St Piran’s Day 5th of Lide (March 5th)

St Piran’s Oratory at Trézilidé, Finistère (wikipedia)

Eleanor Parker, who is a Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford, wrote an interesting article in History Today on the loudest month of the year, March. She also wrote a lovely book about the year in Anglo-Saxon Literature, which I have used quite a lot. (Winters in the World)

There are many references to the changeable weather in March, sometimes you have lovely sunny days, and at others raging storms, and frosts. Parker quotes a proverb which says that March comes in ‘like a lion and goes out like a lamb’. March is named after the Roman War God Mars, whose Month it was. But in England it had, until recent times, a dialect name in the South west of England. This was ‘Lide’. The name was still used in the 17th Century, and then survived into the 19th Century only in Cornwall, which had a proverb. ‘Ducks won’t lay till they’ve drunk Lide water’. Daffodils were called Lide-lillies.

The Cornish named the first Friday in March ‘Friday in Lide’ and it was a holiday for Miners, perhaps because March 5th was St Piran’s Day. Very little is clear about St Piran, but he is thought to have been an Irish Missionary who founded an Abbey in Cornwall in the 5th Century. His legend says he was tied to a millstone by the Irish, who rolled the stone over a cliff. The sea was stormy but immediately calmed as he fell into it, and he floated on his stone to Perranzabuloe in Cornwall, where his first converts were a badger, a fox, and a bear. He is said to have reintroduced smelting to Cornwall, hence his attribution as patron Saint of Miners. He was martyred by Theodoric or Tador, King of Cornwall in 480.


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