The Wren Boys

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter XIV (3) - Start of Chapter

The Wrenboys.—In Munster it is customary on the anniversary of St. Stephen’s day for groups of youths to bear about a holly bush adorned with ribbons and having a wren or a number of wrens depending from it. This is carried from house to house with some ceremony, the “Wren boys” chanting several verses, the burden of which may be gathered from the following lines of their story:—

“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,

On St. Stephen’s day was caught in the furze,

Although he’s little his family’s great,

I pray you good landlady give us a treat.

My box would speak if it had a tongue,

And two or three shillings would do it no wrong,

Sing holly, sing ivy—sing ivy, sing holly,

A drop just to drink, it would drown melancholy.

And if you draw it of the best,

I hope in Heaven your soul may rest;

But if you draw it of the small,

It won’t agree with the Wren boys at all.” etc. etc.

A small piece of money is usually bestowed upon the serenaders, and the evening is usually concluded in merrymaking with the money thus collected.