GIVEN the challenging nature of the Scottish weather, it comes as no surprise that there are a whole host of interesting words to name and describe the actions of the elements, and frequent changes from sunshine to rain mean a watergaw is never far away.
And just as it’s important not to confuse a light shower with a rainstorm, it should be noted that a watergaw is not the same as a rainbow.
While a rainbow is continuous, the classic watergaw is a lone patch of rainbow which follows the end of a downpour. The word, which originated in the Borders, is probably best known as the subject of Hugh McDiarmid’s poem ‘The Watergaw’. In the piece, regarded as one of the best by a Scottish poet, sees McDiarmid describing “a watergaw wi’ its chitterin’ licht ayont the on-ding”.
Unfortunately, looking up to try and spot a watergaw can leave you at the mercy of the weather, and in Scotland that’s always a dangerous prospect.