Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

St Swithun's weather.

Hosepipe bans and cricket always seem to be the modern equivalent of a rain dance. Mrs Rigby can't deny that the gardens of Rigby Towers were in desperate need of more than a drop of rain because, despite regular dosing with watering cans, some of the larger shrubs were beginning to suffer what might be permanent damage.

And now, of course, it's St Swithun's Day. Stories tell us that the Saint had been buried in the churchyard outside the Priory Church of Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Swithun as he had requested, until some more serious folk decided he'd be better inside the rather splendid shrine they'd built for him - so they dug up his bones and moved him indoors. The saint wasn't, apparently, too pleased and so made it start raining and he made it carry on raining for 40 days.

British 21st century man, who is unlikely to mark the calendar by saints days, doesn't like this sort of tradition, so we're now told how 15th July is merely a marker for stuck weather systems and patterns and, because of the way these things work, the weather on that day could continue for the next few weeks - or not.

Mrs R thinks it's rather nice to know that St Swithun's verse ...
St. Swithun's day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithun's day, if thou be fair,
For forty days 'twill rain na mair.
... is mirrored by weather traditions elsewhere in Europe. For example.
In France they say Quand il pleut a la Saint Gervais Il pleut quarante jours apres - If it rains on St. Gervais' day (19th of July), it will rain for fourty days thereafter.

In Germany the Siebenschlaefer or seven sleepers day (July 7th, after the Gregorian calendar) refers to the weather patterns of the following seven weeks.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this!

I can never remember the exact date of St. Swithun's day but can remember watching out for 'more of the same' as a child.

Like a lot of old lore, there does seem to be something in it - or at least, there used to be, in the days before global warming ;¬)

opsimath said...

Interesting piece, Mrs R. I'm no meteorologist, or folklore expert, come to that, but I'd think, that by the middle of July - I'd not heard of St Gervais' day or Siebenschlaefer - the weather is pretty settled and likely to continue in much the same way.

Someone once said you should ask a statistician rather than a weather-man, and he'll tell you 'tomorrow will be a lot like today!'

Nice article - thank you.