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Christmas snippets

Leinster Leader, 16/1/1904, p. 8.
Children’s Christmas Party At The Curragh.
On Friday, the 8th inst., a very successful children’s party was held in Brownstown House, Curragh Camp, where the children from the Athgarvan and Ballysax Schools were entertained to tea. A large staff of willing workers was engaged during the earlier part of the day cutting up bread and cake, and preparing tables for the accommodation of some 300 children. When the little ones arrived at 3 p.m., they found everything ready for them, and each of them was provided with a hot cup of tea and plenty of cake, bread and jam. Opposite each child was placed a bon-bon and the merriment was great when the children commenced pulling these crackers, and decorating themselves with all sorts of coloured paper hats, etc. Tea was finished about 4 p.m., and then the children were kept amused for a considerable time listening to tuneful selections from a splendid gramaphone, kindly lent for the occasion and worked by Mr. Kennedy, of Baronrath. An exhibition of amusing lantern slides also helped to add variety to the entertainment. The children from Athgarvan School went through some physical drill exercises, with dumb bells, in excellent time, and danced some four-handed and eight-handed Irish reels with much grace and precision. A comic song in character by two Athgarvan boys was immensely enjoyed and caused great laughter. About 6 p.m., the children were assembled on the lawn and witnessed a pretty display of fireworks, which lasted about 20 minutes. Amongst those present during the day assisting at the treat were:-Captain and Mrs. Green, Rev. Monsignor Tynan, P.P., Mrs Hutchinson, Mrs Pallin, Mrs Graham, Mr and Mrs T. G. Gordon, Mr and Mrs Weller, Mr Browne, Mr Brennan, Miss Walshe, Miss Ward, Miss Gilbert, etc., etc. As the children were going home they received cake and fruit, and gave three lusty cheers for Mrs Green for having organized such an excellent evening’s enjoyment for them. It should be added that the children were all neatly dressed, and extremely well-conducted.
Leinster Leader, 1/12/1906.
The Town Hall, Newbridge, was crowded on Monday and Tuesday evenings, when the Children of Mary treated appreciative audiences to a dramatic performance, preceded each evening by a concert, which in its every individual item was charmingly rendered and rewarded with applause. The entertainment was under the patronage of the Right Rev. Mons Tunan, P.P., and the arrangements were superintended by Fr. Cullen and Fr. Murray.
* * *
The good Nuns deserve much credit for the care and attention which must have been bestowed in the training of the young ladies and in bringing them to that state of perfection which secured the success attending their efforts on both evenings, while providing such pleasant entertainment for the people of the town.
* * *
The concert opened with the chorus, “Hail, Smiling Morn,” after which Miss May showed her close acquaintance with the violin in a well rendered solo. This was followed by a nicely executed duet on the piano by Miss Murphy and Miss Nolan. Miss B. Murphy sang in splendid voice “Asthore,” and received much applause. A most amusing feature was a comic duet, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Naglebone,” by the Misses Margaret and Tessie May, which kept the house throughout in merry mood.
* * *
Some beautifully rendered selections on the violin by Miss Murphy were much appreciated. Miss Babs Kelly gave evidence of a very pretty voice when she sang “Good-night”, Dear Heart,” after which she danced very nicely. In very fine voice Miss Turner recited “The Fireman,” and at its conclusion met with much applause. In a comic duet, Miss B. Murphy and Miss B. Moynihan moved the audience to an almost continuous peal of laughter. The former took the part of the husband, “Zachariah,” and the latter the wife, “Sophia.” The singing throughout, as well as the side play, was very good. Sophia is of the impression that her lord and master spends too much of his time and money at his club, and is constantly requesting the wherewithal to renow her ward-robe, but when she says she is going “to go back to her uncle,” and Zachariah favours the idea, she gets frightened and relents, whey they promise to love each other until “December comes in May.”
* * *
The beautiful words of “Carrigdhoun” were sympathetically rendered by Miss Mulrooney in splendid voice, and were much applauded, after which the Misses Mary and J. Moynihan and Miss K. Conlan acted the parts of “Three Modest Quakeresses,” and the singing was very good and much enjoyed.
* * *
The concert was a decided success, and was enjoyed throughout. Still, if there had been a few additional Irish songs, and perhaps and Irish dance, on the programme, it would have been an attraction. All the members took part in the closing chorus, “In the Dusk of the Twilight,” the different voices blending very nicely in a harmony of which the audience showed their ward appreciation.
* * *
“The Hard-hearted Man” was the play selected, and was staged immediately after the concert. The selection of the representatives for the different parts seemed to have been very carefully made, with the result that the play ran very smoothly in every detail. The character of “Maurice Reddy, the hard-hearted man,” was splendidly pourtrayed by Miss K. Meaney, and her treating of this difficult part was warmly appreciated, and the sarcasm of “Maurice” at the expense of “William Breslin” was much enjoyed. The latter part fell to Miss Turner, who acted Eamon’s son very well, and appeared at her best in the role of the “returned Yank,” Miss Murphy’s “make up” as Eamon was a most natural one, and in voice and movement she did the old man to perfection. The part of Neil Meehan was in very good hands when in those of Miss J. Moynihan, while Miss K. Conlan made a typical housewife when playing as Sheila (Noil’s wife). Miss B. Donnelly as Paddy was very good, and the course of instruction given by him to his two sisters was laughingly enjoyed. The part of Mollie was taken by Miss E. Mulrooney, and that of Peggie by Miss E. Johnson, both of whom showed much brightness as well as knowledge of their parts.
* * *
During the play Miss J. Moynihan san with a very pleasing voice “The Country I’m Leaving Behind,” the refrain being warmly caught up by a large portion of the audience. The play was followed with much interest, the pathos as well as the humour of the different situations being fully appreciated by the large and representative gathering which filled the room each evening.
Leinster Leader 27/12/1913
The Wren Boys
A St. Stephen’s Day Custom.
(By Brian O’Higgins.)
In many country districts Christmas would be shorn of half its charm and its memories without the wren boys. On St. Stephen’s Day, when all the members of the household are gathered together by the family heart, and the great festival has just slipped by another mile stone a clatter of feet is heard outside somebody stands up suddenly and cries, “the wren boys” a move is made for the door and there they are, with what is supposed to be the dead body of a wren, encased in a box which is strapped to a stick or “bearer” and decorated with moss and ivy leaves and holly, and carried proudly and triumphantly by the “mourners” who shuffle about for a few moments, clear their throats, and them deliver themselves of the following poetic chant:-
“The wran, the wran, the king of all birds,
St.Stephen’s day he was caught in the furze.
Although he is small, his family is great,
So help us, good lady, to lay him to state.”
And the good lady – the woman of the house –thus eloquently appealed to, seldom fails to respond, and the wren boys depart in high good humour, the happy possessors of another coin or two added to their burial fund.
            How the fund is administered it is not for us to say. It is to be devoutly hoped that ass wren boys are not exactly like those presented to us by Canon Sheehan in “My New Curate,” who were found by the latter on St. Stephen’s night, in a tavern, enveloped in tabacco smoke, with certain “refreshments” in front of them, while at the top of their voices they chanted with feeling the beautiful Christmas hymns he had taken so much pains to teach them. The mention of a writer and wren boys reminds us that other Irish authors have introduced them and given them a prominent place in their books. Almost our first glimpse of the great genial lovable, “Mat the Thrasher” in Kickham’s “Knocnagow” is afforded us as he rushes along the big hedge on St. Stephen’s Day, in a wild chase after an elusive wren. And we have to laugh, no matter what humour we may happen to be in, when Mat exclaims: “I hot her, I hot her, an’ knocked the full o’ me hat o’ feathers out of her!” In the best of all his books: “A Lad of the O’Friels”- Seumas MacManus gives us a thrilling story of a little girl’s fight on behalf of the poor, hunted wren that wins our sympathy for the tiny fugitive. One of the sweetest of the Munster folksongs is “An Dreoilin” (“The Wren”); and a Western legend beloved of the old storytellers gives us the reason why the wren is hunted in Ireland. So that this strange St. Stephen’s Day custom is known from end to end of the land.
            The Western legend (which was a favourite with Father O’Growney) has it that when the Holy Family were fleeing into Egypt, pursued by Herod’s minions, they passed by a field where a number of men were sowing corn, St. Joseph paused, and asked the men to say if they happened to be questioned as to the passing by that road of a party such as his. “Yes, they passed when we were sowing the corn.” Next day the soldiers of Herod reached the field, and asked the men if they had seen any persons answering to a description which they gave pass by that way, and the men replied – “Yes, they passed when we were sowing this corn,” and they pointed to the tall green corn which had grown miraculously during the night. This is where the wren comes into the story. The legend says that a wren was sitting on a branch close by, heard the question put by the soldiers, and squeaked out – “Inde inde” (Yesterday, yesterday.”) And that, the old people will assure you, is why the wren has been hated and hunted ever since in Ireland. What a wonderful wealth of delightful legends we are losing with the passing of the old men and women of the Gael!
            One vivid recollection comes to mind at the mention of the wren and the wren boys. A certain Peter, whose surname need not be mentioned was the crankiest crustiest, old bachelor that ever was known in a certain parish in the Midlands. Not very many years ago the wren boys paid a visit to Peter’s house on St.Stephen’s Day, but of course, were repulsed, and their subsequent remarks riled the old fellow to a pitch bordering on madness. About a week later, one evening, three canvassers came up the boreen to Peter’s house to ask his vote for a certain candidate for the County Councillorship of the division in which he lived. They paused for a moment or two in the yard for a brief consultation as to how they would approach the vitriolic voter, but even as they did, they were rudely disturbed. Peter himself made a dash through the doorway, armed with a mighty stick, and seeming twice his height in the gathering darkness, and blows fell thick upon their innocent shoulders as they ran for safety down the boreen, with Peter’s angry shouts ringing in their ears; “Is it agin, is it agin?   Do you want to torment the life out of me, yourself an’ your wran?”    There’s wran money, an there! And there! And there.” He thought the wren boys had come back to annoy him! And his vote was not solicited again by the canvassers of that particular candidate.
            Whatever may be said against the hunting of the wren on St. Stephen’s Day it is a custom as old as the Irish hills, and like many an other old custom, is dying out steadily and surely. And it is a pity that the customs of our race, the customs which have always served to give an added charm and delight to the great festivals in our midst should be allowed to lapse into decay: - B.O’H.   
Leinster Leader 1/2/1924.
Apart from the religious observances of February 2nd, the Feast of the Purification or as it called – Candlemas Day, amongst country folk it is in some parts recognised as a weather indication and curiously enough it is averred that unless bad weather prevail in this day the outlook for the year is bad, and many old weather “saws” (sayings) exists. Thus-
“if it neither rains nor snows on Candlemas Day
You may straddle your horse and go buy hay.”
* * *
The following rhyme is oft quoted in Scotland:-
“If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter’s to come, an’ mair
If Candlemas Day be wet an’ foul
The half o’ winter’s gone at Yule.
Old superstitions die-hard, for at one time Candlemas was the occasion on which all the Xmas decorations in the home were taken down, and it was considered most unlucky were the festive garlands removed before that day. Yet, all should be removed by the end of Candlemas Day.
Leinster Leader 3/1/1942, p. 3.
Toys For Poor Children.
The Woodwork Class pupils of Athy Technical School made a number of wooden toys which they presented to the local St. Vincent de Paul Society for distribution to the poor children of the town at Christmas.

Some articles from the Leinster Leader relating to Christmas in County Kildare

[compiled and edited by Mario Corrigan; typed by Breid and Maria; all spellings and grammar retained from original article]

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