.by Anura Guruge
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Saint Swithim of Winchester from the Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, illuminated manuscript in the British Library.
St. Swithin, or Swithun, [c. 800 to July 2, 28162] was the Bishop of Winchester (Hampshire) and now the patron saint of the magical Winchester Cathedral, longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe.
For 7 years of my life, from 1974 to 1981, I lived close to Winchester. IBM at Hursley, where I worked from 1974 to 1979, just a few miles up the road from Winchester. So I know Winchester and the Cathedral quite well. So I have ‘always’ known of St. Swithin.
Ironically, St. Swithin is best known as a medieval Punxsutawney Phil — a predictor of weather, in particular rain. The sayings (with overtones of ‘the shadow’ goes like this):
“St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare”.
Why they would bother with a proverb like this in Britain baffles me. Jokes apart, most of the time, it is difficult to go 40 hours without getting any rain, let alone 40 days (1976, that glorious summer when the West Indies regaled us, being the exception).
But, there is another St. Swithin ‘tradition’ that a recent movie (2011), ‘One Day‘, talks about. St. Swithin’s Day is like “Ol’ Home” day — an anniversary that you are supposed to spend with the same person each year. The movie was fun.
Click to access. From their homepage. If you are not familiar with these Catedral do yourself a favor and at least watch this 4.xx minute video.
Not sure how many of YOU know of this 1960s HIT, ‘Winchester Cathedral’ by the British (of course) ‘The New Vaudeville Band’. Again, do yourself a huge favor and listen to it. It will make your day. Just click.
As far as I am concerned, and this is probably my Ceylonese upbringing when we, on average, celebrated some kind of holiday, across 4 religions, every 9 days, you just can’t have enough holidays.
So on Monday, take a second to tip your hat to St. Swithin.