Monday, March 18, 2013

Brushing up on your Sheila folklore

Perhaps the most memorable of those occasions was on the night of 'Sheila's Brush,' which is to say the 18th of March. Newfoundland has two 'brushes,' Patrick's and Sheila's; that is to say, storms supposed to be connected with the birthday of St Patrick and that of his wife... The word 'brush' is not always used, however; you will hear Newfoundlanders say: 'We have our Sheila dis time o' year.'
- George Allan England, 1877—1936, Vikings of the Ice (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1924) as quoted in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English
I'm waking up this morning to snow, reports of school closures in other parts of the province, and Twitter and Facebook status updates mentioning Sheila's Brush. In Newfoundland English, a brush is a "sudden gust of wind, a spell of wet weather; a [snow] storm." You can read up on more Newfoundland snow words on the DNE blog, Twig.

Most Newfoundlanders, I suspect, know that Sheila's Brush refers to a snowstorm after St. Patrick's Day. Some say it is meant to represent Sheila sweeping up after St. Patrick. Who Sheila is supposed to be, exactly, is something of a mystery, be she wife, sister, maid or mistress. 

For info on that other Sheila, check out Dr. Philip Hiscock's A Perfect Princess: The Twentieth-Century Legend of Sheila na Geira and Gilbert Pike.

Note on image above: Photo by rebfoto. If you know the name of the original mural artist, post a comment!

1 comment:

Scott Strong said...

The artist is Helen Gregory, who can be contacted on Facebook for further details.