Creative workshops examine history of The Wren in West Cork

December 31st, 2019 10:10 PM

By Jackie Keogh

The ancient tradition of The Wren is being revived in West Cork.

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A CREATIVE Ireland grant has paved the way for West Cork artist Sonia Caldwell to revive the St Stephen’s Day tradition of ‘The Wren’.

The project, which also drew support from the heritage department of Cork County Council, saw people gathering at Levis Bar in Ballydehob for two special workshops aimed at reviving the traditional costumes.

The Wren – traditionally a group of men – went out, dressed in disguise, on St Stephen’s Day and went door-to-door playing music and reciting the song The Wren.

The workshops looked at the ancient myth that the little bird gave away St Stephen’s hiding place when he was being pursued by soldiers, but there is also the myth that there was a competition in the bird world to see who was the king of all birds!

The costumes created at both of the workshops – and worn out and about in West Cork this St Stephen’s Day – feature a highly-unusual straw head-dress.

Sonia, who is predominately a sculptor, working in stone, said the projects was a great success, and one that she hopes to repeat in 2020.

During the course of her study of the subject she noted that the mention of Leaca Bhuidhe in the song, or long poem, links it directly to West Cork.

Leaca Bhuidhe is a hill to the south of Ballydehob, and to the south and east of the Catholic Church in the Parish of Schull.

She said it was local man, John Levis, who told her this, having written the words down from J Barry (NT) of Dreenlomane, Ballydehob, who was a ‘wren boy’ 40 years ago.

Sonia, who was awarded an Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre artist-in-resident award this year, is still looking for people to share their stories and memories of The Wren day tradition in West Cork.

She can be contacted by emailing her at [email protected]

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