The All-Weather Saint
To appreciate different types of weather through the story of St Swithin.
by The Revd Alan M. Barker
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To appreciate different types of weather through the story of St Swithin (St Swithin's Day is 15 July).
Preparation and materials
- You will need an up-to-date weather forecast and, if possible, a meteosat picture from the worldwide web. If information is gathered from a school weather station, those responsible can be asked to present it.
- For the opening sketch some sunglasses, a waterproof jacket and umbrella will be needed. Two children, or adults, will need to rehearse the sketch in advance.
- The St Swithin's Day verse could be prepared for display using an OHP.
- A group of children could prepare short items of prose or poetry reflecting their experience of different weather. Encourage them to develop their powers of description and the feelings that weather evokes. Alternatively, select some 'weather' poems for reading.
- Introductory music: 'Summertime' from Porgy & Bess, or 'Here comes the sun' from the Beatles' Abbey Road album.
- Bible link: Jesus refers to weather sayings in Matthew 16.2-3 and a weather proverb is found in Matthew 5.45.
- Introductory sketch: A weather forecast presenter stands to deliver the forecast and the listener responds appropriately.
Weather presenter: And now for today's forecast. The day will start off bright and warm with temperatures quickly rising to 26 degrees Celsius.
Listener smiles, relaxes and puts on sunglasses.
However, by late morning cloud will build up with the risk of occasional showers. Where these occur it will feel cool in the strengthening wind.
Listener looks worried, removes sunglasses and puts on waterproof jacket.
By tea-time a band of more persistent rain will move in from the west, leading to a wet evening.
Listener looks glum, puts up umbrella and stretches out a hand to feel the rain falling.
- From the introductory sketch remind the children that summer weather in this country can be very changeable. Share the latest weather information for the day. Explain that modern weather forecasting relies on information gained from satellites and from measurements of temperature, air pressure and wind speed, etc., taken at weather stations around the world. Refer to any weather readings taken at school.
Explain that before modern weather forecasts were broadcast by radio and television, country people looked for 'weather signs' in order to make predictions. For example:
Cows lying down were said to foretell rain.
High-flying swallows predicted warm and settled weather.
A number of sayings or folklore summed up their weather wisdom, e.g.
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight (fine day the next day).
Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning (wet day the next day).
Rain before seven, fine before eleven.
Ask if the children are aware of any others.
- For centuries the weather on some of the special saints' days was taken as a sign of what was in store. One such day was 15 July, St Swithin's Day. Explain the significance of the saying:
'St Swithin's Day, if thou'll be fair, for forty days shall rain nae more
But if St Swithin's thou be wet, for forty days it raineth yet.'
Farmers, hoping for a warm and dry summer period, looked for fine weather on St Swithin's Day.
- St Swithin, however, was a man who enjoyed all weathers. Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century, he loved walking. Whether it was sunny or raining, he would make his way on foot to visit congregations and consecrate churches. When he died, in the year 862, he was buried outside his cathedral, at his own request lying 'where the rain from the cathedral eaves would drop on him and close to where the feet of his friends would pass'. That seemed to suit the man who had liked to spend so much time out of doors.
However, over a hundred years later, on 15 July 971, his remains were placed in a magnificent shrine. It is said that for the following forty days it did not stop raining. Hence the saying that is still remembered today. Some people thought that it wasn't a good idea to move the remains of St Swithin!
- Invite the children to consider aspects of weather that they enjoy, e.g.
the colour and warmth of sunshine,
the sound of falling rain,
the excitement of snow,
the dampness and sight of early morning dew.
Time for reflection
Contrasting pieces of poetry and prose could be read.
Thank you for sizzling hot sunshine and for cool refreshing rain.
Thank you for early morning dew and night-time frosts.
Thank you for the vivid flash of lightning and the deep rumble of thunder.
Thank you for howling gales and for gentle breezes.
Thank you for the patterns of cloud and the colours of the sky.
'Morning has broken' (Come and Praise, 1)