There’s an old tradition in Ireland of catching & killing a wren on today, St Stephens day. I remember my dad singing the song – he’s probably singing it today I’m just not there to hear it. In Irish wren ‘An Dreoilín’ means Druid’s bird, and represents the Holly King and the waning of the old year as the sun is reborn at Yule. While the wren was probably killed in a disguise of trying to stomp out pagan traditions the rituals live on today with Wren boys/Straw boys telling the tale in all their pagan finery!!
The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze.
Although he was little, his honor was great.
Jump up me lads and give us a treat.
We followed the wren three miles or more,
three miles or more, three miles or more.
Through hedges and ditches and heaps of snow
At six o’clock in the morn.
Dreoilín, Dreoilín, where is your nest?
It’s in the bush that I love best.
It’s in the bush, the holly tree,
Where all the boys do follow me.
As I went out to hunt and all
I met a wren upon the wall.
Up with me wattle and gave him a fall
And brought him here to show you all.
I have a little box under me arm.
A tuppence or penny will do it no harm
For we are the boys who came your way
To bring in the wren on St. Stephen’s Day.
Seemingly it was the wren’s song which betrayed St. Stephen in his hiding place and so he was stoned to death. The wren is caught and stoned to death and taken round the local houses collecting money. These days the Wren boys are ore likely to be dressed up carrying a fake bird in a cage singing carols and collecting for charity.
on Shop Street, Galway recorded by TG4 Gaeilge