Belfast Telegraph

Angry spirit of St Swithin means we should prepare for 40 more days of this...

By Chris Kilpatrick

Whether or not you will be reaching for the suncream or a brolly for the next 40 days could come down to whatever weather you experienced yesterday, according to a legend dating back more than 1,000 years.

St Swithin’s Day falls on July 15 each year and, according to folklore, could have a massive impact on our enjoyment, or otherwise, of the summer holidays.

According to the story, St Swithin was an Anglo-Saxon bishop who died in 862AD.

At his request, he was buried in the churchyard of the Old Minster Cathedral in Winchester in a spot where “the sweet rain from heaven might wet his grave”.

He was canonised more than a century later and his remains moved inside the cathedral.

St Swithin’s spirit was said to be so outraged at the body being moved that it rained for the next 40 days.

Bands of showers passed over Northern Ireland yesterday with those who escaped them fortunate to do so.

But you needn’t start building your Ark yet — as Noah was reputed to have done before his deluge came after another 40 days of rain.

Donning our raincoat and galoshes, the Belfast Telegraph took to the sometimes sun-kissed streets of Belfast city centre yesterday afternoon to ask people what they thought of the story and whether they believed there is any truth in it.

Only those over a certain age had ever heard of St Swithin, and all ages dismissed the story, so maybe the English saint’s remit doesn’t extend across the Irish Sea.

Belfast man Peter Duffy (50) labelled it “nonsense”.

“It feels like it’s been raining for all 40 days before today,” he said.

“During our summers it normally rains all the time anyway so I wouldn’t be surprised if it rained for the next 40 days. But the St Swithin’s thing is a load of nonsense in my opinion.”

Jim O’Donnell, from Dunmurry, said he was aware of St Swithin’s Day.

“I think it’s a bit of a joke,” the 60-year-old said.

“In saying that, it would be heartening given the reasonably good weather we are having today.

“If it holds up 40 days of that would be nice rather than the grey we are used to. Fingers crossed.”

Anne Windrome (53), from Belfast, hadn’t heard of St Swithin.

When told of the alleged curse, she replied: “I think that’s a load of rubbish.”

Catherine Edwards, also from Belfast, wasn’t aware of the tale.

The 22-year-old said: “I’ve never heard of that but I wouldn’t believe it.

“It sounds like folklore to me.”

Matt Dobson, from MeteoGroup, said that those who managed to escape the showers yesterday shouldn’t get their hopes up for 40 days of similar dry conditions. “Sometimes you can gauge from the weather in the middle of July what you will get for the rest of the summer,” he said.

“That can be true sometimes.

“That isn’t going to be the story on this occasion, though, and everyone in Northern Ireland looks set for a drenching tomorrow.

“There is more rain moving in and Wednesday is looking particularly nasty as well.”

However, it isn’t all bad news as, according to MeteoGroup, we could be set for some dry spells towards the end of the month.

Our miserable wet weather so far this summer is being blamed on the jetstream shifting south, blocking high pressure from the Continent and allowing Atlantic conditions to prevail.

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