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Breaking the barrel tradition

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

Breaking the barrel is a tradition done on the sister isles of Carriacou and Petit Martinique.


This tradition is done during wakes, prayers and the Tombstone feast. Commonly done at the funeral of Sailors.


This tradition comes from Scotland and is one of the Scottish heritage elements still alive today.


Persons who attend the gathering dance around a rum barrel. The performance ends with the breaking of the barrel.

Breaking the barrel tradition

Excerpt from Cultural equity:

Breaking the Barrel was an adult play in which men played at turning a windlass while exchanging banter and singing chanteys. They would lash two crossed sticks to a third stick and poke them into an empty rum barrel. They then held the ends of one of the crossed sticks and moved counterclockwise, singing chanteys and pounding the other stick onto the sides and bottom of the barrel. From time to time there was a break in the singing while the “sailors” asked for passage on the boat, and one of the men, the “captain,” would either refuse or allow them to come aboard. There was much drinking and singing, and the Breaking of the Barrel could become loud and chaotic, much to the objection of the people who gathered around a nearby table to sing hymns, until eventually the barrel would be smashed to bits

Example of song at Breaking of the Barrel tradition:

Yard-o, yard-o,

Bell a ring a yard-o.


Hey, hey, hey, Bell a ring a yard-o!

If you want to see the monkey dance,

Source: A to Z of Grenada Heritage by John Angus Martin.

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