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The Wren Boys in Irish Firebrands

Celebrating the Christmas season in Irish Firebrands.


Wren Boys

Main character Lana Pedersen spends Christmas Day and Saint Stephen’s Day with secondary character Frank Halligan, in this episode from Chapter 26:

Back at Boyne Fields, Lana was about to inquire about plans for lunch when she heard vehicle doors slamming, outside in the front garden.

“Ah! The wren boys!” Frank retrieved a jar of coins from his desk, and then he opened the door.

His nephews were crowded together below the stoop. Their faces were blackened with soot. Some wore straw headdresses and straw skirts over their clothes, and others wore patchwork rag costumes. One brandished a blackthorn staff with an artificial bird attached to one end. When Frank stepped outside, they sang:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St Stephen’s Day got caught in the furze.
It’s up with the kettle and down with the pan,
So give us a euro to bury the wren.

The boy with the blackthorn beat time like a drum major with his baton.

Little bird, little bird, where is your nest?
Tis in the bush that I love best.

’Tis in the tree, the holly tree,
Where all the boys do follow me.

The blackthorn waved wildly, and the bird fell off. Several boys dived to retrieve and reattach it.

We followed the wren three miles or more,
Three miles or more, three miles or more.
We followed the wren three miles or more,
At six o’clock in the morning.

The crowd shoved one boy forward. He bore a biscuit tin.

Conn has a little box under his arm,
Under his arm, under his arm.
Conn has a little box under his arm,
A euro or two will do it no harm.

“A euro to bury the wren, Uncle Frank?”

“A euro? When I was a boy, it was a penny!”

“Funerals are more dear, now,” Paula said. She stood to one side, surrounded by daughters and nieces.

“Well, let’s see – how many are you, this year?”

They counted off, and at the end, somebody shrieked, “Don’t forget Fergal!”

“But Fergal’s a baby!”

“He’s still a lad!”

“Okay! But he gets a two-euro piece, and you’d better not spend it! Give it to his mam, to keep for him.” Frank drew Lana to his side. “Here, Love, you do it.”

The lads took turns holding the tin while she doled out the coins. The littlest one asked, “Are you our Aunt, now?”

“Aengus!” Paula hissed.

“No, I’m just Lana.”

The boys shouted another verse of the song:

Uncle Frank’s Lana’s a very good woman,
A very good woman, a very good woman.
Uncle Frank’s Lana’s a very good woman,
She gave us a euro to bury the wren.

Then they stampeded away, tossing the wren to one another, and whooping and rattling the tin.

Lana asked, “Where are they going?”

“They’re off to bury the wren,” Frank said. “Then they’ll divide the spoils.”

©2012 by Christine Plouvier


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IRISH FIREBRANDS: A Novel ~ and Other Works by Christine Plouvier, Indie Author


(With apologies to Hoosier Max Ehrmann, author of the original poem “Desiderata.” Click on the image to download a PDF copy of this poster.)

~  Desiderwriter  ~

Gaze placidly upon the noisy printer and waste of jammed paper, and remember what peace there is in writing at 2 am. As far as possible when satirizing, be on good terms with all your subjects. ~ Write truth to power; and try to finish reading books, even if boring or incoherent; all writers data dump back stories. ~ Ignore trolls, it’s not worth your getting the vapors over them. It’s compare OR contrast, not both, but when critiquing others, remember there always will be better and worse writers than you are. ~ Enjoy alliterations, adjectives and adverbs, whether you’re a pantser or a planner. Let them refresh you after your day job, however humble; it’s a real possession in…

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We Write The Songs…

IRISH FIREBRANDS: A Novel ~ and Other Works by Christine Plouvier, Indie Author

St._Stephens_Day_(26_December)_in_Dingle,_Co_KerryWren Boys

…That Make Our Novels Sing.*

Or, if we don’t write ’em, at least, we ought to be talking about ’em.

That’s the theory in The Top 10 Ways to Write about Music, which explores the functions of music in best-sellers such as Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. Those functions involve beauty, authority, magic, humor, celebration, connection, memories, solution, care, and metaphor/simile.

Here are 3 more jobs I found music doing in IrishFirebrands:

Character Development

  1. He was getting up the nerve to ascend into the gloom, when he heard something he hadn’t expected to hear.
    Somebody began whistling.
    It was quite good whistling, too: the kind that sounded like a canary warbling. Then it became music, and Dillon recognised an aria from Handel’s Messiah.
    The whistler now started the Promenade from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. This virtuosity was accompanied by the…

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