Scots Sangs Fur Schools

Traditional and new Scots songs for use in Scottish schools

 SONGS OF THE SEA & piracy

Scroll down for song lyrics about The Golden Vanity – a fun version of an ancient ballad, Henry Martin – a noble Scots pirate, Sir Patrick Spens - an ancient tragic ballad and Windy Old Weather – a fun activity song about fishing.

And many more.

The background music on this page is Rolling Home sung by Ewan McVicar. See below for the words.  

[To see more schools-made lyrics about The Sea press here.]



The Bonnie Ship The Diamond

The Diamond is a ship, ma lads, for the Davis Strait she's bound,
And the quay it is aa garnished wi bonnie lassies round.
Captain Thomson gives the order tae sail the oceans high,
Where the sun it never sets, ma lads, nor darkness dims the sky.
And it's cheer up, ma lads, let yer hearts never fail.
When the bonnie ship The Diamond goes a-fishing for the whale.

Along the quays at Peterheid the lassies stand aroond,
Their shawls all pulled aboot them and the salt tears rinnin doon.
Oh, don't you weep, my bonnie lass, though ye'll be left behind.
For the rose will grow on Greenland's ice before we change our mind.

Here's a health tae the Resolution, likewise the Eliza Swann,
Here's a health tae the Battler O Montrose, and the Diamond ship o fame.
We wear the troosers o the white, an the jaickets o the blue,
When we return tae Peterheid we'll be sweethairts wi you.

It'll be bright baith day and night when the Greenland lads come hame,
Wi a ship that's full of oil, ma boys, and money tae oor name.
Here's a health unto the Diamond bright, the skipper and the crew,
Here's a health tae every bonnie lass that has a heart so true.

You can find this song sung on The Scotland’s Songs LTS website


Captain Kidd
This famous pirate was born in Greenock.

My name is Captain Kidd
As I sailed, as I sailed,
Oh my name is Captain Kidd as I sailed,
My name is Captain Kidd
And God's laws I did forbid,
And most wickedly I did as I sailed.

My father taught me well
To shun the gates of hell,
But against him I rebelled as I sailed,
He shoved a bible in my hand
But I left it in the sand
And I pulled away from land,
As I sailed

I murdered William Moore
And I left him in his gore
Twenty leagues away from shore
As I sailed,
And being crueler still, the gunner I did kill
All his precious blood did spill,
As I sailed,

I was sick and nigh to death,
And I vowed at every breath,
Oh to walk in wisdom's path,
As I sailed
But my repentance lasted not,
My vows I soon forgot,
Oh damnation is my lot,
As I sailed.

To the execution dock
Lay my head upon the block,
Laws no more I'll mock as I sail,
So take warning here and heed
To shun bad company
Or you'll wind up just like me
As I sailed.



There was a little ship and she sailed upon the sea
Eep diddle dee, on the Lowland Sea
And the name of our ship was the Golden Vanity
Sailing on the Lowland Low – well

She sailed along on the top of the sea
Till she was overtaken by the pirate enemy

Up then spoke our little cabin boy
Saying ‘What will you give me if I will them destroy?’

‘Five hundred gold pieces and my daughter for your bride
If you will sink them, sink them in the tide’

He jumped in the sea and he swam like an eel
And he crept up on the pirate ship while they were at their meal

He had a little tool that was built for the use
And he bored nine holes in her hull all at once

Some were playing cards and some were playing dice
But the water it rushed in and it took them by surprise

The water rushed in, it was up to their necks
They ran upstairs and surrendered on the deck

‘Hurray’ said the crew of the Golden Vanity
And they gave the cabin boy an extra kipper for his tea

The older versions of this ballad are deadly serious, the cabin boy sinks the enemy but is cheated and drowned by his captain. The above version draws on Scottish and American sources. The story can be played out drama fashion.


There were three brothers in merry Scotland
In merry Scotland there were three
And they did cast lots which of them should turn robber, turn robber, turn robber
Who should turn robber upon the salt sea

The lot it did fall on young Henry Martin
The youngest of all the three
That he should turn robber upon the salt sea, the salt sea, the salt sea
For to maintain his two brothers and he

He had not been sailing a long winter’s night
And part of a short winter’s day
When he espied a stout lofty ship, lofty ship, lofty ship
Come a bibbing down on him straightway

‘Now, lower your topsail and bow down your mizzen
Bow yourself down unto me
Or I will give you a swift flowing ball, flowing ball, flowing ball
And cast your dear bodies down in the salt sea’

It’s broadside to broadside and at it they went
For fully two hours or three
Till Henry Martin gave to her the death shot, the death shot, the death shot
And straight to the bottom went she

Bad news, bad news, to old England came
Bad news to old London town
There is a rich vessel and she’s cast away, cast away, cast away
And all of her merry men drowned 

This is an American version of an old Scottish song about a privateer called Captain Ward.


Rollin Home To Caledonia

This is a traditional song rewritten and sung by Ewan McVicar

Rollin home, rollin home, rollin home across the sea
Rollin home to Caledonia, rollin home, dear land, to thee

Ten thousand miles ahind us, just a hundred miles afore
And the ocean rins to tak us tae oor best-beloved shore
We will join in joyous chorus, in the watches o the night
For we'll see our land of Scotland, when the grey dawn brings the light

Up aloft, amongst the riggin, blaws the loud exultin gale
Like a birdie's wide-stretched pinions, spreadin wide each swellin sail
The wild waves cut behind us, and they murmur as they flow
There are lovin hearts that wait for you, in the land to which you go

There are welcome cheers tae greet us, there are kisses for us all
Mothers, faithers, wives and faimilies, standin at the harbour wall
They will tell us o their longin, we will tell them o oor trials
And at last we will be safe home, after aa the weary miles


The Silkie of Sule Skerry

In Norway land there lived a maid
“Hush, baloo lillie” this maid began
“I know not where my bairn’s father is
By land or sea does he traivel in”

It happened on a certain day
When this fair maid lay fast asleep
That in came a guid grey silkie
And sat him doon at her bed feet

Saying “Awak, awak ma fair pretty maid
For oh how sound as thou dost sleep
I’ll tell thee whaur yer bairn’s faither is
He’s lyin close at your bed feet”

“I pray ye tell tae me your name
An tell me whaur your dwelling is?”
“My name it is guid Hein Mailer
I earn ma livin oot ower the sea”

“I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I’m far from every strand
My dwellin ‘tis on Sule Skerry”

“Alas, alas this weary fate
This weary fate that’s been laid on me,
That a man should come frae the West o Hoy
Tae the Noraway lands tae hae a bairn by me”

He said “Ye’ll nurse ma little wee son
For seiven lang years upon yer knee
And at the end o seiven lang years
I’ll come back again wi white money

And she has nursed his little wee son
For seiven lang years upon her knee
And at the end o seiven lang years
He’s cam back again wi the nourrice fee

He said “I’ll pit a chain roon his neck
An a gey gowd chain oh it will be
And if ever he comes tae the Noraway lands
Ye’ll hae a guid guess on who is he”

An he said “Ye’ll wed a gunner guid
An a gey guid gunner it will be
And he’ll gae oot on a May morning
He’ll shoot your son and the grey silkie”

And she has wed a gunner guid
An a gey guid gunner it was he
And he went oot on a May morning
He shot the son and the grey silkie

“Alas, alas this woeful fate
This weary fate that’s been laid on me”
She sobbed and sighed and bitter cried
Her tender hert did brak in three

You can find this song sung on The Scotland’s Songs LTS website



The King sits in Dumfermline toon
Drinkin at the wine
And he has called for the finest skipper
In Fife and aa aroun

Up there spoke an eldern knight
Sat at the King's right knee
'Sir Patrick Spens is the finest sailor
That ever sailed the sea'

The King has written a lang letter
And signed it wi’s ain hand
And it was sent tae Sir Patrick Spens
Was walking on Tay strand

‘To Norowa, to Norowa
To Norowa ower the faem
The King's daughter o Norowa
Tis you maun bring her hame’

The first line that Sir Patrick read
A loud, loud laugh laughed he
The next line that Sir Patrick read
The saut tear blindit his e'e

‘Oh wha is this has done this deed
And tauld the King o me
That I maun gang tae Norowa
Across the winter sea?’

They hadn't been in Norowa
A week but barely three
When all the lords of Norowa
Got up and spak so free

‘These outland Scots waste our King's gold
And swallow our Queen's fee’
‘Oh weary faa the tongue that spoke
Sic a mortal lie’

‘Tak tent, take tent, ma guid men aa
Mak sure ye are weel forn
For come it wind or come it rain
Our gude ship sails the morn’

‘Alack, alack, my maister dear
I fear a deadly storm
For I saw the new moon late yestreen
Wi the auld moon in her airms’

They had not sailed a league, a league
A league but barely three
When the lift grew dark and the wind blew loud
And surly grew the sea

Oh laith, laith were oor guid Scots lords
Tae wet their cork-heeled shoon
But long e'er all the ploy was ower
They wet their hats aboon

Half ower, half ower tae Aberdower
And fifty fathom deep
There lies guid Sir Patrick Spens
With the Scots lords at his feet


The Skye Boat Song

Words by Englishman Harold Boulton

Tune traditional Gaelic 

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 cry, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air.
Baffled our foes stand by the shore.
Follow they will not dare

Many's the lad fought on that day
Well the claymore could wield,
When the night came silently lay
Dead on Culloden’s field.

Burned are our homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men.
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Scotland will rise again!
You can find this song sung on The Scotland’s Songs LTS website

The Tay Boat Song
Words by Englishman Harold Boulton
Tune traditional Gaelic

When I've done my work of day, And I row my boat away,
Doon the waters o' Loch Tay, As the evening light is fading,
And I look upon Ben Lawers, where the after glory glows,
And I think on two bright eyes, And the melting mouth below.

She's my beauteous nighean ruadh, She's my joy and sorrow too.
And although she is untrue, Well I cannot live without her,
For my heart's a boat in tow, And I'd give the world to know
Why she means to let me to, As I sing horee, horo.

Nighean ruadh your lovely hair, Has more glamour I declare
Than all the tresses rare, `Tween Killin and Aberfeldy.
Be they lint white, brown or gold, Be they blacker than the sloe,
They are worth no more to me, Than the melting flake o' snow.
Her eyes are like the gleam, O' the sunlight on the stream,
And the song the fairies sing, Seems like songs she sings at milking
But my heart is full of woe, For last night she bade me go
and the tears begin to flow, As I sing ho-ree, ho-ro.

Traditional, rewritten by Ewan McVicar

Up jumped the herrin, the king o the sea
He shouted ‘Auld skipper, ye’ll never catch me’

Windy auld weather, stormy auld weather
When the wind blaws we’ll aa pull thegither

'Oh’ says the fisherman, 'less o yer lip
Don’t think that this time ye’ll gie me the slip’
‘Oh’ says the herrin, ‘will you take a bet?
Ye’ll never catch nothing wi that little net’

‘Right’ says the fisherman, ‘ah’ve got ye this time’
He threw out the net and he pulled on the line

But the herrin wis wily, he’d been there before
So he never got caught, and he’s now eighty four

The fisherman was talking to the herring to get him come closer, but it didn’t work. One can pull on the rope while singing this song – with a strong rope tied in a circle the end of the song can become a general tug-of-war.