Weather Tales from Old Wives

Weather Tales from Old Wives

There are many sayings and weather tales from old wives, that we grow up knowing from a young age. They often start as very local sayings and can often be quite true of just one area, maybe to mountains or valleys, or proximity to the sea.

Favourite Weather Tales from Old Wives

As we enjoy the fabulous hot, sunny weather of the summer of 2018, let’s hope that it’s dry on St Swithin’s Day, just in case! With not many days to go, as of the time of writing (on 9 July 2018) the forecast for 15th July is clear and dry. However, with rain promised for the 16th it’s not a promise!

So what’s the Old Wives Tale about St Swithin’s Day, and is it grounded in any basis of fact?

If it rains on St Swithin’s Day it rains for 40 days

July 15th is St Swithin’s Day, and this saying is based on old weather patterns.

In most years, the path of the jet stream has settled down by mid July, which creates a weather pattern that lasts until mid August. So St Swithin’s Day falls when the weather pattern is establishing itself for the summer. If it’s established in the right place – we get a nice summer. If it’s in the wrong place – well we don’t need to explain what happens then!

Read more about St Swithin’s Day here

‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight,
Red sky in the morning, sailors warning’

This is probably the besk known one of all, and the one which is most often right. Because the sun sets in the west we see the sinking sun reflected on the underside of high clouds. This means that there are no mid level or low clouds, just high ones, which is specific to fairly stable and dry conditions. In this case you can expect a calm night and a nice morning the next day.

A red sky in the morning is also the sun reflecting underneath the clouds, but because they are in the east as it rises, they are usually the cirrus clouds of an approaching warm front with the potential for poor weather. This rhyme was researched in London in the 1920s and found to be right 70% of the time.

Read more about sunsets here

‘Rain before 7, clear by 11’

This is much quoted and usually seems to be right. Rain rarely lasts for more than 7 or 8 hours, plus which not many people are aware of when it starts raining in the night!

‘Ne’er cast a clout ’til (the) May is out’

Another one of the popular weather tales from old wives is based on the old adage that you shouldn’t take  your vest off until the Hawthorn plants are flowering! The first written form dates back to 1732 but probably was handed along verbally long before then.

There is doubt about whether you should strip off before the end of May the month, or before the Hawthorn blossom is showing, but either way it’s a good indication of the warmer spring weather that’s heralded by both the flowers and the month of May.

‘When the wind is in the East ’tis good for neither man nor beast’

Easterly winds have had a bad reputation even going back to the Bible, because they are usually a long term general east wind. Easterlies usually very in speed and direction in an unpredictable and alarming manner. Certainly, on the Fylde Coast being used to westerlies, the east wind always feels far more cold, blows with more strength, and makes its presence felt more strongly!

Your Weather Sayings

“Mare’s tails and mackerel scales make tall ships take in their sails” was shared by Sue Rowley

“Mackerel back sky, less than 24 hours dry” from Ruth Steele

“There’s mist around the Moon, it’s going to be nice tomorrow” is Alfa Swizer’s observation

And finally, Daddy Rabbit always says “If the Lakes are clear there’s rain on the way”

If you’ve got any more good weather sayings, please send them in! Email to

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