Could a sunny St Swithin’s Day mean 40 days of warmth ahead?

The legend of St Swithin would suggest a fine summer but forecasters are not convinced

Lunchtime sunshine in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin last week. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Lunchtime sunshine in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin last week. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

Things are looking great for the Irish summer and it is likely to be warm and sunny until the end of August at very least.

That is not the view of meteorologists or forecasters - on even postmen with an uncanny ability to foretell weather - but a long dead saint who did not like the manner in which his body was treated after his passing.

Today, July 15th, is St Swithin’s Day and if the myth of the holy man holds true then whatever weather we see today is likely to be replicated every day for the next 40 days and 40 nights.

But just who was St Swithin and should we believe anything he has to say about anything?

Well, he was the bishop of Winchester and he died in 862.

He was canonised more than a century after his passing after which his mortal remains were exhumed and moved from a humble plot in the graveyard to a shrine in the adjoining cathedral.

So far so good.

But apparently Swithin was a settled soul and did not take kindly to being moved.

In fact he was so furious with the decision - taken by his successor Bishop Ethelwold - to move him to a Fancy Dan shrine in a big cathedral that he put a weather related curse on the whole world.

It all started on the day his body was moved. As the ceremony to celebrate his saintliness reached its end, it lashed rain.

So great was the storm that locals believed it could only have been caused by the saint’s furious anger at Ethelwold’s rash decision to go against his wishes and move him to the big shrine.

“St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain, for 40 days it will remain. St Swithin’s Day if thou be fair, for 40 days ‘twill rain nae mare,” was the quote attributed to the - admittedly rather dead - man.

Is it true?

Sadly no. A Met Éireann spokeswoman poured cold water - better described as rain, perhaps - on the notion that because today is warm and sunny across much of the country we can expect much the same weather until the end of next month.

Deirdre Lowe told The Irish Times that while she was aware of St Swithin she had never come across a scintilla of evidence to suggest that the weather on St Swithin’s Day really did act as a taste of what is to come.

“I haven’t done a lot of research into it but what I can say is that a cold front is coming in from the north Atlantic later this week and that is going to bring rain which tells me that the legend of St Swithin isn’t true.”