Catholic Birder

Birds have had my attention for over 30 years. God for just a few. Before birds were a passion. Now they are a confirmation. Saint Francis of Assisi, patron of birds, pray for us.

December 27, 2005

My Wren Boys

Tom Fitzpatrick of Recta Ratio has alerted us to an Irish Saint Stephen Martyr Day custom particularly apt for comment by the Catholic Birder: the Wren Boys . Young boys would hunt a wren to display on a pole for carolling purposes. The songs they would sing? Here is one Tom posted:

The wren, the wren,
The king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day
Got caught in the furze.
So it's up with the kettle
And down with the pan.
Won't you give us a penny
To bury the wren?

My four boys are already practiced birders. Here they are ready to spot chickadees, cardinals robins and bluejays.

Mr. Fitzpatrick ends his post wondering, "if wrenning could be domesticated and made acceptable to modern sensibilities, while still keeping the essense of the custom." Yes, it would have to be domesticated or else we might have to train a generation of bird hunters from scratch. I suspect the lads used snares or bird nets though they may have used a shotgun with a light load. There just aren't many songbird hunters around anymore outside of Spain and Portugal. Closest thing are dove hunters using 12 guages with improved cylinder chokes and No. 8 shot.

Here in the States we would have an easy time pishing caronlina wrens. The kinglet may be a better bird for this sport and song. Perhaps the local Audubon could lend us some of the ones they've banded.


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My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple rainment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sow, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God. Saint Francis of Assisi - c 1220

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