Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Natural History of Ireland (Author: Gerard Boate)

chapter 22

Of the Dew, Mist, Snow, Hail, Hoar-frost, Thunder and Lightning, Earth-quake and Winds

Of the Dew

THE naturalists and geographers do assure us, that it deweth exceedingly in the hot and dry countries, and that the less it useth to rain in a country, the dew doth fall there the more abundantly, whereby it should seem to follow, that in the wet climate it deweth very little, and consequently that in Ireland, where it raineth so very much, the dew must be very scanty. But there is as much dew there, as in other countries that are a great deal hotter and dryer. Only thus much experience doth shew in Ireland (and it may be as well in other countries, whereof I have not yet informed my self) that when it is towards any great rain, little or no dew doth fall, so as in those times going forth early in the morning into the green fields, you will find them altogether dry, and that even in that season, wherein the dew in Ireland, as in other neighbouring countries, useth to fall more abundantly, than in any other time of the year, to wit in the months of May and June: this is a certain sign to the inhabitants, that great rain is to fall suddenly, and commonly after such a dry and dewless night it useth to rain two or three days together. But the preceding rain doth not hinder the dew in that manner, as that which is imminent, and it is found ordinarily, that in a clear night following a rainy day (the which is very ordinary, as we have said in the preceding chapter) the dew cometh down as liberally as if it had not rained the day before.

Of May-dew, and the manner of gathering and preserving it.

THE English women, and gentlewomen in Ireland, as in England, did use in the beginning of the summer to gather good store of dew, to keep it by them all the year after for several good uses both of physick and otherwise, wherein by experience they have learnt it to be very available. Their manner of collecting and keeping it was this. In the month of May especially, and also in part of the month of June, they would go forth betimes in the morning, and before sun-rising, into a green field, and there either with their hands


strike off the dew from the tops of the herbs into a dish, or else throwing clean linnen cloaths upon the ground, take off the dew from the herbs into them and afterwards wring it out into dishes, and thus they continue their work until they have got a sufficient quantity of dew according to their intentions. That which is gotten from the grass will serve, but they chuse rather to have it from the green corn, especially wheat, if they can have the conveniency to do so, as being persuaded that this dew hath more vertues, and is better for all purposes, than that which hath been collected from the grass or other herbs. The dew thus gathered they put into a glass bottle, and so set it in a place where it may have the warm sun-shine all day long, keeping it there all the summer; after some days rest some dregs and dirt will settle to the bottom, the which when they perceive, they pour off all the clear dew into another vessel, and fling away those setlings. This they do often, because the dew doth not purge it self perfectly in a few days, but by degrees, so as new dregs (severed from the purer parts by the working of the dew, helped on by the sun-beams) do settle again; of the which as often as those good women see any notable quantity, they still pour off the clear dew from them doing thus all summer long, until it be clear to the bottom.

The dew thus thoroughly purified looketh whitish, and keepeth good for a year or two after.

Of the Mists and Fogs.

WE have shewed how much Ireland is subject to rain, and so it is likewise to dark weather, and overcasting of the air even when it raineth not, which continueth sometimes many days together, especially in winter time.

But as for the fogs and mists, Ireland is no more troubled with them than other regions, especially in the plain country, for in the mountains they are much more frequent, so that oftentimes they are covered with them for a great way the space of some hours together, when at the same time there is none in the neighbouring plain country; and in the high mountains it cometh many times to pass that in a fair day the top thereof for a long time together is covered over with a thick mist, when not only the adjacent country, but even the lower part of those mountains do enjoy a clear sun-shine. And sometimes it befalleth the tops as well as the lower parts being free from them, the middle parts are quite covered therewith, as my brother in his travels hath many times observed in several parts, especially upon those high mountains between Dundalk and Carlingford, as well in the midst of the summer, as at other times of the year.

And in many places it is found by experience, that the like fog upon the tops of the mountains is a fore-runner of rain in the next country, whereof all those who have lived any time at Dublin, may have good knowledge. For seldom a mist appeareth upon the top of the Wicklow mountains, situated some five or six miles to the south of Dublin, or of the head of Hoath, without being followed with rain at Dublin and the adjacent parts within 24 hours wherein


is observable, that a fog quite covering those mountains all over is not so sure a sign of rain, as when it is only upon the top, and that those general mists upon the mountains are often seen without any following rain, the which very seldom or never happeneth in the others.

There be two sorts of mists or fogs in Ireland, the one is uniform and constant, quite filling the air of all sides, whereby all manner of prospect is taken away, and continuing after the same fashion, until it vanish by degrees, either ascending up into the air, or falling to the ground, whereof here, as in other countries, the first is commonly followed with rain, and the second with fair weather.

In the other sort are great parcels or flakes of foggy vapours scattered up and down the air, with clear spaces betwixt, the which flakes do not keep one place, but fly to and fro, according as they are driven by the wind, and that sometimes very swiftly, this kind of fog doth arise not only upon the seaside, but also within the land, and upon the mountains oftentimes turning into a general mist.

Of the Snow, Hail, and Hoar-frost.

FOR the most part there falleth no great store of snow in Ireland, and some years none at all, especially in the plain countries. In the mountains there is commonly greater plenty of snow, than in other parts, so that all kind of cattle, do all winter long remain there abroad, being seldom troubled with very great frost or snow, and do feed in the fields night and day, as we have related more amply above; yet it hath happened that in a winter, one of many, abundance of snow hath faln, instance that of the year 1635, where about the latter end of January and the beginning of February great store of snow did fall to the great damage of the cattle, chiefly in the northern parts (where it did snow most exceedingly) so as the people were put to hard shifts to bring their cattle in safety to their folds and other covered places. One history among the rest by reason of the strangeness of it, I think will not be improper to relate as it hath been asserted to me by very credible persons: A gentleman living about Ballaneah in the county of Cavan, took great pains to save his sheep, yet missed eleven of them, some days after being come forth to course, this man saw from afar off upon a hill, in a hollow place of a rock, part of it being covered with the top hanging over it, something alive and stirring, they thought it had been a hare or a fox, but coming near they found it was the lost sheep, the which had near eaten away all the wool from one anothers back (being destitute of all other food, all round about being covered with deep snow) and which is more wonderful one of them being dead, the rest did eat her flesh, leaving nothing but the bare bones.

It doth also longer continue there, so as it is an ordinary thing in those by Dublin, and all other high mountains throughout the land, to see the snow lying upon the tops of them many days, yea weeks, after that in the nether parts and plain country it is thawed and quite vanished.


It haileth there but seldom, and in thin short showers, the hail-stones also being very little.

As for the hoar-frost, that is as common here as in other countries, and that not only in the coldest months, and during the frost, but even in the spring: so as commonly during all the fair weather of that season, of some weeks together, whereof we have spoke heretofore, every morning all the green herbs of the gardens and fields are quite covered over with it.

Of the Thunder, Lightning, and earthquakes.

IRELAND is as little subject to thunder and lightning, as any other country in the world, for it is a common thing, to see whole years pass without them, and in those years, wherein any are, one shall seldom have them above once or twice in a summer, and that with so weak noise of the thunder, and so feeble a shining of the lightning, that even the most fearful persons are hardly frightned at all thereby, much less any harm done to men or beasts.

From earthquakes this island is not altogether exempt, but withal they are so seldom, that they hardly come once in an age and it is so long ago since the last of all was, that it is as much as the most aged persons now alive can even remember.

Of the Winds.

WITH winds it is in this country almost as with rain, Ireland not only having its share in them, as other countries, but being very much subject to them, more than most other parts of the world. For the winds blow very much at all times of the year, especially in the winter months, when also there are many storms, which sometimes do continue several days together.

And it is worth the observation, that not only storm-winds, but others also, do in Ireland much seldomer blow out of the east, than out of the west, especially in the winter; so that commonly there is no need of a wind to be wafted over into England, where to the contrary, those, who out of England will come over into Ireland, very ordinarily are constrained to wait two or three weeks, and sometimes five or six weeks, yea it hath faln out so more than once, that in two whole months, and longer, there hath not been so much east wind, as to carry ships out of England into Ireland, notable instances whereof the history of the first conquest of Ireland, and that of the lord Mountjoy, subduer of Tyrone's rebellion, doth afford.

But in the summer time, and chiefly in the spring, and in the months March, April, and May, one is not so much subject to that incommodity, as in the other times of the year.

And as the west winds are much more common in Ireland, especially upon this coast lying over against Great-Britain, than the east, so likewise the south winds are much more ordinary there, than the north, which two winds there


do seldom blow alone, but for the most part do accompany one of the two other, especially the north wind, the which also doth oftner join it self with the east than with the west wind.