Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 6/Weather Wisdom
Is generally to be sought among the farming population. Their out-door avocations lead them to observe the states of the atmosphere, and they have treasured up many items of weather-lore, which embody much close and continued observation. Some of these scraps have been thrown into rude rhymes; easily remembered, and are handed down, without much alteration, from generation to generation. Frost on the shortest day is said to indicate a long winter:—
"A hoar frost;
Third day crost;
The fourth lost."
Eclipses are popularly believed to have great influence on the weather for many months after the events. During the late wet season (1872), it was frequently remarked that the eclipse on June 6th had "shaken the weather all to pieces." When the Aurora Borealis is visible, rough winds and heavy rain are expected to follow in a few days; this appearance is also said to indicate war, especially when the displays are of a dark red colour. We are often told that whatever kind of weather we have on a Friday we shall have similar weather on a Sunday,—"sic a Friday sic a Sunday," is known as an item of weather-wisdom both in the north of England and in Scotland. When rooks return to their roosting places in groups, they are said to be "coming home," and rain is expected soon to follow. Horses, cows, and sheep always make for the hedges, and stand with their tails to the wind when rain is about to fall. If bats are seen during the day, warm weather is predicted; and invalids are assured of improvement by the adage—
"When the wind is west,
Health is always best."
Certain days and months have their distinctive characteristics expressed in appropriate rhymes, thus—
"If Candlemas day be fair and clear,
There will be two winters in one year."
"February fill dyke,
With either black or white."
"Whenever April blows its horn,
It fills the barns with hay and corn."
"March wind and May sun,
Make clothes white and maids dun."
"Sunshine and rain
Bring cuckoos from Spain;
But the first cock of hay,
Flays the cuckoo away."
To those who are not acquainted with Lancashire provincialisms, it may be necessary to add that a "cock of hay" means a small heap, and represents that stage in hay-making which immediately precedes the larger heaps locally termed "rickles." "Flays" is obviously equivalent to "frightens." Predictions as to coming winter are derived from several sources. Those who are apprehensive of much sickness from warm open weather in December, are consoled by the assurance that—
"As the day lengthens,
So the cold strengthens."
At an earlier date we are assured that—
"If on the trees the leaves still hold,
The winter coming will be cold."
The poultry in our farm-yards also furnish their quota to our weather-maxims, for—
"When the cock moults before the hen,
We shall have weather thick and thin;
When the hen moults before the cock,
The ground will be as hard as block."
In seedtime and harvest there is need for much judgment and circumspection; and hence several items are still current on these subjects. Our farmers are advised that—
"When the sloe tree is white as a sheet,
Sow your barley whether it be dry or weet."
"If the moon shows a silver shield,
Be not afraid to reap your field."
And lastly, since the ass is considered to be extremely sensitive to changes in the weather—
"When the donkey sounds his horn,
It is quite time to house your corn."