Nuala Carey: From piseogs to superstitions, we're obsessed with weather
Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30
TODAY, July 15, is St Swithin's Day. Folkore has it that if it rains today, it will continue to do so for 40 more. Of course, this proverb cannot be supported by meterological science, but saying that, there is a very small part of me that would rather see a dry than a wet one. Here is a version of the poem that has become so famous...
St Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain, for 40 days it will remain,
St Swithin's Day, if thou be fair, for forty days, 'twill rain nae mair.
This superstition was born after St Swithin's death. He, as the Bishop of Winchester, in Hampshire, England, had always requested to be buried outside so that he could 'feel' the raindrops. So, when he died in 862, his wish was granted.
However, some one hundred years later, he was declared a saint and his body was brought back inside Winchester Cathedral. Legend has it that it rained that day and it was deduced that this was a clear sign from him as to his displeasure at being moved indoors.
This month is a very popular one to get married in. After all, you know what they say – "marry in May, rue the day". Most couples will tell you they want good weather on their special day.
The custom of the placing of the 'Child of Prague' statue outdoors the night before a wedding, is a uniquely Irish ritual. This small statue of the Christ child is to be left outside to ensure a fine day. It is still a practice that that many hotels continue today, but, much to my surprise, is not only reserved for weddings.
This very custom saw John O'Neill, the sales and marketing manager of the Lough Erne resort, sent on a special mission to buy the religious icon ahead of the G8 summit last summer. General manager Ferghal Purcell has admitted to then placing the statue in the grounds of his Fermanagh hotel in a bid to increase the chances of fine conditions for the prestigious event – and it duly worked as they enjoyed beautiful weather with the images flashed around the world.
Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan has confessed to heading out with some friends into the grounds of Ashford Castle in Co Mayo on the night before his nuptials in 2001.
Sure enough, after a wet morning, he and his wife Kelly enjoyed glorious weather in the West on the afternoon of their 'big day'.
Brosnan only became aware of the 'piseog' after a lady casually mentioned it to him, which proves the point that the topic of weather gets everyone talking.
Perhaps a very striking example of how good an ice-breaker the neutral topic of weather is at opening up a conversation took place very publicly only a few weeks ago when Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Northern Ireland.
The queen had her then first private one-to-one meeting with Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.
All eyes were on the handshake between the two, but I found Tommie Gorman's report on the RTE One Nine O'Clock News on June 23 more revealing for the verbal exchange that the microphones picked up between the two parties.
"You brought the good weather," McGuinness complimented the queen, who coyly replied: "Yah, well I hope so'. This casual greeting between the two is indicative of the mutual respect they now hold for each other.
Even the queen seemed delighted that there was a suggestion that she could control and bring good weather with her. I would like to think that this relaxed banter between the two is a barometer (excuse the pun!) of their newfound informal relationship with each other.
So, by the time you are reading this, we will know whether it has been a wet or dry St Swithin's Day.
There is no truth in the proverb, but in case you are very superstitious, and it has been a disappointing one, you could always put the 'Child of Prague' outside tonight to boost our chances of some better weather tomorrow.
Nuala Carey is an RTE weather presenter