Life is harsh in close-knit community of Dirrabeg, a community on the Dingle Peninsula facing extinction in the mid-1950's.
Many of the young have left for England or America, where there are opportunities and chances for secure lives.
Those remaining behind love their land and their independence but fear for the future as the bogs get thin, the yields are poor, and the children have little hope of success. `We never died a winter yet.'A wickedly funny and insightful novel from the author of Sive, The Field, The Year of the Hiker, and many other classic works. In the Kerry village of Dirrabeg in the 1950s, the annual wren dance is a moment of light within the dark winter, especially for bodhran player Donal Hallapy, whose skills are in high demand.
But this paganism, and the singing, dancing and drinking that take place, are anathema to Canon Tett, who resolves to crush the old customs. Donal Hallapy, devoted father of a large family, is a bodhran player.
He is always in great demand whenever the once-a-year wrendances take place, a day long festival on St Stephen's Day, which can be traced back to pagan times.
This paganism, the secret nature of the celebrations, the singing, dancing and drinking that takes place, and the fact that the church has no control over them has made them anathema to "the clan of the round collar," in the person of Canon Tett, an ultraconservative and downright sadistic priest determined to bring the free spirits of Dirrabeg to bay by ending the fun of the wrendances. Wickedly funny and full of insight into age-old conflicts and a lifestyle long passed into memory.