A widespread tradition across the British Isles and indeed beyond for it is noted in France and Spain are that March borrowed its last three days from April. Brewer’s 1894 Dictionary of Phrase and Fable records:
“March said to Aperill,
I see 3 hoggs (in this case meaning sheep) upon a hill;
And if you’ll lend me dayes 3
I’ll find a way to make them dee (die).
The first o’ them wus wind and weet,
The second o’ them wus snaw and sleet,
The third o’ them wus sic a free
It froze the birds’ nebs to the trees.
When the 3 days were past and gane
The 3 silly hoggs came hirpling (limping) hame.”
Notes and queries of 1852 records:
“The three last days of March are called ‘the Borrowing Days’ in Scotland, on account of their being generally attended with very blustery weather, which inclines people to say that they would wish to borrow three days from the month of April in exchange for the last days of the month of March.”
As noted in an 1852 work North of Ireland:
“Give me (says March) three days of warmth and sunshine for my poor lambs whilst they are yet too tender to bear the roughness of my wind and rain, and you shall have them repaid when the wool is grown.”
However the above account appears at variance to the general believe of the bad weather, as John Brockett’s 1846 Glossary of North Country words records:
“March borrowed of April, three days and they were ill, The one was sleet, the other snow ad third was the worst that e’er did blow.”
It is probable that this association with bad weather begun with the 1548 Complaynt of Scotland which recorded that it ‘froze birds legs to trees’ as such:
“March borrowed of April Three days, and they were ill The one was sleet, the other of snow The third was the worst that e’er did blow.”
The bringing of bad weather may seem a little confusing at first but in Ireland a local legend was established to explain it. It is recorded that the old Brindled Cow or An tSean-bho Riabhach, made the claim that the bad weather of March could not even kill them and so it borrowed three days from April. And the month used these days to kill and skin the poor cow. using these extra days with redoubled fury, killed and skinned the poor old cow. Interestingly this time around it the first days of April which are seen to be unpleasant as a result!
However, I feel that the commentators are missing a point – April is famed for showers – and has a write this the days running up to the 29th are warm and fine, ironically rain and storms came in as the 29th came in…April weather!