Lá an Dreoilín – The Day of the Wren
Did you know that the Irish word for Wren is Dreoilín [Droe-leen]? In fact, the Wren plays an important part in Irish folklore, where it is said that one day, when all the birds of the world were gathered together to choose a king, the humble wren succeeded in flying even higher than an eagle. Then when the birds, who insisted that the wren was too small to be king failed twice in their attempt to drown him, they crowned the wren ‘King of all Birds’ or in Gaelic, ‘rí na n-éan’. Indeed, some say the word ‘wren’ comes from the pronunciation of Rí na nÉan or [Ree na Nane]!
Every year on the 26th December, Lá an Dreoilín or The Day of the Wren still takes place in pockets of Co. Kerry, Limerick and Galway where the original wren hunt and burial was designed as a punishment for the little bird who supposedly betrayed Christian martyr, St Stephen’s hiding place to his enemies.
Nowadays, these rather dark overtones have gradually disappeared and given way to a family day out where ‘Wrenboys’ in fancy dress, playing bodhráns, tin whistles, mouth organs etc. parade down the main street, singing a variation of the following:
“The Wran the Wran the King of all birds,
St Stephen’s day was caught in the furzse.
Although he was small his family was great.
Rise up landlady and give us a trate.
Up with the ketel and down with the pan.
A penny on a halfpenny to bury the Wran”
(NFCS, Naomh Muire, Droichead Átha 0680: 219)
It is somewhat fitting that a group of wrens is often referred to as ‘a chime of wrens’. Which is why I named my best selling beginners concertina after this impressive and fascinating bird.
Wishing you all the blessings of Lá an Dreoilín to you wherever you are in the world.