Manchester Rain – Reign Over. A History Re-write.
“It always rains in Manchester” say people I have met around the world. Mostly they find it hard to believe that it rains harder or more frequently anywhere else in the British Isles. In fact, it does – including almost all of Wales; Cornwall and Devon; most of Scotland and Ireland and the whole of the Lake District. Manchester, by comparison is relatively dry.
Why then this insistence on belief in Mancunian precipitation? Well, we’ll come to that later.
Suffice it to say that the Manchester rain myth has led to at least one other erroneous belief about Manchester.
It doesn’t rain in Manchester anything like as much as people – who do not live there – believe, and it irks me. So sharing with you the answer to this misattribution, it is hoped to put the legend to bed, at least for a while.
In 2012 and at a sale in Brighton, I was talking to some people and an older man suddenly said to me, “You’re a long way from home, aren’t you? Where are you from?” I told him I was from Manchester and he said to me “It’s always raining in Manchester, isn’t it?” and I was just about to say “No, it isn’t”, when he surprised me by saying “No – it isn’t”.
This was very surprising, so I said to him, “You are the only non-Mancunian I have ever met who knew that this was not true”. “Well”, he said “it doesn’t does it? But do you know why everybody says that it does?” And I said “No”. “Well then”, he said, “I’ll tell you”.
He went on to explain that he became a Junior Champion weightlifter just before the war, at a contest held in Manchester. He told me quite truthfully that he was declared the winner because the defending champion had not turned up!
He told me that it was a well-known fact before the last war that the “Ladies of the Night” in Manchester always carried umbrellas, whatever the weather, as a form of identification. It was so well-known, that visiting Music Hall comedians would remark on it, in a “What’s that all about?” type of way. “It’s always raining in Manchester” they would say to their audiences.
Presumably, everybody would laugh because everybody knew to what he was referring. As time went on, this repetition turned into a catchphrase. Not a catchphrase identifying a particular person but one which identified a city. In this way and as times changed, the umbrellas may have gone but the phrase stuck.
And the legend was born.
So thank you Sir, for your explanation. Here are some facts below about rainfall in the British Isles. Judge for yourself – but keep your umbrella handy just in case it rains!
Annual av. rainfall for Isle of Man – between 75 and 31 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Scotland – about 60 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Wales – about 56 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Ireland – (Western Part) – between 40 to 54 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Northern Ireland – about 44 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Ireland – (Eastern Part) – between 30 to 40 inches
Annual av. rainfall for England – about 33 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Lake District – about 42 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Plymouth – about 39 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Bristol – about 35 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Shanklin – 34 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Liverpool – about 34 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Manchester – about 32 inches
Annual av. rainfall for Bournemouth – about 32 inches
Annual av. rainfall for London – about 22 inches