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Scottish Weather Rhymes

Many of the old rhymes about weather have a grain or more of truth in them, but others have not. ‘When the cock goes crowing to his bed, he’ll rise inthe morning with a watery head!’ Well, I’ve been out of my bed at night as often as most people, and have heard cocks crowing at bedtime, midnight, dawn and at every hour in between. As often as not the next day was exceptionally fine. In actual fact, if one cock starts crowing at night, other cocks hear him and respond—that’s all there is to it ?

Nevertheless, before the days of scientific forecasting, country and sea-faring folk had to keep their weather eye open, and they realised that the swing of the wind, the movements of birds, beasts and insects, the clarity of the air, etc., meant a change for good or ill. Flashes of wildfire, or the weird appearance of “the Merry Dancers” were sure indications of unsettled weather. “Grey mares’ tails” in the upper sky meant that a wet spell would continue. Spiders spinning, and swallows flying high indicated good weather to be.

A well-known Angus rhyme introduces the Sidlaws:

When Craigowl puts on his cowl,
and Coolie Law his hood,
The folk o’ Lundie may look dool,
for the day’ll no’ be good.

There is a Fife version:

When Falkland Hill puts on his cap,
the Howe o’ Fife will get a drap,
And when the Bishop draws his cowl,
look out for wind and weather foul!

Another rhyme—’ Mony haws, mony snaws ‘—connects a rich harvest of hedgerow berries with a cold winter. Apparently, too, ‘An air winter maks a sair winter.’

Another traditional rhyme claims that ‘Winter thunder bodes summer hunger,’ but the connection seems far—fetched, and it is doubtful if many of these long—term forecasts had any truth in them at all.

Some rhymes feature the moon:

‘When the moon is on her back,
Gae mend yer shoon and sort yer thack!’

Here is another:

‘When round the moon there is a brugh,
The weather will be cauld and rough!’

The cold late spring of the hills and glens (where snow may linger into April and May) is caught in the Gaelic saying:

‘Spring with a serpent’s head and a peacock’s tail.’

And typical east—coast weather (in bad years, at least) is well described in the line:

‘It greets a winter, and girns a’ summer.

Two rather similar rhymes from Angus:

Geese tae the sea,
guid weather tae be;
Geese tac the hill,
guid weather tac spill.

And here is the other:

Mist on the hills, weather spills;
Mist inthe howes, weather grows.

There are many others, including that old—time question put by country bairns to a passing snail:

Snailie, snailie. shoot oot yer horn,
And tell us if it’ll be a bonny day the morn.

In Angus, at the lambing time in the glens (April) they still speak of “the Teuchat’s storms.” In Fife they talk of “the coo-­quack o’ May.”

The local sayings sound better when given in the local dialect, and so you'll just have to visit.

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