The Skye Boat Song


The Skye Boat Song

The Skye Boat Song has gained the reputation of a traditional Scottish song recalling the escape of the young pretender Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) after his defeat at Culloden in 1746: he escaped from Uist to the Isle of Skye in a small boat with the aid of Flora MacDonald. He was disguised as a serving maid. The 19th century adherents of Scottish romantic nationalism (which included sentimental Jacobitism) enlarged the anecdote to a legend.

The lyrics were written by Sir Harold Boulton, Bart. (1859 - 1935), to an air collected by Miss Annie MacLeod (Lady Wilson) in the 1870s. The song was first published in "Songs of the North" by Boulton and MacLeod, London, 1884, a book that went into at least fourteen editions. In later editions Miss MacLeod's name was dropped and the ascription "Old Highland rowing measure arranged by Malcolm Lawson" was substituted. It was quickly taken up by other compilers, such as Laura Alexandrine Smith's "Music of the Waters" (published 1888).

According to the collector of folk music lore, Andrew Kuntz, Miss MacLeod was on a trip to the isle of Skye and was being rowed over Loch Coruisk ("Coire Uisg", the "Cauldron of Waters") when the rowers broke into a Gaelic rowing song "Cuachag nan Craobh" ("The Cuckoo in the Grove"). Miss MacLeod set down what she remembered of the air, with the intention of using it later in a book she was to co-author with Boulton, who later added the section with the Jacobite associations. " As a piece of modern romantic literature with traditional links it succeeded perhaps too well, for soon people began "remembering" they had learned the song in their childhood, and that the words were 'old Gaelic lines'," Andrew Kuntz has observed (see link). The song was not in any older books of Scottish songs, though it is in most miscellanies like "The Fireside Book of Folk Songs." It is often sung as a lullaby, in a slow rocking 6/8 time. One of the few renditions to be a hit was Roger Whittaker's duet version with Des O'Connor released in 1986, which combined O'Connor's vocals with Whittaker's whistling version which was part of his repertoire since at least the mid-1970s. Calum Kennedy also included a verstion on Songs of Scotland and Ireland (Beltona 1971).

Lyrics

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.
Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air;
Baffled, our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.
Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean's a royal bed.
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary head.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.
Many's the lad fought on that day,
Well the Claymore could wield,
When the night came, silently lay
Dead in Culloden's field.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.
Burned are their homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men;
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Charlie will come again.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.

External links

* [http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/SKA_SKY.htm Andrew Kuntz, The Fiddler's Companion: A Descriptive Index of North American and British Isles Music for the Folk Violin and Other Instruments] : authentic origins of the "Skye Boat Song"
* [http://www.poparchives.com.au/feature.php?id=460 Pop Archives] : Covers of "The Skye Boat Song"
* [http://www.harvardgleeclub.org Harvard Glee Club] : The Glee Club sings an arrangement by their conductor Jameson Marvin; click on the third song in the application in the upper right corner.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • (the) Skye Boat Song — the Skye Boat Song [the Skye Boat Song] a popular Scottish song about how Flora Macdonald helped ↑Bonny Prince Charlie escape to Skye. The sad, slow music is sometimes used to represent Scotland in films and television programmes. Many people in… …   Useful english dictionary

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