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Apr 10

April Showers Day

After the Thunderstorm
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Double Rainbow Over Loch Ness
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"If you like the weather in Scotland, wait half an hour and it will change."

~ Traditional

The Scottish word "dreich" meaning dreary, gloomy, bleak, miserable, grey, depressing, devoid of sunshine… was voted the nation's most favourite word in a government poll.

But even the gloomiest of weather eventually yields to the promise of brighter days and April Showers before leading to May flowers may yield rainbows, double rainbows, or "almost rainbows" known as watergaws. 

While a rainbow is continuous, the classic watergaw is a lone patch of rainbow which follows the end of a downpour. The word, which originated in the Borders, is probably best known as the subject of Hugh McDiarmid's poem 'The Watergaw.'


Ae weet forenicht i’ the yow-trummle

I saw yon antrin thing,

A watergaw wi’ its chitterin’ licht

Ayont the on-ding;

An’ I thocht o’ the last wild look ye gied

Afore ye deed!


There was nae reek i’ the laverock’s hoose

That nicht -- an’ nane i’ mine;

But I hae thocht o’ that foolish licht

Ever sin’ syne;

An’ I think that mebbe at last I ken

What your look meant then.


Hugh MacDiarmid: The Watergaw, from Sangschaw, 1925


This poem is composed in what Hugh MacDiarmid called "Synthetic Scots". His standard-English approximation:

One wet, early evening in the sheep-shearing season
I saw that occasional, rare thing --
Broken shaft of a rainbow with its trembling light
Beyond the downpour of the rain
And I thought of the last, wild look you gave
Before you died.

The skylark’s nest was dark and desolate,
My heart was too
But I have thought of that foolish light
Ever since then
And I think that perhaps at last I know
What your look meant then.



The proverb "March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers", first recorded in 1886,and the shorter, trochaic version "April showers bring May flowers" (originally "Sweet April showers/Do spring May flowers", part of a poem recorded in 1610 are common expressions in English speaking countries.


The phrase is referenced in the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales: "Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote".

By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan represents a double rainbow in a grey sky after a thunderstorm.

For a list of uniquely Scottish words and expressions for the weather, click the double rainbow over Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle.