The Bourke Boys

Every Saturday night, the Bourke Boys hold a sing song session in Brendan’s Byre. They wear butcher-like hats fashioned from birch (birk), thus their name the Bourke or Birk Boys. They are an allusion to Child Ballad #79, The Wife of Usher’s Well. In that ballad, the wife sends her three sons off to sea where they soon perish, only to return to her as apparitions wearing hats of birch bark.

From the ballad:

 

“It fell about the Martinmass,
  When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
  And their hats were o the birk.”

“It neither grew in syke nor ditch,
  Nor yet in ony sheugh;
But at the gates o Paradise,
   That birk grew fair eneugh.”

wifeofushers well

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