New film released for Laa'l Catreeney

Wed, 05 Dec 2018

A very unusual Manx custom for the start of December is the focus of a new film now released online by Culture Vannin.

With traditions involving a dead hen, a mock funeral, a song and sometimes too much alcohol, the traditions around Laa’l Catreeney (St. Catherine’s Day) are amongst the most remarkable in the Manx calendar.

It was once the tradition to hold fairs at the Island’s chapels on the days linked to their saints. Because the keeill which once stood beside the Ballakilpheric Road was dedicated to St. Catherine, a fair was held in Colby on 6th December, Laa’l Catreeney.

Unlike anywhere else, this fair was opened by the young lads of Colby carrying out a very peculiar custom; parading around a dead hen in a mock funeral, with their hats off and singing a song with the words:

‘Catherine’s hen is dead, you take the head and I’ll take the feet, and we’ll put her under the ground.’

So it was that the men eventually came to bury the hen’s head and feet there in the field at Colby. The rest of the animal they took to the inn nearby to enjoy as a part of their ‘wake’ for the hen!

The antics of this wake were apparently well-known enough that a local saying came to be known, that those who got drunk at the fair were said to have plucked a feather from the hen.

As a part of their growing collection of resources investigating the traditions of the Manx year, Culture Vannin have just released a short film explaining this and other aspects of the tradition.

James Franklin, Online & Educational Resources Officer at Culture Vannin, says:

‘Traditions like this link us not only to the past, but also to places here on the Isle of Man and to the changing seasons. In creating films like this one, we hope to give people the opportunity to reclaim these traditions in some form or other in their own lives.’

The film presented by Anita Cashen has already sparked the beginning of conversations about resurrecting the tradition in some form in future years.

The film can be viewed in the following places:

Culture Vannin website

More about Laa'l Catreeny can be found here: