I’ve been dipping into my lovely little book of weather lore again (a previous dipping here) to see what Robin Page has to say about St Swithin’s Day – I’m sure you all know the proverb: One version goes like this…
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 mair.
Page says: Even now farmers take this date very seriously, for a dry St Swithin’s can mean a less worrrying harvest. On our farm we certainly take notice of the weather on 15 July and view rain on that day with anxiety.
St Swithun was Bishop of Winchester in the 9th Century. According to legend he asked to be buried where rain would fall on him, and was buried in the churchyard. Later though, his remains were brought into the cathedral, and he was said to be so angry it rained for forty days and they moved him back outside again! (Various versions of this story can be found in/on different sources.)
In The English Year – another lovely book on my shelves – a sort of almanac of folklore and traditions, it also suggests that St Swithin’s day was crucial to the apple crop.
“You won’t have the jam made till the apples are christened … We never eat or cut apples until St Swithin has christened them.”
However, the Met Office says it’s never been proven – since records began back in 1861 there have never been 40 consecutive dry or wet days starting on St Swithin’s day. That’s fair enough, for forty days is a long time – however depending on where the jet stream lies apparently, it does tend to be either unsettled and damp or dry and settled so a predominance of rain or sunshine over the forty days is much more probable …
Happy St. Swithin’s (or St Swithun’s) day!