At the End of the Day

Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning

mesnip30716Have you ever wondered who dreamt up that curiously surreal attempt at suggesting some degree of science in weather forecasting? It definitely predates the Met Office, so for once they can be absolved from blame. But whoever the original Anon was, he or she was speaking out of the wrong bodily orifice.

For starters, if there are few if any clouds about, the sky will be just as red in the evening as it is in the morning. The degree of redness in the heavenly palette has knob-all to do with whether shepherds are delighted or sailors anxious.

And next up, what the blue blazes have shepherds got to do with sailors? I mean, let’s keep it simple: if there’s a red sky at the end of the evening, your shepherd is less likely to get pissed on during the night. Nobody says “Grey sky at night, Shepherds will be dry”. That would be bloody daft. But if there’s a red sky in the morning, it means the sun’s coming up and you can see the damned thing coming up because there are ‘few if any clouds about’ – see previous para for further confirmation of the blindingly obvious. So what is there for sailors to be warned about – ‘The Met Office has just issued the following warning for Dogger: clouds will be sparse’?

“Oh shit the bed,” says Number One, “sparse  clouds….now we’re for it”.

All I can say is, if ageing wives did dream this stuff up, they have a lot to answer for.

And while we’re at it, the shepherd/sailor relationship is – shall we say – somewhat random. If you were watching one of those quiz shows like Pointless, I wonder how many people would put the shepherding thing close to the fishing profession. Not many, I’d surmise.

Your shepherd is a land based bloke watching over future Sunday lunches in case wolves decide to have a crack before we do. According to the Christmas story, shepherds are easily filled with mighty dread when angels descend without warning. But not by red skies at night: red skies at night, on the whole, they’re allegedly relaxed about.

However, whereas the seafaring common or garden sailor gets worried about 50-foot waves and the boat-sinking propensities of giant squid, there is little or no evidence to support the idea that Captain Birds Eye wakes up of a morning, spies a red sunrise, and immediately has an uncontrollable panic attack.


It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the well-known saying about shepherds, sunsets, sailors and sunrises emerged originally from the vivid imagination of an old wife with too much time on her hands.

Such would not be permitted in this, our progressive age. Today, I fancy, the pinched goblins of correctness would come up with

Shepherd sunsets and Sailor sunrises are nothing more than examples of the rainbow of multicultural weather experiences

Radical Islam, on the other hand, would counter this with

Red sunsets are the obvious product of the Great Satan’s attempts to control our weather, and infidel whores produce sailors with red eyes in the morning

But one must give Bloomberg the definitive last word on the subject:

Only continued membership of the EU can produce red sunsets and dry nights for shepherds, whereas conclusive research shows that Brexit must inevitably result in all British sailors going blind as a result of looking at red sunrises.


Earlier at The Slog: The causes of lost causes

19 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. I think the first part comes from the song: While shepherds was their socks by night.

    One stray red sock was all it took the ruin the whites. But, after that, the shepherds were in the pink. Not sure what sailors have to do with it…

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  2. I know this will seem just contrarian and argumentative esp in light of recent posts but I would venture to differ. I live on the NE coast of Scotland and for a time I worked a small crab and lobster fishing boat. During the winter half of the year, that is between the autumnal and spring equinoxes it has been my experience that the more lurid and spectaular the dawn the more you would regret going out and would soon be heading in before a rolling sea and threatening sky. By contrast a red sky at night usually presaged at least a day of settled weather (these are not always infalible indicators or else why would we spend millions on the met office). I think there has been some science published to back up these observations, to the effect that the sun is in totaly opposite directions, barometric pressure, moisture content of air etc but I an blessed if I now know where to find it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_sky_at_morning
    Sometimes a quick Google is all that is needed…nowt to do with ageing midwives. And clouds do have an effect on light-scatter thus affecting the redness (or otherwise) of the skies, particularly at sunrise and sunset in the mid-latitudes.
    And why so anti-science re weather forecasting? Is this somehow linked to your denial of human-caused climate change? Or perhaps because the science involved in chaotic systems is too complex for you to understand?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Here in the Islands of Britain we are still blessed by the seas around our coast, our brave mariners and the sheep that helped create our wealth. We have good reason to remember the favourite thoughts and beliefs of our ancestors. We have no impulsive thoughts at all of throwing our heritage or domicile away or destroying our proud history.

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  5. Glad too see we’re all retaining our sense of Humour in these dark days. Broderick, you have me confused with someone who gives a etc etc.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. The Red sky business has factual basis.
    Rain is associated with weather fronts (cloud)
    The red sky business gives indication as to the position of the front.
    ie whether is is coming towards us or has already passed.

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  7. IPCC Working Group 1: The Scientific Basis.

    “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the prediction of long term climate states is not possible.”

    John Doran.

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  8. Damn. Must get my hearing tested…. I was under the impression it was: Red Light at night shepherds’ delight. Red Light in the morning shepherds yawning……..

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  9. jdseanjd beat me to it again! rowan cut out the denial word will you,its condescending and insulting. do you ever get sick of yourself?

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  10. The saying has little to do with the weather or forecasting the weather! A red sky at night means the clouds are relativity clear & therefore the Shepard’s view will be good & prey will find it harder to get close unseen!or undercover of deep darkness since the stars should be visible! & the same for Sailors red sky in the morning means little if any clouds and therefore poorer winds & this saying pre dates mechanised shipping,So ships will find it harder to to find wind!

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  11. I was told as a child that, Red sky at night meant there would be no frost due to the cloud cover and therefore no need to bring the flock in.

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