Sheila’s Brush is an idiom used in Newfoundland and it refers to the last big storm of the winter season, a storm that occurs around St. Patrick’s Day. The term comes from an Irish legend which says that Sheila was the saint’s wife (or sister or mother) and that the snow is a result of her sweeping away the old season.
On this mid-March day in this part of British Columbia when buttercups sweep meadows and spring-green tendrils of willows sweep the ground, it’s hard to imagine such a storm. However, I do remember it from life in Newfoundland. I even referred to it in the following excerpt from my novel, Of Sea and Seed:
“Finally, March showed up, in like a lion. Mother Nature gradually smiled, warming things up a bit, but she frowned again around St. Patrick’s Day, unleashing another storm, the annual Sheila’s Brush. It was the end of the month before the weather settled into lamb.”
According to The Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador, Sheila’s Brush usually follows a spell of fairly good weather. If the storm happens after St. Patrick’s Day, a fine-weather spring is on its way. If it happens before St. Patrick’s Day? The name of the storm becomes “Patrick and Sheila” and a bad-weather spring will ensue.
The legend of Sheila’s Brush is not to be ‘brushed’ aside. To this day, there are Newfoundlanders who firmly believe in this and fishers who won’t venture out until the storm has occurred.
I am certain there are many who, as the first day of spring approaches, hope that Sheila will just put away her broom!
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