September started going to an all boys school (a first for me! Oh! how I enjoyed it!)
I had to learn Irish in the old script, bultas etc..

Then came the first xmas.

When we first moved to Limerick, we had rented a house.
We bought a house and moved into it, a week before xmas.

We were still unpacking, getting used to our surroundings, when we were taken, early on Dec 26th to Ardfert, in north Kerry,to my aunt Bridgie's house.

There were over 20 people for dinner, and it was all prepared on an open turf fire.

To this day, I remember it as one of the best meals I've ever had in my life!

(and, without shame, I am an amazing cook!)

We had roast goose. In fact there were roast geese, as there were so many people.
A thatched cottage, no bathroom, not even a toilet.
Uncles Aunts and Cousins I had never met in my life.

The most amazing food I had ever tasted! All cooked over an open fire.

Then!

A seeminly endless parade of "Wren Boys"

My first real introduction to Irish music and culture.

It is probably my most powerful childhood memory.

That sounds poignant and amazing Kev. I never realised goose was cooked in Ireland at Christmas. And to think that there were houses in rural Ireland with no electricity or running water in relatively recent times!

The wren boys tradition seems to be strongest in the South and West of the country. I had never even heard of it until I went to university.


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# 15 : Wednesday 22-12-2010 @ 01:55
 
 
Apparently there still are houses that aren't connected. I was on Inishbofin during the summer and the woman manning the reception was telling us that some houses still don't have electicity. If you can believe that!
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