A gentle mist all heaven kissed
Like teardrops off an angel’s wing
Don’t you know you’ll cleanse your soul
With a walk in the Irish rain.
In 1961, songwriter Johnny Cash described Ireland as having “forty shades of green”. Anyone who has ever been to Ireland would probably agree with that description.
And why does Ireland have forty shades of green?
Why, the rain, of course!
According to Met Éireann (the Irish Meteorological Service), the annual number of days of rainfall (measuring more than 1mm) varies from 150 days in the East and Southeast, to 225 days in parts of the West.
For the more than 7 million annual visitors, understanding the terminology for Irish weather is very important. One needs to know how to dress; what activities to plan or to avoid depending on the weather of the day.
A typical daily weather report might be: “Sunny spells with scattered showers” or “A breezy mix of clouds and sun with possible scattered showers”. That pretty much covers everything. Situation normal. A regular day.
But when discussing the weather in Ireland, often a more specific jargon is necessary.
Here are some helpful terms when the conversation, as it inevitably will, turns to the Irish weather and rain.
MIST – as in: “Ah, sure ‘tis only a mist. (especially effective when pronounced with the soft ‘sh’ sound borrowed from the Gaelic – ‘misht”). Noticeable when you are standing in the sunshine and see the clouds hanging or moving over the mountains. Nothing to change plans for – it will probably pass as the cloud moves away.
SOFT – as in “ ‘Tis a fine soft day, thank God.” A heavy mist (see above). Generally grey skies (excellent for photography), but warmish and it may clear as the day goes on.
SPITTING – may begin with mist. Intermittent periods of light rain clearing to mist or clearing altogether. No reason to cancel outdoor plans.
SHOWERY – this is good weather! Some sunshine and white puffy clouds with a few black ones thrown in. The occasional black clouds will drop possibly heavy-ish showers, but will clear. A good time to pop into a pub for a cuppa or a pint.
WET – often in the afternoon or evening. The sky gets generally dark and grey and the rain moves in to stay. Soaks your clothes and drives you indoors. Windscreen wipers on all the time.
STAIR RODS – the rain (that you are looking at out the window because you don’t want to be out in it) is coming down straight out of the sky. It in no way resembles drops and has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Have another pint.
LASHING – the accompanying wind is causing the rain to travel horizontally. If you attempt to open the car door, the wind whips it out of your hands nearly taking it off the car. It requires the help of two other people to close the door and you are now soaked.
DIRTY – often applies to rain at night as in “It’s a dirty night”. It’s dark and wet and when you come inside you leave a puddle on the floor from the water dripping off your clothes and shoes. Generally requires a hot drink and a warm bed.
Back to the forty shades of green. Without the rain, Ireland would not have those glorious greens and the magical beauty that millions of people come to see every year. Her gardens would not flourish with the magnificent array of vibrant colours and the nearly endless varieties of flowers and plants. The rain is as much a part of the landscape as the sheep, the cattle and the stone walls.
So grab your brolly, your wellies and your mac – and take a walk in the Irish rain.