In which Saint Swithin fails to keep his promise.

Swithun, Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, Winchester, 10th century, British Library (Wikimedia Commons)
Swithin, Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, Winchester, 10th century, British Library (Wikimedia Commons)

It was Saint Swithin’s Day last Wednesday (15th July).  I thought everyone knew that.  But when I mentioned it to a group of younger people I was chatting with that morning, they looked at me with blank incomprehension.

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain

For forty days it will remain

St Swithin’s day if thou be fair

For forty days ’twill rain nae mare

Yes, apparently the weather we get on Saint Swithin’s day is the weather we can expect for the next forty days.  Nobody really knows why this blameless 9th century Bishop of Winchester is responsible for his apparent hold over the climate in high summer. He seems to have been a nice chap.  He held banquets to which he invited the poor, not the rich.  He miraculously restored a basket of eggs that workmen has maliciously broken.  He asked that on his death, he should be buried outside the cathedral, rather than inside, so that passers-by would tread on his grave, and so that it should be regularly watered from the skies. But in 971, he was moved to a new indoor shrine.  And lo!  The heavens opened.  Perhaps this is where the legend originated.

But it has a measure of truth. Round about mid July, the jet stream settles into a pattern that holds good until round about the end of August.

Not this year.  Saint Swithin’s day was pretty good: warm, fresh and sunny.  Since then though, we’ve had cold days, hot days, or like this morning, woken up to driving rain. As this picture sort of shows.

Looking out of the window at breakfast time today.
Looking out of the window at breakfast time today.

Here are some pictures of a walk I took yesterday, a day on which Saint Swithin kept his promise made on Wednesday.  It was a day of high summer, with the crops ripening fatly in the fields, the verges crammed with tall plants that often obscured the view, and a warm refreshing breeze in the air.  That’s what Saint Swithin is supposed to deliver. He’s got some 36 days left to remember to keep his promise – every day.

10 thoughts on “In which Saint Swithin fails to keep his promise.”

  1. You’ve set me off now, I’ve got endless weather-related rhymes running around my head. Red sky in the morning … If the rooks build high … see what you’ve started?


  2. I love those (supposedly) weather-predicting tidbits, too! I just never believe them. Swithin sounds like a good guy, as saints go.


  3. Felt the tiniest bit homesick (for about two seconds) when I saw your lovely pictures of the North Yorkshire countryside!


  4. Ah yes, St Swithun’s day always remembered in my family as it was my grandfather’s birthday – disappointingly he was called Eric!


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