Wednesday 21 August 2019

Wren Boys add traditional colour to St Stephen's Day

Wren Boys Pat McEvoy, Cathal Holland and Mick Lacey entertain the crowd on Sandymount Green in Dublin. Photo: Tony Gavin
Wren Boys Pat McEvoy, Cathal Holland and Mick Lacey entertain the crowd on Sandymount Green in Dublin. Photo: Tony Gavin
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

With tin whistles tucked under their arms, faces painted brightly and golden oat straw tacked to their clothes, the Wren Boys kicked off St Stephen's Day celebrations around the country.

In Dingle, members of the Green and Gold Wren marched through the town in an array of disguises.

Broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh was among the crowd and wandered about with a straw conical hat perched on his head.

The Day of the Wren is linked to pagan traditions but also has ties to St Stephen.

The first Christian martyr, St Stephen was killed by Roman centurions after a tiny wren drew attention to him.

In the past, a wren was hunted down and killed to commemorate the day - though things have changed quite a bit since then.

While the tradition is linked to the South West, a group of Wren Boys gathered at Sandymount Green in Dublin yesterday.

"We're having a funeral for the wren, we used to kill him years ago, we don't do that any more," organiser Pat McEvoy said.

"So what we do now is give him a good funeral. Years ago, we collected money and went drinking and yahooing but this year we're collecting for charity."

The charitable donations were expected to run into the thousands from Sandymount Green alone, with the crowd in attendance in their hundreds.

The group has celebrated the day for 33 years and many attendees have been going for as long as they can remember.

The Wren Boys had representatives from the north inner city, Swords, Kildare and even Lisdoonvarna - quite a trip on the Christmas weekend.

But Mick Lacey (68) said he wouldn't have it any other way. "We started it off 33 years ago - we revived it," he said. "Automatically we arrive up now, it's just a ritual.

"This is the first time we've had good weather in years."

Irish Independent

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