Friday 15 December 2017

Music and revelry with the Wren Boys

Allison Bray and Majella O'Sullivan

MUSICIANS from across the country brought along their tin whistles and bodhrans to help get the traditional Wren Boys Festival party started.

The annual St Stephen's Day gathering at Sandymount Green in Dublin saw Wren Boys decked out in their traditional old clothes, masks and blackened faces.

Hundreds of miles away, another group of Wren Boys celebrated in Dingle, Co Kerry.

Parades kicked off just before 2pm with the Wren Boys collecting money for charity and stopping at different watering holes to play a few tunes.

Dressed in the traditional "straws" – costumes made out of oat straw – a motley crew of revellers made their way around the towns.

The Wren, or Wran, is a tradition that thrives in parts of Ireland on St Stephen's Day. Dingle native and music lecturer at University College Cork, Dr Aoife Granville, based her PhD thesis on the tradition.

"It's a symbol of our 'Dingleness' really and people are very proud that it has survived here," she said.

And it's all to commemorate a small bird. According to legend, the birds held a parliament to decide who was king. The bird that flew highest would rule.

The eagle soared highest, but a tiny wren hidden in its feathers emerged and flew higher again, stealing the title.

Irish Independent

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