The 15th July is St Swithin’s Day, which has been marked in the UK since Elizabethan times. The old rhyme states:
“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.”
St. Swithin (sometimes seen as St. Swithun) was a Saxon Bishop of Winchester, famous for charitable gifts and building churches.
The legend goes that as the Bishop lay on his deathbed, he requested his burial to be outside where he would be trodden on and rained upon. His wishes were granted for around 9 years, but for reasons unknown on 15 July 971 the monks of Winchester attempted to remove his remains in order for them to be part of a new, lavish shrine inside the cathedral. According to legend there was a heavy rain storm either during the ceremony or on its anniversary.
This led to the old wives’ tale that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day (today, July 15th), it will rain for the next 40 days in succession; if it is fine, the 15th July will be followed by 40 days of fine weather.
The Met Office has put this to the test on over 50 occasions where it has been wet on St Swithin’s Day, and 40 days of rain did not follow. But who knows! Perhaps there is truth in the saying somewhere…