As many of you know, I produce this column a couple of weeks in advance, and I’m writing this one the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s televised address to the nation. He announced an almost total lockdown across the country to halt the spread of Covid-19 in a bid to ease the anticipated strain on our health service.
I hope that two weeks on, you are adjusting to this unprecedented situation, and that this column gives at least a little bit of relief from it. Do contact me, either via this paper or through my contact page at countrymansdaughter.com, to let me know how you are coping with this imposed isolation.
I am very fortunate in that the pandemic hasn’t affected my writing life, as it is one of those few activities that still remains possible, and I’m sure there will be a surge in written material being produced by and for the isolated and the bored.
As I’m writing this in the last week of March, it brings to mind the saying ‘March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’, which refers to the fact that at the start of March we often experience the harsh tale-end of winter, yet by the end, the signs of spring are well-established.
However, in my dad’s column from 12th April 1980, he says this: ‘I must comment of the age-old saying about March coming in like a lamb and going out like a lion. Nothing could provide better proof of the accuracy of that statement than the past month of March.’
I had to look at it twice, to make sure I’d read it right, as it seemed my dad had got the phrase the wrong way round. But that surprised me, as he was pretty accurate when it came to sayings in folklore. So it set me off on yet another detective-like meander on the Internet and into Dad’s countless reference books that I’ve turned to since taking on these columns. I also had to enlist the services of my brother, who is currently staying with my mum and, unlike me at the moment, has access to Dad’s study and even more reference books.
It was he that helped me solve this particular mystery and, of course, Dad hadn’t got it wrong after all. It turns out that the version I was alluding to had changed over time, and was missing an original, crucial word, which is ‘If’. The saying was used in folklore as a prediction of the weather to come. Therefore, it actually should be read like this, “If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb.”
And my brother also found reference to the exact opposite phrase, ‘If March comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion’. He deduced that the second saying was meant to be paired with the first, so that in the days before weather forecasting, our forefathers had a rough guide as to what the month might have in store.
So what my dad says makes complete sense when it came to describing the weather he had experienced during the March of 1980, whereas for us, March 2020 has been the opposite, with dreadful storms and floods causing havoc in the Dales and many other parts of Yorkshire at the beginning of the month, while at the end, we had more settled dry and sunny weather to see us out.
I’d like to thank Chris Hogg who got in touch after reading my column about the 1929 bus crash on Blue Bank in Sleights. He said: ‘Around the same time there was another fatal motor accident on the bank which was probably more shocking to the local population. Leonard, the son of local shipping magnate William Headlam of Raithwaite Hall, was killed driving his Alfa Romeo on his way to take part in a race at Brooklands. Both Leonard and his brother Billy were motor racing enthusiasts, Billy owning an Aston Martin. I have no other details of the accident only what my late mother told me.’
So of course, that is going to set me off on another exciting trip through the newspaper archives, and no doubt more details of this story will appear in an upcoming column. But if you can furnish me with any more information about it, do get in touch!
Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 10th and the Gazette & Herald on 8th April 2020