Gàidhlig / English
Là Màrtainn Builg

Là Màrtainn Builg

Posted by Calum on 16th July, 2020
As some of you may know already was Là Màrtainn Builg [St. Swithin’s Day] yesterday and it is an important day to the Gaels. Although this saint isn’t as special to the Gaels as Saint Bridget, Saint Columba or Mary herself he is a well-known saint and his impact and reknowned legacy is celebrated by the Gaels today.

There is a lot of thing written and recorded by John Gregorson Campbell in his book “The Gaelic Otherworld” about this particular day. The day was celebrated when the remains of St Swithin, in the year 397 A.D., the bishop of Tours, “apostle of the Gaels”, were reinturred in the cathedral of Tours, France. Some might say “St. Martin of Bullion” to this day and for some reason we’ve put the name “Màrtin Builg” instead of St. Swithin but they were mixed together to be one day because they are so close to each other.

The day is special for marking the change of the weather, in Campbell’s book there is the phrase “Ma bheir am fiadh a cheann tioram gus an laigh a’ ghrian air Latha Màrtainn Builg, bidh am foghar tioram,” [If the deer keeps his head dry until the sun sets of Martin of Bullion’s day, the harvest will be dry”.] Campbell has another meaning that if the deer rises dry and lies down dry in both the morning and the afternoon then there would be a dry season until harvest.

The phrase “Là-Màirtean-Builg” was found in “Gaelic Words and Expressions from South Uist and Eriskay,” by Rev. Fr. Allan McDonald and there is a bit of weather-folklore about this particular day, the proverbs here can be found with Radio nan Gàidheal from the programme “Facal Oirbh”:

“Latha Mhàrtainn Builg tioram
Sia seachdainean tioram
Latha Mhàrtainn Builg fliuch
Sia seachdainean de thuil”.
[“A dry St. Swithin’s day
Six dry weeks
A wet St. Swithin’s day
Six weeks of downpours.]

Ergo, although the rain wasn’t that pronounced where I am, in Glasgow, there was a fine rain, so it is likely that we shall have showery weather for six weeks! I think that we had a showery autumn last year, it must have rained last year on St. Swithin’s day too!

I came across two proverbs here from Deo-greine, volume 10, reporting about the state of the weather at around this time of year:

“Iuchair bruthainneach, blath
Bheir e mach toradh is fàs.”
[“A muggy/sweltry, warm July
It shall bring out produce and growth”]

“Fochann Cèitein
Is buan Lunastail,
Chumadh iad a’ ghort
Riamh à Albainn.”
[“Corn of May
And Harvest of August
They would keep starvation
Ever from Scotland.”]

This is a strong proverb, recognising pressure and need of the Gael for good weather that would be dependant on the result of St. Swithin’s day.

I got this idea to mark this day in a post from Sgrìbhisg and I wanted to name them for their work. Therefore, wont you have a look at their pages!

Do you have a story of information about the words and phrases above? Do you have any phrase or proverb about this day? Let us know on facebooktwitter and our own website!
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