Getting to be My Favorite Christmastime Song

The Boys of Barr na Sraide

Oh the town, it climbs the mountain and looks upon the sea
At sleeping time or waking, 'tis there I'd long to be
To walk again that kindly street, the place where life began
And the Boys of Barr na Sráide went hunting for the wren

With cudgels stout they roamed about to hunt the dreólín
We searched for birds in every furze from Litir to Dooneen
We sang for joy beneath the sky, life held no print nor plan
And the Boys of Barr na Sráide went hunting for the wren

And when the hills were bleeding and the rifles were aflame
To the rebel homes of Kerry the Saxon stranger came
But the men who dared the Auxies and to beat the Black-and-Tan
The Boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wren

And now they toil on foreign soil, for they have gone their way
Deep in the heart of London town or over in Broadway
And I am left to sing their deeds and praise them while I can
Those Boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wren

And here's a toast to them tonight, the lads who laughed with me
By the groves of Carham river or the slope of Bean 'a Tí
John Daly and Batt Andy and the Sheehans, Con and Dan
And the Boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wren

And when the wheel of life runs down and peace comes over me
Oh lay me down in that old town between the hills and sea
I'll take my sleep in those green fields, the place my life began
Where those Boys of Barr na Sráide went hunting for the wren

                                                                                  Sigerson Clifford

I'm printing the lyrics up for a New Year's Eve get-together. It's a perfect blend of melancholy, remembrance, and a tip of the hat to heroes of the past. There's an interesting version on Youtube taken from the funeral mass for Paidi O'Se, the Kerry footballer who died in 2012. At the 50th minute of the video when  everyone is going up for communion, a woman gets up and sings this song (followed by a man who sings Raglan Road). And the priests and monsignor presiding seem not taken aback by the secularization of the  moment. Good for them, and shame on the clergy in the States who won't let "Danny Boy" be played at a funeral.

Happy Christmas to all.

Top image: Ireland-based trad band Danú

Views: 482

Tags: Songs, St. Stephen's Day, Traditional Music, Traditions

Comment by Gerry Regan on December 27, 2014 at 10:45am

Very poignant lyrics, haunting melody. Go raibh maith agat, Jim. Really brought to mind the journey so many of our ancestors undertook, and still face, making a new life in a new land, but never losing sight of the land of their births.


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Comment by Fran Reddy on December 27, 2014 at 2:55pm

Sad and sweet.. I heard it for the first time recently and loved it. :)

Comment by Mike McCormack on December 28, 2014 at 10:32am

 Thanks Jim.  You brought back a fond memory.  About 40 years ago I was in a hotel pub at the dock in Cahirciveen, Co Kerry asking about local lore.  One of the things I learned twas that Barr na Sraide was right there in Cahirciveen.  One old fellow at the bar sang the song for me and they were the most melancholy lyrics I ever heard.  They explained to me that it was deserted now as most of the townspeople emigrated and the few left at the 'top of the road', which is what Barr na Sraide' translates to, either abandoned their homes to emigrate or moved down to the main part of town. I was told to go to old post office road and take it to the top and go right and I'd be there.  The next morning I did just that and when I arrived at Barr na Sraide, I was stunned.  Along the left side of the road was a row of deserted white-washed cottages with their roofs all caved in looking out over the most beautiful vista I'd ever seen. I stood looking across the river toward the hills of Ballycarberry - a view you would pay a million dollars for in America, if you could find it. The thought of leaving such a homesite must have been traumatic to say the least.  As the words of the song came back to me from the night before, I'm not ashamed to say that tears welled up.  That began another adventure for me - to find a recording of that song.  I eventually found it in Doolin where the great Miko Russel was kind enough to sing it into my tape recorder - but that's another story.  Thanks Jim, for the memory

Comment by Jim Curley on December 28, 2014 at 12:23pm

Thank you, Mike, for adding such texture to my appreciation of the song. As well, Iam not ashamed to say I shed a tear or two reading your comments.

Comment by Jim Hawkins on December 30, 2014 at 12:35pm

Thank you, Jim, for this wonderful version of "The Boys of Barr na Sraide." It has always been one of my favorites and it takes me back to the summers and the Christmas I spent in Corraun on Achill Island and had the pleasure of going out with "The Wren Boys."

Comment by Geraldine Callaghan on December 27, 2015 at 9:38pm
Beautiful Lyrics, Danu has a haunting voice. Wren Boys Day brings back memories of my childhood Christmasus in Ireland.

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