Nottinghamshire weather lore and sayings

A selection

By R B Parish

To the county folk, predicting the weather was an important aspect of daily life and all sorts of sayings arose to help forecast the months ahead. This of course was of particular importance to those growing crops and involved in animal husbandry. Many sayings arose in Nottinghamshire, although some were found in other areas of the country.  Predicting when the harsh winter weather would stop were the most frequently encountered. Two sayings relate a relationship between a fine February and the continuation of winter:                 

“February fill dyke, be it black or be it white, If its white the better to like”                                                        

 Another local expression notes:                                     

 “A February spring is worth not a pin, All the months of the year curse a fine februarie.”

This is thought to have arisen from the belief that it was of more benefit to have a wet February for crops. As 2013’s March being particularly a good example, in Nottinghamshire it was often recognised to be a changeable month:

in like a lion, out like a lamb”

We shall wait to see for the later is true for 2013 but certainly the former is very true! The concern about the weather extending until at least Easter where, the weather would even predict the harvest:                                                                    

 "A fine Easter, a fine harvest.”


“A cold May, plenty of corn and hay.”

Which appears contradictory! Beekeepers were a source of weather lore for example:

“A swarm of bees in May, Is worth a load of hay, A swarm of bees in June, Is worth a silver spoon, A swarm of bees in July Is not worth a fly.”

Brown (1896) notes that most of the weather rhymes common to various parts of England are frequently heard in the county,  such as:

“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”

One possibly unique to the county refered to the end of September stating that:

“If Michaelmass day be bright and gay, saddle your horse, and buy some more hay; but if the day be gloomy and black it carries the winter away on its back.”

At this time it was thought that if the northern lights appear at harvest time there will be thunder. A fine autumn is known as ‘St. Luke's summer.’ It is said that:                                                                  

“If the oak precedes the ash Then we may expect a splash ; But if the ash precedes the oak, Then we may expect a soak.”

And as such we would await a downfall of rain that often comes in October. There are doubtless other sayings and thoughts about the weather and the author would welcome any correspondence on the matter. Rossparish

This page was added by R B Parish on 21/03/2013.

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