It was on Monday 29th July 1907 that the Boy Scout movement in Britain began with an experimental camp being held on Brownsea Island near Poole in Dorset by Robert Baden-Powell. His aim was to try out some of his ideas – ideas that were to become the basic principles and activities of the Scout movement. His aim was to foster a sense of honour, loyalty and good citizenship among children. These aims went much wider though, encompassing physical fitness through exercises together with the development of practical skills such as woodwork, tracking, observation, signalling and first aid.
There was also a very new slant on the project; there were to be boys from the whole spectrum of social classes involved and they would share everything as equals. On this first gathering they were divided into four, mixed, ‘patrols’ with each patrol having their own tent for sleeping purposes. Each day had a fixed routine of morning prayers, drills, games and instruction. There were breaks for quiet rest periods and the day was ended with stories around the campfire.
In his ‘Scouting for Boys’ in 1908 Robert Baden-Powell wrote: ‘The scouts’ motto is founded on my initials, it is be prepared, which means, you are always to be in a state if readiness in mind and body to do your duty’
Over 100 years later these fundamentals still underpin the Scout movement.
15th July has a rhyme: St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain; Full forty days, it will remain; St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair; For forty days, t’will rain no more.
Celebrated (or berated as the case may be!) on July 15th, weather sayings pertaining to St. Swithin’s Day are probably the most famous or infamous in the UK. St. Swithin died in 862 and was buried outside Winchester Cathedral so that he could ‘feel’ the raindrops when he was dead. However, when he was canonised a tomb was built inside the cathedral and July 15th 971 was the day his body was to be moved. Legend has it that a storm broke on that day ending a long dry spell. Not only that – it continued to rain on each of the subsequent 40 days. As a result the monks took it as a sign of ‘divine displeasure’ and` left his body where it was.
Since 1861 there have never been 40 dry or 40 wet days following a dry or wet St. Swithin’s Day. In fact, on average, about 20 wet days and 20 rain free days can be expected between July 15th and August 24th. The summers of 1983, 1989, 1990 and 1995 were, however, near misses. During these summers July 15th was dry over southern England, as were 38 of the following 40 days. As for wet weather, BBC Meteorologist Philip Eden presented a report that on 15th July 1985 it rained in Luton and then rained on 30 of the subsequent 40 days.
The creators of the St. Swithin’s Day sayings during the Middle Ages would be aware that summer weather patterns are usually quite well established by mid-July and will then tend to persist until late August. It is not just England though; similar sayings exist for the same time of year in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France. If we modernise the sayings surrounding St. Swithin’s Day perhaps the sayings should be updated to read:
“St. Swithin’s Day, if it does rain, 40 days staying unsettled, St. Swithin’s Day, if it fair, 40 days staying settled.“