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GOING ON THE WREN

Sometime today, after the coffee kicked in, NAUTICAL LOG read about the wren and sailors in "OLD SALT BLOG".

In Ireland and my hometown of Waterford there was a tradition of "going on the wren". There is a Celtic myth that the robin was supposed to represent the New Year and killed the wren which represented the Old Year. Wren Boys, in old clothes and with blackened faces, would go from house to house asking for money to bury a wren. The money was supposed to be used to buy food and drink for the "wren dance" held that night.

They used to cause great unease amongst many people by their boisterous behaviour, due in a large part to the drink, as they travelled around the houses. As one can see from the last verse of the full song it is a bit threatening demanding silver coins rather than copper.

"The wren the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he is little his family is great,
I pray you good landlady give us a treat.

My box would speak if it had but a tongue,
And two or three shillings would do it not wrong,
Sing holly, sing ivy - sing holly, sing ivy,
A drop just to drink it would drown melancholy.

And if you draw it the best,
I hope in heaven your soul will rest,
But if you draw it of the small,
It won't agree with these wren boys at all.

St. Stephen's Day, December 26th., is a National Holiday in Ireland but the Wren Boys celebrations have nothing to do with this saint, they being an ancient Druid tradition. This can be seen from the reference to holly and ivy in the song which were used in the Druid's festivals.

Good Watch.

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