10th of August – St Lawrence Day

St Lawrence, martyr, 258. St Deusdedit, confessor. St Blaan, bishop of Kinngaradha among the Picts, in Scotland, about 446.

 

Born. – Bernard Nieuwentyt, eminent Dutch mathematician, &c., 1654; Armand Gensonné, noted Girondist, 1758, Bordeaux
Died. – Magnentius, usurper of Roman empire, 353, Lyon; John de Witt and his brother Cornelius, eminent Dutch statesmen, murdered by the mob at the Hague, Versailles; Gabrielle Emilie de Breteuil, Marquise du Chastelet, translator of Newton’s Principia, 1749, palace of Luneville; Ferdinand VI. of Spain, 1759, Madrid; John Wilson Croker, Tory politician and reviewer, 1857.

 

SUPERSTITIONS AND SAYINGS REGARDING THE MOON AND THE WEATHER.

The worship of the moon (a part of, perhaps, the oldest of false religions) has not entirely died out in this nineteenth century of the Christian era. Many persons will courtesy to the new moon on its first appearance, and turn the money in their pockets ‘for luck.’ Last winter, I had a set of rough country lads in a night-school; they happened to catch sight of the new moon through the window, and all (I think) that had any money in their pockets turned it ‘for luck.’ As may be supposed, it was done in a joking sort of way, but still it was done. The boys could not agree what was the right form of words to use on the occasion, but it seemed to be understood that there was a proper formula for it. 

Another superstition was acknowledged by them at the same time – namely, that it was unlucky to see the new moon for the first time through glass. This must, of course, be comparatively modern. I do not know what is the origin of it, nor can I tell that of the saying: 

‘A Saturday moon, 
If it comes once in seven years, 
Comes once too soon.’ 

The application of this is, that if the new moon happens on a Saturday, the weather will be bad for the ensuing month. The average of the last seven years gives exactly two Saturday moons per annum, which is rather above the general average due from the facts of there being seven days to the week, and twenty-nine and a half to the lunation. This year, however (1863), there is but one Saturday moon, which brings the average nearer to the truth. I mention this to illustrate the utter want of observation which can reckon a septennial recurrence of a Saturday moon as something abnormal. Yet many sayings about the weather are, no doubt, founded upon observation; such appears to be the following: 

‘Rain before seven, 
Fine before eleven.’ 

The character of St Swithin’s Day [15th July] is much regarded here as a prognostication of fine or wet weather; but I am happy to think that the saint failed to keep his promise this year, and though he rained on his own day, did not feel himself obliged to go on with it for the regulation forty days. 

Another weather-guide connected with the moon is, that to see ‘the old moon in the arms of the new one’ is reckoned a sign of fine weather; and so is the turning up of the horns of the new moon. In this position it is supposed to retain the water, which is imagined to be in it, and which would run out if the horns were turned down. 

The streaks of light often seen when the sun shines through broken clouds are believed to be pipes reaching into the sea, and the water is supposed to be drawn up through them into the clouds, ready to be discharged in the shape of rain. With this may be compared Virgil’s notion, ‘Et bibit ingens Arcus’ [‘And water great Bows’] (Georg. I. 380); but it is more interesting, perhaps, as an instance of the truth sometimes contained in popular superstitions; for, though the streaks of sunlight are no actual pipes, yet they are visible signs of the sun’s action, which, by evaporating the waters, provides a store of vapour to be converted into rain. 

C.W. J.   

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

This year, 1169, died Gregory, Bishop of Dunkeld; to whom did succeed Richard, King William’s chaplain, consecrated on St. Lawrence day [10th of August] the same year. 

– Historical Works, pp.19-38.

 

In the year 1413, Sir John Drummond, of Concraig, knight, on St. Lawrence day [10th of August], traitorously killed Patrick Graham, Earl of Strathearn, in the town of Crieff, notwithstanding that he had formerly obliged himself never to wrong the said Earl, by sacramental oath, and his own hand wrote; and for the better assurance of their friendship, the Earl’s sister was given to the said Sir John in marriage. 

– Historical Works, pp.144-152.

 

The 10th of August this same year [1506], a fearful comet appeared in Scotland. Its course was observed to be from the north to the south, with a swift and violent motion. 

– Historical Works, pp.214-238.

 

Aug. – Isabel Walker, under sentence of death at Dumfries for child-murder, obtained a reprieve through unexpected means. According to a letter dated Edinburgh, August 10, 1738, ‘this unhappy creature was destitute of friends, and had none to apply for her but an only sister, a girl of a fine soul, that overlooked the improbability of success, and helpless and alone, went to London to address the great; and solicited so well, that she got for her, first, a reprieve, and now a remission. Such another instance of onerous friendship can scarce be shown; it well deserved the attention of the greatest, who could not but admire the virtue, and on that account engage in her cause.’ 

Helen Walker, who acted this heroic part, was the daughter of a small farmer in the parish of Irongray. Her sister, who had been under her care, having concealed her pregnancy, it came to be offered to Helen as a painful privilege, that she could save the accused if she could say, on the trial, that she had received any communication from Isabel regarding her condition. She declared it to be impossible that she should declare a falsehood even to save a sister’s life; and condemnation accordingly took place. Helen then made a journey on foot to London, in the hope of being able to plead for her sister’s life; and, having almost by accident gained the ear and interest of the Duke of Argyll, she succeeded in an object which most persons would have said beforehand was next to unattainable. 

Isabel afterwards married her lover, and lived at Whitehaven for many years. Helen survived till 1791, a poor peasant woman, living by the sale of eggs and other small articles, or doing country work, but always distinguished by a quiet self-respect, which prevented any one from ever talking to her of this singular adventure of her early days. Many years after she had been laid in Irongray kirkyard, a lady who had seen and felt an interest in her communicated her story to Sir Walter Scott, who expanded it into a tale (The Heart of Midlothian), of which the chief charm lies in the character and actings of the self-devoted heroine. It was one of the last, and not amongst the least worthy, acts of the great fictionist to raise a monument over her grave, with the following inscription: 

‘This stone was erected by the author of Waverley in Memory of HELEN WALKER, who died in the year of God 1791. This humble individual practised in real life the virtues with which fiction has invested the imaginary character of JEANIE DEANS; refusing the slightest departure from veracity, even to save the life of a sister, she nevertheless showed her kindness and fortitude in rescuing her from the severity of the law, at the expense of personal exertions which the time rendered as difficult as the motive was laudable. – Respect the grave of poverty, when combined with love of truth and dear affection.’ 

– Domestic Annals, pp.398-408.

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