There’s been some bad weather this week here in the UK. The “Beast from the East” brought a blast of Siberian cold to the country, while Storm Emma brought much the same thing from the north Atlantic. Somewhere in the middle, the UK and Ireland saw temperatures plummet to –10ºC, with more than a foot of snowfall reported on the highest hills and fells. Everything continued just like clockwork, of course, with no ill-effects whatsoever. Apart from all the stranded cars, water shortages and empty supermarkets, but let’s just gloss over those.
It’s for all those reasons that this week’s HH Word of the Week is a word that happened, rather fittingly, to pop up on Twitter on Saturday: Winnol weather, a cold snap of bad weather expected around St Winwaloe’s Day, March 3.
Yes, Saturday was St Winwaloe’s Day. To be fair to St Winwaloe, he’s hardly the most well-known of saints these days. (Although given that his mother was called “Gwen the Three-Breasted” and he’s the patron saint of priapists, he perhaps deserves more of a place in history than he has.) But in some corners of the British Isles, at least, Winwaloe once was (or perhaps still is) a lot better known that he might seem.
The founder of Landévennec Abbey in northern France, Winwaloe’s reputation crept across the Channel to the Celtic southwest of England throughout his lifetime, and after his death in 532 his relics were taken by his followers to Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and across the country to East Anglia.
Along the way, chapels and churches were founded in his name, and his feast day soon became locally important in several counties across southern and central England. It’s from a corruption of St Winwaloe’s name, simply enough, that the expression Winnol weather derives.
And this year, he had his work cut out.